Airbrush Step-by-Step

Disco Queen – Painting with white paint on black board

Painting portraits is usually done by creating shadows with a dark color on a light surface. Today we will be learning how to paint with highlights on a black board.  This is something that I consider advanced and a technique that does require lots of free handing.  That does not mean that only experts can try this, because anyone can do this!  So grab your brush and let’s get to it!

Step 1:  Whether painting black on white board or white on black board, I always start with the eyes.  They are the center focus on any portrait.  I use a pointy round paintbrush to cut out here the eyes will be and I center them in the middle of the canvas. 
Step 2:  Now using some freehand airbrushing and a transparent white, I can start to add the highlights out on her face. The white goes on very smoothly so, use care when applying this as not to over do it. Work in layers, building up the features of the face and lips.
Step 3:   Continue to build up the features of the neck and cheeks.  This is a method where you need to think backwards.  Where you would usually paint in shadows, like under the nose for instance, you are painting the highlights instead. 
Step 4:  In this stage, I can start to add the dark features of my disco queen.,  Using a fine line paintbrush, I add the details of the eyes, nose and mouth.  Later on I will freehand in some shadows with black.  
Step 5: So this is the fun part where I am able to redefine her facial features with some shading.  Remember that you are pulling highlights out with shite and pushing back shadows with the black.  Same as with the white, paint the shadows in using layers, very light layers.  Here, I also add some highlights to the eyes and lips and watch the painting really come to life.
Step 6:  Now comes the glorious Afro!  I love painting with both airbrush and paint brush. There are things the airbrush cannot achieve and vice versa. Don’t limit your art to just one tool because it only limits what you are able to accomplish.
Step 7:  Next, I add some light grey highlights to the hair, keeping in mind that the light source should stay the same. 
Step 8:  Now to add some shading to the roundness of the Afro, I use some transparent black.  Also, with a fine line brush again, I add some Disco earrings with black paint.
Step 9: I can add some final highlights to the earrings and lips.
Step 10:  Finally some black is used with the fine liner to add last minute eye lashes and eye liner, and we’ll call this done.

So there she is….our Disco Queen in full glory and beauty!  Thank you so much for joining me today.  I hope that this helps explain some of the mystery behind painting with highlights.  Leave your comments and thoughts below and make sure to give me a follow on Instagram at

Artist’s Tool Box:

Airbrush Kit with Master Compressor

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