Ever wonder how our smoking hot Zen Arts performers get made up for a show? Airbrushing of course! Dating all the way back to 1925’s Ben Hur, airbrushing has long been used as a way to apply light and soft-edged cosmetic makeup. Due to the recent technological advances in high definition and digital photography, there has been a resurgence of airbrushing in the entertainment industry, particularly because the soft edges of airbrushing go undetected under digital replication, whereas standard makeup applied with brushes and sponges can seem caked on, as well as leave definitive lines under a digital camera.

Airbrushing itself utilizes a spray gun often called a nebulizer or atomizer nozzle (a misnomer seeing as it never does really break down the paint to an atomic level). Compressed (aka fast-moving) air is pushed through a narrowing tube known as a venturi, at which point there is a reduction in air pressure that functions as a vacuum, sucking up paint from an interconnected reservoir, and resulting in a fine spray of tiny paint droplets. Airbrush paints are very thin but highly-pigmented, thus allowing for light but vivid artistic productions.

Although there are two types of triggers used in airbrushing, and each requires a specific technique for effective use, both rely on the same four factors of technique: degree of air pressure, type of paint, distance from which sprayed, and manipulation by the artist. The single action trigger determines the ratio of paint to air automatically, depending on the degree to which the artist has the trigger depressed. When using a single action trigger, different line widths can be achieved by switching out various nozzle heads, or manually adjusting paint volume. However the single most important thing to remember with a single action trigger is to keep the hand moving before paint is expelled as well as after the trigger is released, preventing what is often referred to as a “barbell line.” The double action trigger works by releasing air when the trigger is pushed down, and then picking up paint when the trigger is pulled back, allowing the artist to determine the amount of paint used in each spray, and thus a greater degree of control. The most important rule with a double action trigger is to start with air only and end with air only, picking up and releasing paint in the middle.

Airbrush artists create masterpieces by manipulating the three controls of distance, volume, and speed. Paint particles become more dispersed the further they leave the nozzle, so an artist holding a gun close to a person’s skin is going to create a smaller and more saturated paint effect, as opposed to a soft and pale pattern generated by holding the gun at a further distance. Volume is only controllable in double action triggers, by pulling the trigger back more to spray higher volumes of paint, creating thinning lines with ease. Speed is the most important factor in airbrushing because the velocity at which the artist moves the gun determines the amount of pigment released onto a given space. Moving slowly across a surface will produce a more heavily-pigmented image than moving quickly over the same space. Thus most airbrush artists must maintain a quick yet constant speed to create images that are equal on all sides. Although speed is the hardest control to master, it will make the difference between a good artist and an excellent one.

The seamless blending of two or more colors is what allows airbrushing to achieve its soft and lifelike results. That is why aside from just the arts and entertainment business, today airbrushing is also used as a tanning tool. Airbrush tan artists use varying saturations of bronze pigment to create not just tanned patrons, but sexier ones as well, adding muscular contours such as abs, pecs, biceps, or cleavage.

Airbrushing has also been used to generate tattoo-like images known as temporary airbrushed tattoos, or TATs. TATs typically involve using an airbrush gun through a stencil to create a specific image or pattern on a person’s body, that can last anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks depending on the quality of the paint used. The great thing about TATs is that to the naked eye they can resemble actual tattoos, minus the pain and permanency.

With all the options airbrushing brings to the cosmetic industry, its no wonder our Zen Arts crew always looks so bad-ass!