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Transparent or opaque

Discussion in 'Airbrush Paints' started by Math2492, Oct 14, 2012.


  1. Math2492

    Math2492 Young Tutorling

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    Hi I was wondering what kind of paint airbrush tutor uses to paint? Opaque or transparent? Like when hes painting the leopard or the eyes.
  2. ad fez

    ad fez kind of a big deal = Admington

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    mostly trans as you have alot more control over your layers, plus you can get some cool colour blends...but it is god practice to use a bit of both trans and opaque, however you know you can make opaques trans by using trans base
  3. Math2492

    Math2492 Young Tutorling

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    Ok thank you
  4. Stranger375

    Stranger375 Young Tutorling

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    Also the opaque paint will get more transparent the more you are thinning it with water or the matching reducer for your paint system.
    If you mix your opaque black like 1:5 ( 1 part paint to 5 parts reducer or water) or even higher it will be pretty transparent already. Just
    remember the higher the reduction the more transparent the paint gets and then you need more layers to get it dark.
  5. foreveryoung001

    foreveryoung001 Detail Decepticon!

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    Dru Blair also has some great techniques for making transparent paints more opaque by adding a drop or two of opaque white to the transparent colors. He's got a great explanation of how the different paints behave, relative to how opaque or transparent they are. Don't remember where I read it, but I'm sure if you just google his name, it will pull it up.
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  6. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Soz but gotta say I lol'd at that, hope it hasn't been trademarked as most artists have been doing so for a very long time LOL ;)

    Jokes aside and I'm sure ABT will add in his thoughts as its directed at what he uses, but generally it depends on what your doing and what you want to achieve.....

    A good starting point is to use full opaques, this way you can easily fix your mistakes. Personally I find an easy way is to basically paint what you want to paint completely in opaque paint, get it right and as your using opaques it can be adjusted if its not, then use some transparents to really pop your pic out and bring it to life..Alternatively you can also use a system of transparent overlay which is a painting done purely with transparents, much harder to learn as color mixing takes place on the canvas and any previous mistake will shine through..Or you can also try what Forever mentioned and that's semi-opaques, they have slight coverage but still allow some of the previous layers to come through, great for realism and removes some of the chalkiness that full opaques can create...Ultimately I think most modern artist whether they realize or not make semi-opaques all the time by reduction of opaques or by adding some white to transparents and there def useful, ultimately if you want a nice easy way of painting, get used to all three of the paint types and experiment with their strengths and weaknesses as each has some...

    For me (even though I do a lot of transparent overlay these days) I think a good solid opaque base to a painting is the way to go when beginning...Then try adding some trans colors when comfortable with color theory...GL
  7. Marissa

    Marissa Needle-chuck Ninja

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    Paint will always do the same, this is known for many centuries.
    There are so many ways to work with color, but the most important thing is that you understand color always does the same. I will try to explain it real short and clear so you can see the differences and yoiu know what they do when you use them, you don't need to stick with one method, you can mix them, just like your colors and do what suits you best at that moment.


    Tint: Opaque (Titanium is most used for this) White + color. Making your paint lighter and opaque.
    Tone: Opaque Gray + color. Making your paint less saturated and opaque
    Shade: opaque (carbon a.o.) Black + color. Making your paint darker, less saturated and opaque


    You can make gray by mixing white + black = cold gray. Start with white, otherwise you end up with a liter of gray, as black is stronger. This way you can mix several midtones, you can use a value checker tool to mix 7 or 8 gray values, black and white.


    You can also mix complementary colors for a warmer gray, the colder your colors are that you mix, the colder the grey. This gray will be transparent. Cold colors are magenta till blue green. Warm colors are red till yellow green. Mixing a warm green and warm red gives you a warm "grey", as in brown. Mixing a cold blue green like phtahlo green and a cold red like magenta, will give you a more neutral gray.


    You can also mix split complement colors for a warm gray. This will also be a transparent, unless you an add an opaque white, grey or black.


    Mixing opaques: Start with your hue (target color), add the value (light/dark) with white or grey or black and change the saturation where needed. Too much of a color can be neutralized by adding the opposite color on the colorwheel. Too little color can be added with the missing hue, use the color wheel as your compass. The target color can go more to the left, (making the color colder if you hold the colorwheel with yellow downside) or to the right (warmer).


    Transparents always get darker with every layer you add. Opaques stay the color that you mixed or bought.
    Transp: fast results, as you can see your artwork as a lighter version of the final artwork, work from dark to light, save your highlights. Thin your paint to prevent overshooting.
    You can erase easier, getting lighter with every layer you erase. It is a bit more grainy if you don't thin it enough or use too low pressure.
    The colors tint very strong, as they are not weakened by an opaque.
    They blend together, giving your color transitions, f.e. green is a transition between yellow and blue
    They can be sprayed with a low pressure between 1.3-1.8 bar and providing an excellent airbrush control as they are so thin.
    these are the main properties of transp.


    Opaque is thick smooth, hard to erase in layers. It gets warmer and darker when you rub it soft and or completely white when you rub it hard.
    It needs more pressure as it is thick, giving you less airbrush control and more tipdry. Use 2-3 bar to get it out properly.
    You need to pre-mix your colors to get an accurate color pallet and then work from light to dark (lightest color first, you can give them numbers, letters etc, to mark them). The result is somewhat slower before you see what you do, as you need the contrast with the darker colors to see depth in your painting. You also need more paint for mixing, about 1 cm paint per color plus the paint you spill for testing. Testing can be done on the edge of a white paper. Spray 100% opaque, then measure and compare it with your reference. You can do this by isolating your color with a neutral color paper and a hole cut out. Usually a white paper suits best. Hold the testcolor on your reference and put the neutral paper with your cut out isolation window on both the testpaper and ref. Now see if you need to go darker, lighter, greyer, warmer or cooler. Add missing color.


    You can also use a combination and then you better work on an opaque base with transparents on top, as opaques cover everything and give you a blueshift when going over a darker color.
    Opaques can be thinned with water and used as a more transparent color, being easier to spray. It will keep it's properties of not changing value at a certain point, as the opaque has it's limit due to the addition of white, grey or black.


    You can also check out the color2drop tool that prof Zsolt Kovacs made and put on his website, it gives you the recipe to mix colors in drops. It depends on the colors of your monitor, but if that is callibrated it can be really accurate and give you a head start, loosing less paint.


    If you like to work transparent here is the basic to mix paint:


    Yellow, red and blue are primary to mix paint, magenta, yellow and cyan blue + black are primary to mix in the print industry. These colors can make nearly all colors you need. Some exceptions for very bright and strong colors like violet can be a bit harder to mix, as blue and red just don't look the same. You could buy an additional violet. I use very warm primary colors, as it is easier to cool down a color then to warm it up. Cold colors are much stronger.
    Mixing the primary colors gives you secondary colors: red + yellow= orange, blue + red = violet, blue + yellow = green
    Mixing these gives you brownish colors. Opposite colors give you a neutral color, brown/gray


    I hope this helps you a bit.
    musicmacd, IPT, Olexandr and 16 others like this.
  8. Lostcommander

    Lostcommander Young Tutorling

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    Wow, someone please make this answer from Marissa into a sticky please
  9. ignis

    ignis Needle-chuck Ninja

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    I love your short explanations :D
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  10. ad fez

    ad fez kind of a big deal = Admington

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    thats funny marissa I was about to say the same thing ;o)
  11. Math2492

    Math2492 Young Tutorling

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    Thanks marissa that helped me
  12. retroguy

    retroguy Young Tutorling

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    I'm really new to airbrushing,I build plastic model cars and have been using spray cans but have limited color choices.
    What would be a good paint for my needs ie:manufacture,opaque or transparent...thanks
  13. Stranger375

    Stranger375 Young Tutorling

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    In your case opaques might be the better choice since it is hard to paint a area with the exact same intensity with a transparent. Everytime the transparents are layerd in a
    area that spot will look darker then others. And also a transparent is getting darker with every layer, a opaque will stop at it´s full saturation and wont get darker anymore
    at a certain point. But as mentioned here you can also always add some drops of white to make your transparent paint opaque.
  14. AndreZA

    AndreZA Elite Member! Elite Member! Artist of the Month!

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    Go for Lifecolor.

  15. airbrushingferret

    airbrushingferret Air-Valve Autobot!

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    lol fez your to much thats a good explenation
  16. newflow

    newflow Young Tutorling

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    WOW Marissa , I gotta say I had to reread this explanation a couple times to really take it all in. A lot of good info, I haven't posted anything in a while but been reading a lot, as I am still trying to figure this AB world out. But had to say This really is helpful. Maybe just maybe it can help in my artwork. :)
  17. mathd

    mathd Double Actioner

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    Hello, am learning to airbrush.
    Say i want to airbrush over a dark red car hood, what i am using?
    opaque white as base and transparent color on top?(i think this one is right)
    or do i make my transparent color opaque using the white?
    Just want to make sure i understand the basic correctly.

    I read too much stuff today i think i need to give my brain a break.

    Thanks,
    Mathieu
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  18. Squishy

    Squishy Queen Clown Slayer Mod

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    Opaque white, with transparent colour on top is the best way to get the colours to look good I think. You could add the colour to opaque white, but it would affect the colour, and also have a kind of flat chalky look.
  19. rick

    rick Needle-chuck Ninja

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    agree with squishy, paint the whole design with white, color it in with transparants, at some shade tones (like a trans black or really dark brown) and highlight it (with op white)
  20. kelonio

    kelonio Young Tutorling

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    Hi all, i have a technical problem that needs help :). I do b/w portraits on canvas, using comart-medea transparent smoke and transparent black for all my work.
    The problem is: how to fill the background (whith out maskin the subject, i dont like the hard edge, unless there is a way to soften it?) with the same tone of my paints, flat and dont live visible strokes or shades....thanks for all responses and sorry my poor english : )

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