Airbrush On Canvas



Hi Guys,

I used to do all my art with spray paint, and decided to start doing smaller pieces on canvas - which spray paint just doesn't work. I've been interested in airbrushing for a while and heard that it would be the best for what I'm wanting to do. So I went and picked up a badger anthem 155 airbrush and some spectraTex paint, and some cheap paper to start learning control. The problem I'm running into is that I can't get the paint to do what I want. It looks like water color on the paper. Is this because of the paper I'm using, or the paint? Maybe both? I want my colors to be bold solid colors. I guess my style is more grafitti/abstract. If you search google for Chris Brown's artwork, my style is a lot like his (I didn't want to post a picture of his stuff in case copyright).

What type of paint should I be using? Also, before I start on canvas, what's the best paper to practice/material to practice on for bold solid colors?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
I have a total of one bottle of spectratex. And its brown. IIRC it was similar to createx but thinner.

So for bold colors I would use createx or the more pricey Golden paint. Spray it like its a t-shirt with high PSI and a large nozzle and as little reduction as you can get away with.

You use rattle cans already. So if you check automotive urethanes from House of Kolor, PPG, SEM ect. you will find they cover like what you are used to with same health hazards except. If you paint inside with them you should wear a mask.

Oh and welcome to the Forum.
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Welcome to the forum. There are a few things to keep in mind with airbrush paints. First, you have to build the colors up in layers to get the intensity you are after. And airbrush lays down such a fine mist, its not like spray paint cans that just blast it out. You can experiment with air pressures, reductions, and technique and come up with something that works for you.... a lot has to do with the surface you're painting on too. When I spray t-shirts, it with a big nozzle in my airbrush, and 45 psi or higher, and it blasts the color into the the fabric. I don't have to worry about the paint spidering, so I blast that paint as hard and fast as I can. On canvas, or any other hard surface, I drop that air pressure down to 20 psi for general painting, and as low as 4 or 5 psi for detail work, and thin the paints a lot. With that, you have to build your colors up in layer to get that intensity. Some of it might be the paint... Spectra Tex was designed as a Textile paint, but I've used it on paper, wood, metal, etc... Some of illustration paints might suit you better, but you will still need to build those colors up.

You might also want to try some neon colors. I still use Specta Tex neon orange once in while when I want a bold orange color.

Those are just the first thoughts that come to mind. I'm sure some others will chime in here and give more advice too.

Again, welcome to the forum. Hope you stick around and share some of your art work when you get things figured out.
Thanks guys for your replies and welcoming! Will I have to still build up the paint with the Createx paint? I've tried building up with SpectraTex and it looks like a water color painting. I think this is because of the type of paper I'm using as well, or is SpectraTex like a water-coloring based paint compared to other mid to high-end paints? Also, will reducing the paint cause it be a lighter color?

It sounds like I'll need to try different needles as well, what size would you guys recommend? The guy at our local art store sounds like he told me the wrong information. When I showed him what I was wanting to do, he immediatly took me to the Anthem airbrush (which i researched and knew it was a quality airbrush, and they only had a total of 5 different airbrushes), so I trusted him because he also airbrushes himself. He stated that SpectraTex doesn't need anything done to it, but load and go, and it would be like spray painting. He wasn't even close, lol.

Now when I spray my black for a border around my designs, it comes out very inconsistent. I don't move my finger and it comes out light then heavy and splatters, then goes back to light again, and repeats itself. After reading some posts it sounds like the paint needs to be reduced. Is this the case? It's a bit frustrating that I get a nice color (not close to what i would use in a real piece) and when I go to do a border with my black it ruins my practice pieces.

Also, when you use the urethanes does it leave a heavy odor like spray paint? That's another reason I want to try airbrushing because the lingering smell for days in my garage after I would spray was horrible. And with my wife being pregnant I would need to find a different place if the smell lingers for days.

Sorry for all of the questions, but I'm glad I found this forum because it sounds like I was led in the wrong direction at the start.

Thanks again everyone!
Different paints will have different characteristics and people will tend to find one they like for themselves and their style of painting. "Load and go" will work with a lot of the paints, but that is kind of misleading. I can dump a lot of different paints into an airbrush, and with a big enough nozzle and high enough air pressure, I know I can get some paint to come out of the gun. The key is to experiment and see what works for you and the style of painting you would like to do. There are guys on here that always spray at 35psi and get amazing detail.... I don't like my pressure that high (20-25 max) so have to reduce my paints more so that they flow nicely... when I drop the pressure down to 5 psi, my paints are more reduced, so they are almost ink-like.

Colors too... its a matter of finding the right pigment count for the work you want to do. And yes, surface does make a difference. Harder surfaces won't absorb the color, like soft paper does, so its can be easier. for me at least, to get bolder colors on harder surfaces.... but again, I've seen people on this forum paint amazingly vibrant pictures on plain old water color paper.

If you can get your hand on some, try as many different paints as you can. Lots of people swear by Wicked Paints. They have a high pigment count, and a huge pallet of colors to choose from. I find them finicky for myself, so go with E'tac, which has great spray characteristics, but not a huge selection of colors, so I have to do a lot of mixing.

Reducing will thin out the pigment concentration so yes, the color will become less concentrated, and you may have to paint even more layers to get the desired saturation that you want.

As for urethane based paints... yes, they do have a strong harmful odor. I used to use them exclusively when I painted guitars in my garage a few years ago, and they would stink up the whole house. I've moved my studio in to the basement now, and switched to water based paints, but sometimes you have to use a urethane for a certain effect, like candies, and because I'm spraying smaller, more controlled amounts, even inside the basement, I don't have many problems... now I do have some pretty good ventilation down there, but I credit it to the more subtle artwork rather than just throwing down huge cover layers on guitars.

Hope I answered a few of your questions
What type of compressor are you using? Do u have a water/moisture trap?

Lines and Dotz! Lines and Dotz!
Hi Kwatson,
You could try the new Golden High Flow paints which I have just tried and they dry to a hard film quickly which means you can't erase or re-wet them easily, this will probably suit your style of painting. The Golden High Flow paints are replacing Golden Airbrush Colours which are basically the same but are being sold off cheaply now because of the new line. So if you get your hands on some of those it will save you money and give you a good chance to try them out. With the Anthem 155 you will be able to spray them straight from the bottle and get a good coverage quickly, maybe not in one pass, but a couple of layers should do. The High Flow paints vary in gloss to matt finish from the bottle, I'm not sure about the Golden Airbrush Colours.

Once you are finished painting you can spray a Gloss varnish and that will make the paints Pop not matter what paint you use. You can spray Golden Polymer Varnish in Gloss, Satin or Matt reduce 2:1 varnish:water with an airbrush. Or I really like Com-Art Gloss varnish which can be sprayed straight from the bottle and gives a lovely smooth finish. Put down as many coats till you get the finish you want but they generally need at least 3 coats.

Also if you find the canvas is soaking up too much paint for your liking you can varnish the canvas and then paint on top of that. A matt varnish would give you a better tooth to paint onto and the gloss will be smooth like plastic. I have never done this so I'm NOT speaking from experience but I have painted a black background with a vulnerable paint and then sprayed 2 layers of matt varnished to protect it before painting on top. Experiment and see what suits you best. Varnish cheaper card or thick paper 160gr or more and try it out, don't forget to spray the back if the card warps. We all have our own styles and methods so it's impossible for anyone to tell you exactly what to buy and how to paint but experience can offer possibilities and point you in the right direction. The rest is up to you.

These are all water based paints and varnish so no smell, no toxins and can be reduce with (preferably bottled) water.

I have never used Wicked so I can't comment on them. Wicked uses their own Reducer to thin the paints and I prefer not to use a system that needs to do that.

I don't think the guy in the shop steered you wrong, I just think you have to get used to the differences of spraying with an airbrush compared to rattle cans. Put the Spectra Tex on in thick layers to practise and then varnish it, see how that looks. Higher air pressure from the compressor will chuck out more paint quicker/thicker but will make it harder to control, so play around with that.
Cheers Mel