whats best to practice painting on?



Like the title says haha Ive been using just construction paper or regular printer paper and wonder if that's fine because it seems like I never see anyone else doing it, everyone uses some kind of board or metal and Im not going to practice on metal until Im ready to do actual work haha thx for reading
I bought myself an A3 sketchbook then, it's paper is a bit thicker and absorbs the paint very well and rather cheap as well.
I use almost anything for practice so long as it's cheap and available. I save my illustration board and canvas when I want to paint anything that might be worth keeping.
Hi Hughie, from PA and welcome....I am new to airbrushing also but as for me I use water based paints (valejo) just because I can get it locally and I get the heavy construction paper(basically like card stock) at the dollar store because its cheap and I buy black and white in 2' x 3' sheets 2 for $1. Foam board would be more suitable for urethanes if you use them but you can use anything you can get your hands on cheap. As my skills progress I can advance to different paints and mediums... good luck to you!
I started on some old broken gaming controllers that had been in a draw for a 1,000,000 years. Try looking for some old stuff around the house. All the different shaped stuff should give you some great practice.
thanks for the replies guys! and shadow where are you at haha in in York county! From Maryland tho been up in pa since like 06 :p I have create paints and a few Wicked paints, that's all I can find around here at AC Moore and hobby lobby, closest airbrush retailer is in mechanicsburg almost an hour away :(
I do most of my practice on copy/printer paper , prefer on 90gr copy paper.
Some artworks too but I try to use heavy paper or other materials to make it last longer , look better or allow scratching and erasing
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I use large construction paper for practice drills. For me printer paper is too small and I end up having to put my brush down to often to either flip it over or get a new sheet.
Hi Hughie,
I also bought a cheap A3 sketch pad with 200gram paper. Heavier paper is better to practise on than 80gram printing paper anything over 115gram is ok but around 180gram and up is better.

If you want to practise on a non porous surface I've heard people have used old plastic soft drink/water bottles to practise on.
cheers Mel
Yeah, I get my Valejo paints from Kranzel's hobby shop...they specialize in RC stuff but carry Tamika and Valejo paints as far as acrylics go. I am 5-10 min. away from Mechanicsburg in Enola, Kranzel's is few min. from my house.
i use printer paper,24 pounds,to practice and for painting love the texture it gives,so there is no need of using expensive material if you are still trying to control your gun.you can try illustration cardboard but for something special,like your first painting.:angel:
thanks for the replies again and Im using it to paint a model plane atm haha Also Ulltraz I feel like controlling the airbrush comes naturally to me like a pencil or spray paint can lol
I think it all depends on what you want to do most of your art on. I'm a firm believer that as a complete newbie you should start on hard surfaces (metal, plastic,wood etc.) reason being that you absolutely have to have a grasp on everything involved to get good.
Air pressure, reduction are a big part of it and paper, even hard pressed illustration board soaks up paint which forgives a heavy finger that puts a little to much paint. Hard surfaces don't, and learning to go at it lightly will help you further than just practice on paper.

Here is what I strongly suggest for anyone new or old and I am making a YouTube video of this in the next few days.
I do a lot of my work on a glass topped drafting table. I bought the glass topped table for one reason. Glass is perfect for practice (dots, daggers, fades etc.) or just getting your brush dialed in before you paint. It shows everything like how good you are with trigger control and your reduction ratio. It will spider quickly so you will get use to going light and how to dial in your air pressure, way quicker than paper. You will also see very fast if your reduction is to thick. The overspray is evident instantly.
Grab a old picture frame take out the picture and put a white piece of paper or black in the frame an go to town with some paint. Or even better, print out the airbrush tutors work sheets and put them in the frame.
Best part of all of this is that a razor scrapes everything (even old dried paint) in one swipe and you can start again.
A mirror works as well....... If you like to check out your hair at the same time :)

Even Yoda had to train to be a Jedi........ I'm just better looking ;)
While I agree with Josh , I also kind of disagree.
I usually tell people ask yourself what is my goal in airbrushing?
For me it is automotive/Motorcycles So I do a lot of painting on hard surfaces.
But Because I have kids I end up doing a lot of textiles as well But know how to reduce the paint for the best flow and to control the air pressure comes from practice on a hard surface.
But I do know a lot of artist who only work on canvas. and they have never painted a hard surface.
so now it is time to ask yourself what your goal is.
For Josh it is to paint anything that sets still long enough to get paint on it.(Wonder his son HeadShot does not have airbrushed tattoos like Russ's kids:D)
I agree with both Josh and Herb. Painting on a hard surface sharpens control, which can only help whatever surface you are spraying on. Having said that I would also practice on the surface you are planning on using, it's not only about airbrush control, but also knowing how to handle your surface. In the case of textiles, getting it mounted/stretched properly, or with auto motive/helmets, how to handle curved, sculpted/contoured surfaces, using gesso with canvas, or learning to spray on an uneven surface, or compensating for absorbtion with different types of paper just as a few examples. So with that in mind I would (and do) practice a mixture of both. So boys, I think you're both right.
That why I like the glass for practice. If you can do good on it, there is nothing you can't paint on.
We have to all agree that (the big 3) airbrush trigger control, air pressure and reduction, go together like peanut butter, jelly and white bread. If you don't have one, the other two are just not as good.
The glass is perfect to teach the big 3 all at one time. We, when we were newbies, and just like all newbies focus on one problem. How many times have you seen a thread on here asking what is wrong. And the answers could be all three at the same time and or just one of the big 3.
I swear if I get asked one more time on one of my YouTube videos, what air pressure I used, I will lose it. Truth is I can't tell ya. The regulator stays at 35 (unless t shirts) and then I use my Mac valve to adjust it to what I'm doing or how my paint is thinned. Some colors need thinning more than others and different brand paints need different ratios.

Illustration board, paper, glass, wood, metal canvas, t shirts or a piece of rice. I paint all of these like I am painting on glass. That way it's all the same to me. You never want to over saturate your substrate (papers wrinkle, metal spiders or pools up).
The golden rule to a great painting is to build it up slowly making light passes, correct? Well glass teaches you that faster than anything.
Airbrush control means more than any one thing, but the correct air pressure and reduction helps ease the learning curve of the control side. Because when you have all 3 dialed in, it's like magic and your in business.

T shirts are the exception of the golden rule and you can get away with the reduction and air pressure not being perfect, but one thing is CERTAIN... You better have control of the brush or you will be buying a ton of white shirts that become paint rags. With that being said, I still paint my shirts just like everything else only I don't reduce the paint as much because, again if you over saturate the t shirt with paint to thin, it won't hold up when washed.

Yes you should decide what your goal in airbrushing should be but give the glass thing a go for practice. You will be surprised at what your control level is, either a seasoned vet or a total newbie. I went my whole first year without doing it, but once I thought to try it, my work started getting so much better because of my control. I wish I started from day one by practicing on glass.

Now, also when I say practice I mean dots daggers, fades and such. Just what ever you don't care to keep. Maybe a quick skull or something like that.

In the end everyone here is right with what they have said. There is no perfect way or route to do it, hell even the pros do things differently. The way I look at it is why not practice on the hardest thing to do, then the rest is easy. Even pins strippers practice on glass to get it down because its hard and easily erased :)

Even Yoda had to train to be a Jedi........ I'm just better looking ;)
I agree with all of that monkey man, get control of your AB on the hardest surface, and you're golden for everything else. I still think it's worth practicing on the surface you are going to be mostly using as well though, and getting used to dealing with some of the other stuff (different preps, air pressures/reductions particularly for textile, very curvy curved surfaces, not getting overspray onto a t-shirt etc etc, etc etc) along the way. I know when I first started, and thought I had enough control to try something, I was disappointed when I messed up because I hadn't taken the other stuff into consideration. But then that's just me, and I'm cranially challenged.
The way I want my airbrushing to get is to the level of how I can draw or paint or render pictures with charcoal etc so basically use the airbrush on anything. Like when I use a spray can to prime quarter panels etc I get it perfect every time haha and how I use the cans is how I have been using my airbrush to lay down layers of paint and then I also figured out how to get fine detail like the size of a sharpie with my Neo by lowering the pressure and slowly pulling back the trigger and moving my hand at the right speed :) like heres something I did this past winter with charcoal for a class and my camera didn't get a good pic of it because of crap lighting but normally I draw photorealism and would like to do that with my airbrush too!