Painting with Spray Paints

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Painting with spray paint can be an exciting and challenging technique to add to an artist’s repertoire.

Spray paint comes in a number of formats, allowing the artist to select tight control or a spontaneous, loose flow of paint.

Today’s spray systems are modern advancements on an old technique.

Mouth atomizers have been used for many years, and the tools are still available. Technology has expanded this to the development of airbrush systems and canned spray paints. All these tools expand the artist’s ability to create a diverse array of styles and techniques that brushwork could never imitate.

The Lips Have It

A mouth atomizer is a simple device that uses two hinged tubes. One tube is placed in the paint, the other in the mouth. Blowing through the tube sprays the paint on the support. This takes a bit of practice, but is a very effective and economical method of applying a texture-free layer of paint. It can be used with any water-based paint, such as acrylic and watercolor.

With a mouth atomizer, the artist can apply paint to a surface without danger of disturbing the preceding layers. A light mist of color can glaze over the surface, slightly changing the tone, or repeated application can build up the intensity. Depending on how hard the tube is blown, the effect can be random spattering or a soft, even wash of color.

Using this device, the artist can draw on of all his water-based paints. He can mix colors specifically for his work and not rely on commercially produced aerosol can colors. It is also the most economical spray method available, as the device costs only a few dollars.

Airbrush Basics

Airbrush equipment is available in a wide range of price points, although relatively inexpensive kits are quite adequate for the art student to use initially. Three basic characteristics should be considered when selecting an airbrush system. The first is the way in which the artist deploys the paint. The second is the mechanism used to feed the paint into the airbrush and the third is the manner in which the air mixes with the paint.

Buying an airbrush system will take time and research. Do not go out and buy the cheapest or the most expensive system. Different styles of airbrushes will give vastly differing results. Understand the effects the various models will produce, so you can select the proper kit at a reasonable price.

Canned Art

Spray paint is not just for graffiti artists, nor is it merely to paint plastic model cars. Interest in crafts seems to be at an all-time high, and manufacturers are developing new and improved products to feed consumers’ growing appetite for crafting supplies.

Non-aerosol fabric spray paint is a simple innovation for a fiber artist. It allows him to paint on fabric without brush strokes, allowing an even application that is free of texture. These paints are permanent and remain pliable with repeated washing.

Aerosol paints are available in a seemingly endless array of colors and finishes, including metallic, neon, pearlescent, matte and glitter. There are also many formulations made for specific applications. Along with rust retarding paints for metal, there are products formulated for use with plastic, fiber, exteriors, and general-purpose usage. An oil painter or watercolorist may not find this especially appealing, but a collage or multi-media artist will discover many ways to utilize the fast, easy-to-use spray paints for his work.

Graffiti artists have a mastery of the spray can that is quite impressive, and whole lines of paints are devoted to their special brand of artwork. Metal sculptors find ample ways in which to use rust retarding spray paint to enhance and preserve their work. Artists working with modern plastics achieve smooth, texture-free coatings that are resilient and long lasting, using aerosol paints developed specifically for synthetic materials.

Because of the propellants used in spray paint, proper ventilation is extremely important. If possible, spray painting should be done outdoors. If this is not practical, the artist’s studio should be well ventilated. The artist should also use a mask, to prevent inhalation of the fumes. These fumes are not merely noxious, but can be life threatening when inhaled for a prolonged period. Many artists are unaware of just how dangerous a field they have chosen, although the damage is cumulative over a long time.

Spray Paint – Not Just For Graffiti Anymore

Spray paint can be used as the medium for palette knife technique. Aerosol paint dries quickly, but it does remain wet for a short time if the ambient temperature is mild. The artist needs to work quickly with this technique, so pre-planning is essential for this style of painting to be successful.

The paint will remain malleable for a longer period if the support is non-porous. Poster board or other coated non-porous materials can be used as a support for the painting.

Preliminary compositional sketches are needed if a student is unsure of his layout. He may not need a drawing if he is comfortable working without reference material and his composition is fully developed.

Use a heavy application of paint, beginning with the darkest color on a light-toned support. Apply a secondary color in the appropriate sections. Pieces of glossy magazine pages can be used to wipe and daub the paint, adding texture to large areas. With a palette knife, sgraffito technique can then be used to create the painting. Fingers are also useful tools for blending and manipulating the paint. Additional applications of medium extend the painting time and the variety of colors in the work.

This technique takes practice and will be a challenge to master, but it is a very rapid way to do a complete painting. It is perfect for an artist who does plein air exhibitions. Craft festivals and similar public events are great venues for this type of artwork demonstration, as it is fast and always draws a crowd.

Spray paint has many aspects and scores of techniques that can be used by a creative artist. Choosing just one can be hard with so many alternatives to try. Whichever one the student selects, he will find a new world of potential at his fingertips.

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