November 13th, 2015
When the airbrush landed on Planet Make-up it was heralded as a revolution in application. First used in Ben-Hur as a method of mass-applying make-up to the unprecedented number of extras, airbrushes and the formulas that go with them have evolved over the years. While it’s worth bearing in mind that an airbrush is just a tool – a very clever one but a tool none the less – there’s no getting over that the devil is very much in the detail.
No-one can argue that airbrushing as a technique has made an incredible difference to how some make-up artists work. The fine finish coupled with the advent of HD and the sheer speed of the application in the hands of an expert has revolutionised film and TV make-up as well as editorial and bridal work.
Laura Glass, Marketing Director at market-leading airbrush manufacturer Iwata, explains the rise in popularity: “As MUAs become more familiar with airbrush as a tool, their use of them has grown. A one-size-fits-all airbrush approach has given way to MUAs expanding their kits with multiple airbrush models that suit specific types of work and environments. In kind, Iwata is expanding its wide variety of airbrushes and compressors to include models with quality that lasts and MUAs’ specific needs in mind.
“The uncompromising clarity of HD has changed make-up as we know it. Traditional cream and liquid foundations can look heavy and obvious under HD, while hiding tiny flaws and brush strokes became more difficult. MUAs are able to achieve a more natural-looking, HD-ready finish by implementing airbrushes into their practices. Over the last few years the fastest growing segments have been in beauty and bridal because of the impeccable finish that a good quality airbrush can deliver.”
While airbrushing is by no means a new kid on the block, as Lloyd Naake from Brit-based company Airbase explains, HD catapulted the technique into the mainstream. “Airbrushing was actually around prior to HD TV and film but they have really pushed the growth of the technique. It first came to prominence in the 1990s when Jennifer Anniston had airbrush make-up for her wedding with Brad Pitt, which whet the appetite of the consumer for airbrushing. Technology in airbrushing since the advent of HD film hasn’t really changed. The problem of seemingly perfect make-up showing up on HD film had been solved before HD film arrived. One major change over the past 10 years is that small compressors have been introduced to the market, meaning that airbrushing is now easier for make-up artists to carry out on the move. This has opened it up to brides on their wedding day.
“The science behind airbrushing is that the particles of make-up are atomised as they pass through an airbrush. Therefore when they come out of the airbrush they are miniscule in size and invisible to the naked eye. With a silicone-based product you get excellent coverage of skin complaints with just a light application meaning that the finish looks smooth and natural. The product sits on the skin, not penetrating the pores, and allows the skin to breathe.”
So how do you decide which tools to choose?
Firstly it is fairly safe to say you need to learn how to use an airbrush. Even the most talented artist will find that at the very least, practice makes perfect. All of the major manufacturers offer short and specialist courses to learn to use their machines as well as how to maintain them, key to the longevity of the equipment. Specialist make-up schools and colleges will also run airbrushing as part of the curriculum. So whether you’re a student starting out or a seasoned pro, there’ll be a course for you.
Airbase offers two courses starting with an Introductory Course in the Art of Airbrush Make-Up, a one day course is suitable for both complete beginners and seasoned make-up artists who want to learn airbrush make-up. Run throughout the UK from Aberdeen to Cornwall, they are priced from £60. For those that want further tuition, the Masterclass Airbrushing Course goes into more depth on blending colours, corrective techniques and tattoo coverage.
Dinair offers a two day programme covering every aspect of what you could possibly use your airbrush for including contouring, tattoo coverage, spray on jewellery, camouflage and paramedical as well the more traditional airbrush uses. As they are a leading American brand they unfortunately only do a handful of London-based courses each year, but they are worth enquiring about.
Kryolan’s two day airbrushing course runs at their Covent Garden location for £280.
Once trained, MUAs are then presented with a plethora of different machines, with different abilities at wildly varying prices. The Airbrush Guru, an info site packed full of airbrush tips from Adam Rice, who began his understanding of airbrushing as part of Iwata’s technical support team, is worth visiting. Airbrushes come with different feeds, mixes and actions and Adam’s site will be able to explain the nuances of each, but safe to say if you are looking for your very first airbrush he recommends you “choose a gravity feed, dual action, internal mix airbrush from a name brand manufacturer.”
So whether you’re looking for a student start up or the latest in high tech technology, here are some of Warpaint’s recommendations.
Sparmax ARISM Mini Kits (£150 incl. VAT) have just launched, and they’re ideal for both beginners and professionals. A new generation of compact compressors available in eight colours, the Kit contains the ARISM Mini Compressor, the Sparmax MAX-4 Airbrush (with a 0.4mm nozzle and needle combination) and the Sparmax Cleaning Pot, which comes with a built-in airbrush holder. Perfect for practicing more intricate designs, the compressor can also be used with different brushes and nozzles.
Iwata has a great range of brushes which are interchangeable depending on what you’re working on. The Iwata Hi-Line CH gives Micro Air Technology right at the nozzle which allows MUA’s to work at extremely low air pressures. Great for working around eyes and doing fine detailing, it is designed for artists who need extreme control of meticulous spraying (£202.50).
The Iwata Eclipse CS (£113) is versatile in its ability to spray a pattern of fine to large and its ability to handle pre-mixed and heavier products. With a drop-in nozzle that is easy to clean, Eclipse is generally regarded by MUA as the workhorse of airbrushes.
Meanwhile the Iwata Kustom TH (£305.10) is a SFX and body artist’s dream with its unique characteristics. Academy Award Winning MUA Barney Burman loves this airbrush, “It’s a very versatile airbrush. It allows me to dial in and out the pressure on the brush. It can also go from a fine mist to a spatter texture.”
Airbase’s Mini Compressor and Airbrush (£175) is designed for the application of Airbase silicone-based make-up. Using a dual action airbrush for greater control, this enables the user to easily adjust the pressure sprayed with the airbrush trigger. The compressor is surprisingly lightweight, weighing less than a bag of sugar. At 10cm square it fits easily into any case, is easy to carry and also has an option of a battery pack making it usable on sites where power isn’t available. It is also quiet when in use.
Kett offer some great high quality paints: foundations, blushes, shimmers, metals and FX to name but a few. Their Hydro Foundation (£23) is a water-based, odourless, flawlessly blendable foundation that can be applied with an airbrush, fingertips, sponge or brush and is available in Olive Tones (H-O) and Ruby Tones (H-R).
Kryolan’s new Nebula system and paints have also been making waves in the industry since we first saw it at IMATS London. Due to its micronized pigments, Nebula provides an extraordinary natural and flawless finish and is scientifically formulated to deliver a long-lasting, durable result. It can be applied using a spray gun or a brush. We love the Nebula Airbrush Make-up Set in ‘Chromatic’ (£65.75), which consists of 6 innovative silicone shades with shimmering colour changes, particularly suitable for eye shadow or blusher.