What is Airbrush Makeup?

What is Airbrush Makeup? Good question! This article should be the first place you visit if you know nothing about airbrush makeup and need a place to start.

Airbrush makeup is basically the makeup equivalent of airbrushing paint. It has been used for decades in film and fashion circles and was introduced to the consumer market around 30 years ago by Dinair. Originally body paint was used as the base makeup but modern airbrush makeup is extremely high quality and is comprised of fine pigments and is either water or silicone based.

The makeup and the tools of airbrushing are fundamentally very different from traditional makeup and this is reflected in the results you can achieve. The most common terms associated with airbrush makeup are ‘flawless’, ‘High Definition’, ‘glowing’, ‘natural’, ‘youthful’. It’s no wonder that celebrity makeup artists use it all the time as do almost all makeup artists in the fashion industry.

How does airbrush makeup work?
Airbrush makeup kits are basically comprised of a compressor and an airbrush gun. The compressor supplies air to the airbrush with varying pressure (PSI) and the air mixes with makeup to produce a fine mist which dries as it hits the skin. The reason airbrush makeup has such flawless coverage is that the ‘micro-beads’ fall into blemishes evenly but without caking and building up like traditional makeup. For more detailed information about the application of airbrush makeup, visit our how to section.

Using airbrush makeup:
The uses of airbrush makeup are practically endless–it’s really up to your imagination. Many people are happy just doing their foundation, blush, contouring and highlighting but it is also used for amazing costume effects both professional and amateur. Other uses of airbrush makeup include covering blemishes, creating stencil effects or temporary tattoos, tanning, nails and you can even put it in your hair.

Airbrushing technique:
The most common technique used in airbrushing is a circular, continuous movement. This prevents the makeup from building up in any one particular area. The best advice I can give you is to always watch the effect you create, not the actual makeup. Trust your eye to be the best judge on when you have produced the perfect coverage.

The airbrush gun:

Airbrush Makeup Gun Product view

The airbrush (or, airbrush gun) is the part where makeup comes out of the machine and is applied to your skin. Most airbrushes are gravity fed through a cup which sits on top of or on the side of the airbrush gun. Some are bottom fed. The best airbrushes have a large cup which gives you a bit of leeway with the amount of wrist movement you can use without spilling. The TEMPTU AIRbrush Makeup System is unique in that it uses a ‘pod’ system–that is, enclosed pods of makeup which can be easily inserted or removed from the system with minimal mess. This does make mixing makeup more difficult though, which is why many makeup artists prefer the simplicity of the original cup system.

The compressor:
Consumer airbrush compressors are much smaller than professional and artists ones. However, this is fine since you do not need a large airflow for airbrush makeup work. Look for compressors which have a variable PSI from 0 to around 15 or 20. Low PSI is good for fine detail (like eyes) whereas higher PSI is preferable for body work. I much prefer the compressors which are low noise (or, ‘whisper quiet’)

Airbrush makeup brands:
There are many good brands of airbrush makeup. The most popular are Dinair, TEMPTU, Luminess Air, MAC Air and the Kett Jett. You can find detailed information on all these brands and several more in our airbrush makeup review section.

Learning how to airbrush:
It’s not hard to learn the basics of airbrushing makeup. Most good airbrush makeup kits come with an instructional DVD. There are courses you can attend or simply play with the airbrush and be inspired by all the wonderful videos online. We’ve also put together some tips which should help you avoid common beginner mistakes. Hopefully they’ll be helpful for you.

2 Comments + Add Comment

  • My boyfriend is a bodyman and has a lot of experience with paint guns and such, and he told me that it’s always best to have a separate gun for water-based paints vs solvent-based. Is this true for airbrushes using water-based vs silicone-based makeup?

    • Hi Wendy – definitely true unless you want to be washing out the airbrush in between each types of makeup. I would always keep them separate because it’s easier and less risky – so just stick to either water-based or silicone-based as your main makeup. You can’t mix the two either.