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Airbrush Workshops

Red Rule


Special Effect: Wood Grain

When creating a painting or illustration where objects are to appear in a photo realistic manner, the airbrush is an indispensable tool. To make an object appear real, you need only allude to its texture, shape, and color.

Different types of wood, of course, have different textures, from the fine grain of softwood to the heavier grain of hardwood. To mimic these types of wood, the artist must first study the grain to become familiar with the patterns.

The airbrush is perfectly suited to replicate shiny and glossy surfaces such as chrome, plastic, glass, etc. But when it comes to wood, the airbrush must be used in a different manner, incorporating much more freehand brushwork. Following are some helpful hints when developing the look of wood:

1. Use the airbrush to spray in an even or graduated tone for the color of the wood.

2. Stipple (the spraying of large dots) a lighter tone over top of the base color. While the stippled paint is still wet, lightly drag a piece of cotton across it to develop tiny grain lines.

3. Avoid over-working the painting or illustration by trying to add every ring in the tree unless, of course, you are a botanical illustrator.

4. Freehand saturation of color will give you the look of a dark hardwood. Clear grained wood--such as ash--can be developed by spraying a light base color and then putting in the grains with a fine paint brush; or create the look of pine by spraying along the edge of a torn piece of paper for a coarse-grained look.

5. To develop highlights, use a hard rubber eraser to rub through the painted areas to expose the white of the board. Be sure to work on a durable (hot press) board or a surface that is clay-coated.

6. The look of wood (such as on the stock of a rifle) can be developed by spraying dark brown; let dry and then airbrush light brown over it (or vice versa). Next, carefully scratch grain lines through the top layer of paint to allow the bottom layer to show through. Use a razor, stylus, frisket knife, or a metal comb to accomplish this.

Each artist employs different methods to paint the illusion of wood; and he has developed these methods through personal experimentation. These suggestions are just a starting point. Only by trial and error will you find the best techniques for you.

ARTtalk's Manufacturer Art Materials/Product Info. Center

Copyright ARTtalk Vol. 8 No. 2 -- December 1997