Airbrush Staining

by Janean S. Thompson

There are many ways to paint wooden furniture, trim, decorator items and more, including stains and opaque colors. Airbrushing stain is a fast and easy method to apply a coating of color and then amend the color in a number of ways. The stain might be oil based or a diluted acrylic wash. For this month's consideration is an article that explores the possibilities of staining with single and multiple layers of acrylic.


We will need the following for this exercise: An airbrush (I continue to use the easy to operate and invaluable Iwata Revolution CR Airbrush); an air source (the Iwata Studio Series Smart Jet Compressor is a grand choice because of the near silent operation and surprising power); formal or recycled airbrush parking "station"; acrylic wash tones in your choice of colors (acrylic paints diluted with distilled water - half paint, half water); cotton rags, towels; wooden objects to practice upon (I used scrap lumber with both smooth and rough textures).


To be sure we are clear on the purpose of this exercise, what we want to do is to learn ways to create interesting surface tones using a dilute stain color on raw woods. This is very useful with any crafts projects where you are using wood as a structural basis for decoration.


Bird houses, wooden serving trays, flower boxes, tables, chests, chairs and more could be on the list of possibilities. What we want to do is gain the skill and experience necessary to tackle a large and possibly formal piece with confidence. A bit of practice is all that is required to learn the ways an airbrush and stain can work together to create an unusual and interesting painted object.


Be sure the project is free of dust or soil. A quick dusting with a rag is wise. For the first practice piece, begin color application with a light mist to familiarize yourself with the amount of "hesitate or hurry" that is required to leave behind the tone of color you want. It is always wise to use a limited amount of paint at the beginning.

Have fun with the learning methods and the doing becomes more interesting.

1. Gather simple materials to practice creation of interesting wood finishes for your projects.

2. Stain applied to wood and removal of excess stain is begun.

3. For another practice piece, we want to apply a blend of two tones. Allow the first color to dry. Apply a thick layer of the second stain color. Use a rag to rub away most of the second color.

Application of a second color will yield a blend of both tones. The longer the second color sets prior to removal, the darker it will be.
Application should be as smooth as possible. Rubbing with a cloth as shown in the photo will "set" the color into the grain of the wood rather than give the appearance of a painted surface.

4. A wax candle has been rubbed into the surface grain and functions as a resist.
The amount removed will determine the color. Several coatings may be required to achieve the tone you wish.
Or a very light misting--rubbed away--may be the exact tone you want. Trial and test will prove the order of application, the amount applied and conversely the amount removed.

When using a very porous wood surface, a very light coating of acrylic medium (diluted 50 percent with water) will partially seal the surface and prevent immediate absorption into the wood. Tests of materials around the studio or home will prove interesting.

Sometimes, spraying no-stick cooking spray onto a surface will give the finished piece a streaky, aged look. Gently rubbing a candle over the surface will create a resist.

5. Remember to include surface embellishments such as speckling. Photo 5 shows a finishing speckle coat over rich rose stain. A neat way to "age" stained items or give surface interest is to speckle by "plucking" the control of your airbrush.


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