For most people with limited artistic ability, freehand airbrushing is not an option. Freehand airbrushing means spraying without any guide and using your innate artistic ability. The other alternative is to use a stencil, or as it is sometimes called, a mask and spraying through it onto the material you want to decorate.
There are ready made-stencils that you can buy from airbrush shops. They are available for practically every kind of airbrush job from airbrushing eyebrows to tattoos to T-shirts and cars. The limitation with using ready-made stencils is that you are stuck with the designs that are available. Another challenge is the price of these stencils, which can range from a few dollars to a couple of hundred depending upon the intricacy of the design.
If you have a particular design in mind and want to save on costs, you can always make your own stencils. The first thing you must do is create the design. You do this by either drawing the design on paper or creating it on a computer. You can also scan an image and load it onto your computer. Computer-generated designs should be re-sized to the actual size to be airbrushed. Another way is to shrink or enlarge a hard copy image using your photocopier.
There are different materials that can be used for stencils, depending upon the item to be airbrushed. For soft surfaces like fabric, print out the design on glossy photo paper. This material is durable, pliant and makes for an excellent stencil. It's also easy to wipe off excess paint from the glossy surface. For original artwork or hard copies, use tracing paper to transfer the design to poster board. This material is durable and can be used over and over. You may also use transparency, sticker paper or transparent plastic pocket folders that you can buy from any school supplies store.
For hard surfaces, print your computer image on regular printer paper. For original artwork or a hard copy, photocopy the design. Cut a piece of frisket film big enough for your design. Frisket film is transparent with a slight adhesive backing. It can be placed directly on the surface of the item to be decorated, and then removed without damaging the surface of the item. Remove the adhesive backing of the frisket film and place it over the design to be airbrushed.
Use a sharp knife to cut out the image. Now, you have your stencil. Clean the surface to be airbrushed and make sure it is free of grease and dirt. Stick the stencil on the surface to be airbrushed making sure that it is flat. Use masking tape to cover the areas that will not be painted. You can now start the airbrushing job. After you've finished airbrushing, remove the masking tape and the stencil, then check for underspray. Do whatever touch ups are needed to clean up the design.
Depending upon the material you use, stencils are reusable for some time. Clean them and store them properly. After a while, you'll have built up a good inventory of your own airbrush stencils.