The advent of computer programs like Photoshop have brought high tech to art of photo retouching. What once was a meticulous and painstaking process can now be accomplished by clicking and dragging a mouse. However, there are still fine art requirements and digital images that need the skill that only retouching with an airbrush can accomplish. This has revived interest in the use of the airbrush to retouch photographs.
An internal mix Double-Action airbrush with a Gravity Feed is the preferred tool for retouching photographs. The internal mix produces a very soft spray while the Double-Action trigger gives the artist maximum control. For an ideal retouch job, the spray must have a soft dot pattern. Because a photograph consists of many pixels, an internal spray airbrush mimics this resulting in a perfect blend.
Photo retouching with an airbrush can be done on black-and-white or colored photographs, or on digital printouts on any kind of photo paper or canvas.
After the airbrush itself, the most important part of photo retouching is the choice of the paint or ink. Specially formulated paints in shades of gray are available for black-and-white retouch jobs, while a whole spectrum of colors can be used for color retouching. There are four basic types of paints to choose from for photo retouching.
The first type of paint is an opaque watercolor known as gouache. This paint can completely hide undesired parts of the photograph, and it can also be removed with water without any effect on the image. Gouache comes it tubes and blocks and needs to be diluted with water so it can be sprayed.
Another material is liquified watercolor. It is a transparent or opaque dye available in shades of black and gray or in color. Unlike gouache, liquified watercolor is difficult to remove. This material is available already prepared for airbrushing. The jars are equipped with applicators like eye droppers so the material can be easily transferred to the airbrush.
A third type is airbrush paint. This is a mild, acrylic-based paint, already prepared and ready to use for airbrushing. When it dries, airbrush paint is waterproof, so it is practically impossible to remove.
The last and least popular are artists' acrylic colors. These are the paints you usually find in tubes, jars or squirt bottles. They can be thick or thin or any range of viscosity in between. They need to be diluted with water in order to be used in an airbrush.
Before retouching the photo, it should be cleaned using a cotton ball with Bestene Rubber Cement Remover to remove any grease or dirt. After it has dried, the photo should be sprayed with a film of matte lacquer to give the artist a surface with good adhesion to work on.
Artists retouch photos with an airbrush freehand whereas others use a stencil. Some use both methods, depending upon which part of the photo is being retouched. Retouching freehand sprays the paint directly onto the image and gives a soft, blurry edge. However, when a stencil is used, the result is a hard, precise edge.
After the retouching is done, the photo must be sprayed with a coat of matte or clear lacquer to protect it from dirt and damage.