Wood can be a very challenging material for airbrush work. There are myriad wooden items for painting ranging from birdhouses to flower boxes to tables, chairs and cabinets. Using the airbrush in woodworking can mean two very different things. The simpler one means painting the wood or piece of furniture with an airbrush instead of the ordinary paint brush, and is better referred to as spray painting. The other meaning involves painting designs on wood, whether these are grain patterns or decorations and should be called airbrushing.
Spray painting a uniform color on a piece of wood or furniture is a fairly simple process. The furniture should be set up in a well-ventilated location and the surrounding areas which are not meant to be painted covered with paper or tape. All the parts to be painted should be cleaned and sanded down. A paint brush is used to prime the area so the paint does not peel off afterwards.
A High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) spray gun, with at least a 1 gallon capacity paint tank is needed. The spray gun should have about 54 cfm at 4 psi. After diluting the acrylic paint with water to the right thickness, it is poured into the paint tank and the furniture can be spray painted. Spraying should be done in straight strips of 3 feet or shorter, depending upon the size of the furniture being sprayed.
Airbrushing designs and patterns on wood is a bit more complicated. Different kinds of wood have different grains and patterns. Softwood has fine grain whereas hardwood has heavy grain. In rendering designs on wood, the artist must study the grain of the particular wood to be painted in order to duplicate it in the design. The surface to be painted must first be sanded and cleaned to ensure that the paint will stick to it. A Siphon Feed airbrush with a side mount is preferred for this type of work. Acrylic paint, diluted to the right consistency should be used.
To paint a design or pattern on wood, a base coat of an even or graduated tone of the wood must be applied. A lighter tone is stippled over the base coat. While the stippled coat is still wet, a piece of cotton should be dragged across it to produce tiny grain lines. With this type of work, some artistry is required, in some cases using freehand color saturation and rubbing the design with various materials like a fine paint brush or a torn piece of paper to give the painted wood the desired look. To give the illusion of wood, the artist will have to rely a lot on his creativity and experimentation.
Painting furniture to look like antiques is a favorite for airbrush artists working with wood. In addition to the paint, a staining sponge and wood wax are needed. After airbrushing a flat coat and a top coat, wood stain dipped in wood wax is applied, airbrushed again with a top coat and sealed with a good furniture spray sealer.