Airbrushing a DTM car - with Steve Hatt

We take a lot of pleasure in introducing the work of Steve Hatt, who is a SAA PA, who paints with acrylics. Steve is also an expert airbrush artist. In this post, Steve opens up the door to the magical and artistic world of airbrushing.

Learn how Steve uses really creative masking techniques and watch how the final painting just unfolds before your eyes. Even if you feel airbrushing is not for you we hope you can take something from the way Steve masterfully uses masks and tone to create an absoloutly stuning painting.

Over to Steve and his insight into creating art with an airbrush

Basic equipment for this project

  • Double action airbrush
  • Acrylic paints
  • Ruler
  • Masking paper
  • Scalpel
  • Card
  • Fine paint brush

Double action airbrush – There are many types and makes, I use a double action gravity fed medium quality airbrush. Double action allowing more control over the paint mix and spread enabling a cover from very fine to around an inch in width. I use a gravity brush because I only use a minimum of paint, one or two drops from the bottle at any one time.

Acrylic paints – The paints I use are primarily designed for custom work on 3D objects such as helmets and motorcycle parts etc. As I do this kind of work I use the same paints to create my normal pictures too. The paints are water based so have no odour and very little overspray.
Also by using these paints the choice of colour is amazing and includes colour changing, fluorescent, glow in the dark, metalics, transparent etc.

Masking paper – again there are many different types available, I have tried most of them! Strangely the best results seem to come from using a low tack paper that is designed for applying vinyl graphics, cheap and easily available.

Scalpel – probably my second most vital piece of equipment. Blade of choice is a Swann Norton 10A because it has a sharp point which is easier to see when you are working. Some of the curved variants make it harder to see what you are doing. A retractable handle is a good idea too because it saves you stabbing yourself by accident!

Card – because I need a smooth surface for my work the choice is limited but I tend to use Bristol Board. It has a fine bright surface and thick enough that the blade does not cut right through.

And here is how I created the painting of the DTM car...

I start with a line drawing of the carTo the board! Subject of picture is a DTM race car, chosen for it’s colours and angle. Reference from the internet is essential to provide all the details that appear blurry in the original painting. I like to know my subject inside out so that I know exactly what all the little details are.

Staring by taping the card to the drawing board the rough outline is applied very lightly. Then the entire sheet is covered with masking paper. In the video you will notice that I use a grey film, this was more to benefit those watching so that you can see what is going on.

My style of painting is to create a black and white image from the start, for this i use a transparent black paint. This has the advantage of allowing you to build in layers from a light grey to a deep solid black, thus creating all the shadows and gradients on the subject without the need to constantly change and mix paints. This will become clear later.

Adding lots of layers, starting with the darkest pait layers first

Working from the darkest areas each part is carefully cut and picked from the paper exposing the card beneath. Slowly building the depth by varying the shades. In some cases you need to remask areas to avoid over spraying areas already done. Planning is important so time spent studying your reference picture saves time reworking the image later.

Once this is complete you should be looking at a black and white image, which can look great by itself. More recently i have created pictures like this and then sprayed over the whole image with a transparent sepia, the results are amazing.

Again, masking the entire image we then start to remove all the areas that are to be coloured. Selecting all the areas that are the same colour in turn (to avoid the need to keep changing colour in the airbrush).

Applying the hilights to the DTM car painting

Now using for example the yellow transparent paint, an even cover is applied over the mask. No need to shade it with different mixes as the transparent black has already created the effect for you. The black transforms the yellow from a dark yellow where it is in shadow to a bright yellow where it is in highlight. Gradually working round the image you start to see it come to life.

Once this is complete the painting is very nearly finished, the last stage is to carefully apply some highlights or sparkles with carefully positioned spots of white. Again using the airbrush allows for the haze around the point of light creating a more realistic glow. The last stage is to add all the very fine details such as grass, gravel etc using the paint brush. Still using the same paints but using a normal paintbrush rather than the airbrush.

The final painting, Steve Hatt's DTM car

Hopefully by watching the video and reading this will have given you an idea on how an airbrush can be used to great effect to create a painting in a completely different way. As a guide, this image on A3 took around 15 hours to complete.

If it has inspired you to have a go then go for it, it is a load of fun and allows all sorts of avenues to be opened up that you would normally struggle with different media.

Find out more

Steve is a SAA PA, view his SAA web page. You can also visit Steve's website

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