Body Painting Advice
Body Painting Advice
This is the airbrush setup that I used for body paint for many years. I've had them since 2006, which speaks well for their durability, and overall I've been happy with the results. The compressor is the Testors Blue Ice Mini. I like that it's small, quiet, has a steady pressure for painting, and packs well in my luggage when traveling. I've never had any trouble taking it on planes, and it has flown back and forth across the country quite a few times by now. My only complaint is that it does overheat if you're doing a lot of painting, so from time to time you have to give it a few minutes to cool down. (I spend the time working on other aspects of the costume, such as eye makeup.) The airbrush is an Aztec A220 Broad Stroke. I've purchased three of them, so if one brush ever gets clogged or misaligned while I'm painting, I just grab another and keep going. It helps to keep each airbrush in a quart ziplock bag, so the cords won't get all tangled together in storage. I like that the A220 brushes spray a pretty big area, and they are single action with a large lever rather than a button, which is a lot easier to use when you're contorted around trying to spray odd places like the back of your own arm or neck. It's also good to have a simple option for when your helpers aren't experienced with double-action brushes! The bottles have a good capacity, and since it's external mix the whole thing is easy to clean. The only irritation with the A220 is that the siphon setup can get misaligned, which means that you have to fiddle with the screws from time to time. If the air flow isn't directly over the paint pickup, you get no paint spray. With a bit of practice it's pretty easy to line things back up. I do have other airbrushes, from really nice to really cheap, and I will say that if you can afford a better quality airbrush, it does make your life easier while you're painting. After years of using the A220 I did eventually set it aside and started using a Paasche Talon gravity feed airbrush instead. Much more expensive, but no more dealing with finicky siphons! I also recommend using plastic bottles whenever possible. Since airbrushing means having long cords constantly moving all over the place, things can and will get knocked off the counter. Plastic is far less likely to shatter than glass bottles! My favorite aspect of airbrushing alcohol based paints is that they don't 'dry' in the usual sense... so when you're finished getting ready for an event, you don't have to worry about cleaning the airbrush right away. The paint will activate again anytime you apply alcohol or developer, so there's no need to worry about dried paint ruining your airbrush!
My preferred way to apply airbrushed body paint is to start with a thin sliver of sponge or a wide but thin brush. Don't use a really big sponge or very thick brush because they'll just waste a lot of paint. Apply a very thin (and very blotchy) first layer of paint. This layer does a fast job of getting the area covered with color, and it helps to press down all the tiny little hairs that you never really noticed before. Also be sure to use a little eye shadow applicator sponge to paint around your eyes, because your eyelashes will block the airbrush. Let that paint dry, and then use the airbrush to paint a second very thin layer of paint over the first layer. This will quickly even out the color to give you a great looking result! Let that layer dry fully, and then you can lightly rub your hand over your skin to reduce the amount of body paint sticking to every itty bitty and now prickly hair!
A box fan with a piece of air conditioner filter taped over one side does a great job of catching overspray while airbrushing body paint, so you'll have less paint mist ending up in your lungs or on the floor. The filters can be cut to size with an old pair of scissors, but be careful while handling them because they often have a thin metal framework to maintain the filter's shape. The breeze also helps the paint dry faster and blows paint fumes away from your face, which is especially helpful when working with alcohol based paints. (They do tend to sting the eyes for a few seconds while they're drying!) Looking at our fan, you'd almost think we're fond of a particular paint color in this household...
The trick to removing alcohol based body paint is to use an oil based remover. My favorite remover is the one sold by Reel Creations. It works really well and really fast, it doesn't bother my skin, it and it only takes a little bit so a bottle of remover lasts a long time. Other commonly used removers are coconut oil, baby oil, rubbing alcohol, etc. They do work, just not quite as fast. I like the way coconut oil feels on my skin, and I learned the hard way not to use scented baby oil because the smell stuck around waaay too long. Bleck. Still, I like to use the stuff that was actually made for the job! To wash off your body paint, just step in the shower with a sacrificial washcloth that you don't mind getting stained, a bar of soap, and your bottle of remover. Use a thin cloth because thick terry will soak up and waste too much remover. Pour some remover on the cloth and rub it over the paint. NO water yet, just remover. If the cloth starts feeling dry, add some more remover. Be sure to rub remover over all the areas that you painted. If you miss a spot, the paint will stay there! Once that's done you close the bottle, set aside the washcloth outside the direct spray of the shower, and grab the bar of soap. Turn on the water, lather up with the soap... and it alllll washes away. You're human once again! Then you get out of the shower and bust up laughing when you see yourself in the mirror because you will discover an assortment of still-painted spots that you completely missed with the remover. Usually it's the underside of the nose and chin, the dips around the collarbones, inside the belly button, and the space between your eyes and the bridge of your nose. Step back in the shower, grab the remover soaked washcloth, and repeat the process for the spots you missed! (And accept that someone is going to point out later that you still have a painted spot behind your ear, or on your elbow, or the back of your neck...) I recommend drying off with a sacrificial towel in case there are any greasy paint-tinted spots that you missed with the soap. You don't want a permanent stain on your good towels, or those belonging to a hotel! I have a towel and washcloth that are designated Twi'lek cleanup gear, and they go with me to every convention. If you're in a hotel, I recommend putting the remover soaked washcloth in a ziplock bag when you're done with it. Don't seal the bag until it's time to pack up... but don't leave that greasy cloth laying in the open where somebody might brush against it and get paint-stained remover on their clothes or costumes. I also recommend hand-washing the washcloth with dish soap afterwards, rather than tossing it in the clothes washer. You don't want that grease all over everything in the wash, and dish soap does a good job of breaking down the oils. I have a 'remover kit' that goes with me to conventions. It's a gallon size ziplock bag. Inside that bag, I have a quart ziplock for the washcloth and bar of soap. A second sealed inner bag holds my bottle of remover. The outer bag keeps the two inner bags together and protects your luggage in case either of them leak on the way to or from the convention.