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How to Use Oil Paint in Airbrushing

Most paints can be thinned for use in an airbrush.
paint image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com

Oil paint is prized for the rich, luminous effects it gives to artwork. Although most oil colors are thick and opaque, they can be thinned to a transparent state that will work well in an airbrush for rendering crisp, precise images.

Things You'll Need:

  • Double-Action Airbrush
  • Face Mask
  • Air Hoses
  • Compressed Air Source
  • Oil Paint
  • Turpentine
  • Moisture Trap
  • Linseed Oil
  • Pressure Regulator
  • Spray Booth
  • Masking Tape

Connect an airbrush to a supply of compressed air with a moisture trap and a pressure regulator as directed by the manufacturer. Wear a face mask and work in a spray booth or a well ventilated area.

Mix 1 part of oil paint with 1 part of a thinner, such as refined turpentine or mineral spirits. If necessary, add more thinner to give the color greater transparency and to prevent the paint from clogging the airbrush.

Add 2 or 3 drops of a drying agent, such as cold pressed linseed oil, to the paint. This will reduce the waiting time involved in layering techniques. Add the paint to the airbrush color cup.

Draw your design with charcoal or oil paint on the working surface. Oil colors may be used on canvas, wood, ceramics or glass. Mask off areas of the design as needed with tape or frisket.

Spray the paint over the design. Allow the paint to dry before spraying a new layer on top. Change colors and reposition the masking as required. When finished with the rendering, protect the paint with several coats of varnish.


  • Do not airbrush oil paint onto paper. The varnishes and solvents used with oil paints can damage and stain the paper.
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