Airbrush FAQ Part 2

read airbrush FAQ Part 1

Q. What is the mixture ratio to convert body paint into airbrush makeup?

A. This depends on your airbrush equipment, but start with 25% polymer additive of any brand and then dilute with dilution fluid until it sprays in your brush. Then add a little bit more.

Q. Dear King of Airbrush Make-up; Me and my husband want to manufacture airbrush makeup and bring it to the general consumer. We heard that there's someone suing people for patent infringement. We were told you're the man to speak to.

A. First of all, I'm not the King of AB MU and I can't give you legal advice. No doubt there are big bucks in the general consumer market. The patent in question is number 6,589,541 issued on 7-8-2003 its original application was made on 5-18-2001. You can view it at The patent holders have sued and received millions of dollars from infringers. With that kind of a war chest it is likely that they will continue to sue others. Please don't do anything without speaking to a good patent attorney with experience in the cosmetics and personal care industry. You will have to pay $300 to $400 per hour, but that will be small change compared to a multi-million dollar judgment against you. Good Luck.

Q. I followed your advice and watered down all my body paint with equal parts of polymer additive and water. But they spray differently -- I think you're nuts!

A. I am nuts, but you didn't follow my advice. Each cosmetic pigment has it's own personality and you have to match each to your equipment. That's why I said to try each one and take careful notes, so that you can do it again in the future. Iron oxides will act much differently than an ultramarine blue or FD&C Red #40. You must fine-tune each color separately. Don't expect the same consistency from cosmetic pigments that you would get from art supplies.

Q. OK, we are worried about something a called "Claims Substantiation." I guess we need to have a bunch of paperwork to backup what we say about our makeup or something like that.

A. You only need to worry about claims substantiation if you are the manufacturer of the makeup and make any claims. Claims are any properties of makeup that basically make a promise of some kind. Examples are; smoother skin, hypallergenic, lasts all day, nourishes the skin, cures cancer, or will improve your love life (Just kidding on those last two, but you get my point.) Generally color makeups don't make claims, but special formulas will sometimes be pitched as hypoallergenic, or skin enriching. Be very careful how you pitch your product or services because if you distort or exaggerate a claim to sell product you leave yourself open for a class action lawsuit. If you make a claim you better make sure your manufacturer will back you up, and they won't if you tend to prevaricate.

Also, specific to this question, the EU is really cracking down on claims substantiation. You are now required to have all the supporting documentation, tests, laboratory notes, certifications, formulas and other things to back up your claims. A lot of this confidential information must be available to the makeup police at any and all times. I have no idea what the fines and penalties are and hopefully I'll never find out. If you want more information please look for articles in the trades.

Q. Can I mix different brands together?

A. Yes, just as long as they are water based makeups. Don't use alcohol based temporary tattoo makeup with waterbased.

Q. Can I use Liquiset in Kryolan AquaColors?

A. Yes, each of the majors make their own polymer additives and these can be used across the brand. We have a nice generic polymer that works well too in a variety of applications.

Q. I just can't get my airbrush to spray this stuff. What can I do?

A. If it doesn't spray any kind of airbrush makeup then you need to get a bigger airbrush. Try something in the craft size.

Q. Will any kind of compressor work with an airbrush?

A. Yes, as long as it is clean air. Some shop compressors might have an in-line oiler (for pneumatic air tools.) Don't use this kind of compressor. NOTE: Airbrush compressors are made to be quiet, portable and operate at low pressures. If you want to use a shop compressor simply put it in a back room and run hose (or pipe) to your work area.

Q. I've just cleaned my airbrush, it seems to spray differently, what is going on?

A. You've installed the needle in a slightly different position. Unless you have a way of installing the needle exactly in the same position every time it will always act a little differently. A few airbrushes have fixed needle positions.

Q. Does a bent needle make any difference?

A. Yes. Big time. It interrupts the air flow and causes a blind spot where solids will build up.

Q. Who are the big five? Everybody keeps talking about the big five and how important they are, but I don't see why they are important if I don't know who they are.

A. In my humble opinion the big five are Kryolan, Su-do, Kett, Dinair, Mehron and that Australian outfit (Airbrush Body Art). All have good to great formulas, a strong international presence and are well established with time-proven experience. At any given time there are at least another two dozen small companies who are in the process of coming and going. It seems like every school has a different list so ask around as I might have missed one. And yes, I know I listed six.

NOTE: Right now we are seeing two or three new airbrush makeup brands every year. Many of these are making big improvements in ABMU product. The so called big five might be the strongest companies right now but it doesn't mean they have the best products.

Q. I have a bottle of [BLANK], I've been told it is made by [BLANK]. Is that true?

A. Don't know, sorry. If you have a URL go to and put in their website. If that doesn't work and you have a brand name go to click on the TESS and do a basic search. This will give you the owners of the trade name.

Q. Are colors the same no matter who I get them from?

A. No. There is no industry standard for color names. In your case you bought Dark Egyptian, which is a Mehron color. If you go to another maker you will have to use their color names. Kryolan uses numbers and Ben Nye has its own names. Often people who buy from one company and repackage under their own brand will keep the same names and often the same part numbers.

Q. I was told that it is dangerous to dilute body paint with water?

A. Yes and no. When you add water to anything you are diluting the chemical protection of the preservatives. If you dilute something on the spot and don't store it you will be OK. Don't use old water from a unsealed bottle for dilution.

Q. I was told your makeup is "Hypoallergenic" is that true?

A. No. Some of our makeup is perfume free, which means is doesn't have the fragrance some people react to. If you have sensitive skin please test the product on the inside of your arm and wait for a reaction. If you have problems please don't use it. Some people get a red mark on their arm from rubbing it, trying to see if it will react. This doesn't count. Everyone gets a red mark on their arms when they wash or rub it for too long.

An allergy will not create an infection but can lead to it. Please talk to a Doctor who really knows what he is talking about, such as an allergist. Often people who have a complaint don't have a clear sense of cause and effect. Makeups can have over a dozen different ingredients, it just doesn't help to not know which specific ingredients a person is allergic or sensitive to. Sometimes redness is a good old fashioned sunburn. Sometimes people will pick up an infection from a brush, sponge or paper plate. You would be amazed to see what grows with a little bit of water on a hot summer day.

At the same time, you should only buy from reputable companies. If they claim to have hypoallergenic products you should really question them to find out what that really means. In my opinion a true hypoallergenic would need to be refrigerated, because it's the preservatives that give sensitive people the most problems. Any company that makes a claim that it can't substantiate is liable for a class action lawsuit. Shady companies borrow big words, hoping that nobody will challenge them on it.

And, while we are on the subject. The materials used in makeup from a reputable company are FDA approved. This doesn't mean that the FDA approved the product, it just means that the raw materials are approved and follow industry standards. If you buy a loaf of bread you know that the materials are FDA safe for human consumption, but it doesn't mean that the FDA took that loaf of bread, analyzed it and approved it for consumption.

Stay away from claims of long-lasting products. You really do need to wash everyday or you become a breading ground for bacteria. This would include things like toupee cement, multi-day mascara or other products used very near the eye, theatrical teeth, or even body paint if it is worn for more than six hours.

Q. OK, then what kind of water should I use?

A. Use our dilution fluid first, but if you don't have that use distilled water. Deionised water is better but is difficult to get. Tap water is OK if you don't use too much.

Q. Is this stuff OK on my hair?

A. Don't use red or yellow on treated hair. I don't know what the result is, but the product you buy should be labeled with that warning. The worry is FD&C Red #40 which will stain more than any other pigment.

Q. I've sprayed this stuff but it just rolls off my daughter's skin. Your stuff is crap.

A. It might be, but I think I know what is happening. You are spraying at 40 p.s.i. which is way too much air. In fact you are drying the paint before it hits the skin. Lower the pressure or use less air mixture and go wet. Let the makeup dry on the skin. It should take about five minutes. Wait twenty minutes before dancing and jumping around. (Your daughter should wait 25 minutes.)

NOTE: If you have a dual (or double) acting airbrush you can simply use the air only setting to dry the makeup on the skin.

Q. How do I apply the sealer?

A. You are asking about the Ben Nye Final Seal, which is an excellent product. Right now a lot of haunted houses (sweat boxes) are putting on a layer of the final seal, the layer of body paint or airbrush makeup and then top-coating it with the Final Seal again. This seems to work very well in extremely sweaty situations.

Q. What is the touchup gun you keep talking about?

A. It is a small paint sprayer about the size of a soda can. You can get a Made in China one at the Home Depot for about $30. Harbor Freight has several, some for as low at $14.00 on sale.

Q. Is it true you can buy an airbrush for $10.

A. For less than that at Harbor Freight (phone 1-800-423-2567) if you watch for a sale. I've seen them at $4.99. NOTE: You can also get a nice air compressor at Harbor Freight for $100, or $49.99 on sale. I do have the part number for that one, it is 92403-3cdb. Remember that shop compressors are noisy. If you want something more professional you'll have to come into my store. We don't sell the airbrushes on-line anymore (just way too much customer service needed for each sale.) Harbor Freight on-line is

Q. You seem so negative about taking an airbrush class, don't you recommend any of them.

A. Sorry I came across as negative. Here at SES we love the airbrush makeup classes, we can always tell when one is going on because our phones light up. It's very nice to have confident, well trained customers!

Q. I live in New York, can you recommend a good airbrush makeup class? I don't want to take a whole course, just a one day workshop would be fine. I'll go anywhere.

A. Suzanne Patterson is the best. She's listed in our Schools section. She really knows her stuff. You see her work on TV everyday. And she's smart and honest. People who have taken other classes will take Suzanne's for fine tuning and a chance to unlearn some misconceptions taught by others (including me, I must admit.) She doesn't teach very often, but the wait is well worth it. Sometimes it may be difficult to get into her class.

Q. What's the difference between a dual and double acting airbrush?

A. None. Some makers use the word dual instead of double. Both terms mean that the control for air and fluid are built into a single button/lever. A single acting airbrush also has two controls, but these are separate. You can also control your air with your regulator. Reportedly, there are several instructors who think that single acting means that both controls are in one button. They need to go back to makeup school -- single action (or acting) means one control for air and a separate control for liquid.

Q. I read an article about using a fish-tank compressor for my airbrush. It really seems to pulse a lot, it this normal? Is it OK? I don't like it. You should tell everybody that this doesn't work.

A. OK, I know you are on the cheap. For all the expense and hassle you should have just bought a cheap airbrush compressor. But here is the answer. Simply replace the hard tube on the compressor with some soft RC airplane fuel-line. The soft tubing, which is like surgical rubber hose, will absorb most of the pulsing.

Q. We bought several [wood] palettes of makeup from a company that went bankrupt. My question is, how long does this stuff last and do you think we should sell it? Could we empty out the containers and put new material in them?

A. The industry standard is two years from the day of manufacture. Unless you can crack the batch codes I wouldn't resell it. I wouldn't use the empty containers either simply because it will cost you more to empty, clean, refill and clean up the containers of a dead brand than it would be get new product from a wholesaler.

Q. My makeup turned into a solid chunk of sludge, now what?

A. Some brands and our Lt. Blue generic will do that. Simply put it in a kitchen blender and add some of our dilution fluid. Grid it until it is smooth again.

Q. Your makeup doesn't stick well. It smears and rolls off.

A. When the maker says clean, dry skin it means clean dry skin. Use a soap without a moisturizer and apply just after washing. Also, you failed to mention that you put lotion on the skin just before application -- sorry that doesn't count as dry. Don't expect anything to stick over a layer of oil. Don't apply makeup late in the day as the skin has a chance to rebuild its oil supply. And, having said all of that, some people have a lot of olive oil or other oils in their diet, this also acts as a repellent. Changing your air pressure will solve this problem most of the time.

Q. When we shake our makeup it turns to foam, are we doing something wrong?

A. You should stir any liquid makeup that contains a strong polymer. Don't shake it, or only shake small bottles of it. If you often mix one gallon or five gallon pails of makeup you should invest in a good, stainless steel "gravy mixer" that you can get at a restaurant supply. In this case stirred is better than shaken.

Q. Can I add UV liquid makeup to turn my airbrush makeup into UV body paint?

A. No. The pigments in any daylight makeup will mask the UV effects of the UV makeup.