Chuck Close airbrushing on canvas | spray cans | spraying waterbased acrylics in a spray booth
Spray painting is a fast and effective method
for the application of paints and varnishes.
Spray painted coatings are typically smoother
than surfaces that are painted,
and large surface areas can be covered quickly
at the touch of a nozzle.
The ease of use and spectacular results make spray cans
the paint of choice for millions of hobbyists,
artists, and graffity artists.
Spray painting is also used extensively in industrial applications such as the car industry where very strict safe guards are in place to minimize exposure to solvent fumes, and to protect the environment from VOC air pollution. Today, many car manufacturers have shifted to water based paint systems, for instance Mercedes Benz and Fiat. The EPA lists car paints as the largest contributor to VOC pollution in the environment.
The graffity artist Banksy uses spray paints extensively; some of his works are very poetic
Spray painting can be a lot more hazardous than conventional painting using brushes. The active ingredients in many conventional paints are relatively inert (with the exception of high VOC oil paints), but in Spray Painting paint, binder, pigment, and solvent droplets are finely atomized, and this spray mist is easily inhaled and absorbed into the body. Exposure to concentrated spray paint fumes can lead to neurological shock, and suffocation in extreme cases. Toxic dangers are not just presented by the highly concentrated solvent and propellant fumes coming out of a spray can (or a spray gun), but also by toxic pigments that can be much more easily absorbed by the human body when sprayed.
The famous founder of photo-realism and avid user of airbrushing, Chuck Close suffered a complete and near fatal neural break-down at the height of his career. Following treatment he recovered many of his faculties, paints better than ever, and now works from a wheelchair. It is entirely conceivable that his predicament is in some way related to the possible inhalation of sprayed paint fumes and pigment particles over the years.
Spray Paint Innovation Waterbased Spray Paints
spray cans excell through ease of use | Krylon waterbased spray paint | Apartment Therapy.com
'This eco-conscious spray paint delivers a super premium finish and easy clean up.
Protects against nicks and chips, indoors and out.
Contributes 55% less to smog pollution than most solvent-based spray paints
Non-toxic; low odor; soap and water clean up' (Krylon), dries in 15 to 45 minutes
use carefully: although safer, this spray paint may contain some harmful VOCs
Spray Paints used to be notorious for their high content of toxic VOCs. Whilst nontoxic and waterbased alternatives have been steadily gaining ground in the DIY paints and varnishes market, spray paints remained toxic. Finally this is changing. Some firms are offering nontoxic waterbased spray paint solutions that are vaporized through spritzing bottles rather than the pressurized spray can to avoid any solvent use.
The smoothest coatings of spray paint are produced with the use of compressed air or propellants. Completely nontoxic waterbased airbrush solutions have been well established in the marketplace for decades, both for artist and craftsman use, and for automotive applications. Finally, the first waterbased spray paints are also emerging in the format of the individual spray can: a concept that is bound to become very popular with users of spray paints in years to come.
The company Krylon developed a latex based waterbased spray paint - Krylon H2 O - that uses the high pressure technique of the individual spray can, with significantly reduced exposure to toxic VOCs. This product promises excellent results, due to its finely atomized spray droplets, whilst bringing a considerable improvement in safety, compared to conventional high VOC spray paints. The spray coated surfaces are nontoxic when dry. Best use an organic respirator and ensure good ventilation during use; ideally work outside.
Sabina Ott: Multi Media Assemblage, 2011. The Chicago based painter and multi-media artist Sabina Ott makes extensive use of spray paints in her work.
Using an Airbrush
For smooth coatings and best results airbrushing is typically done in a zigzag pattern. The atomized spray droplets are evenly applied to a clean surface in regular passes. Multiple passes are overlaid at 90 degree angles to achieve the desired thickness. Airbrush compressors come in two types: silent compressors for hobby and artist use, and much more powerful piston compressors for industrial and automotive applications (the noisy kind). Both types work best when fitted with an air reservoir tank, as this allows for a steady supply of air pressure.
|Protection against low level VOC exposure|
Today there are many paint products that are marketed as safe, yet there may still be harmful low-level VOC emissions, such as glycol ether. Examples: many water-based paints, acrylic floor finish, some artist acrylics, low odor, low VOC solvents, and printmaking resists.
Although a full organic respirator may be impractical for a days work we would recommend wearing a disposable light weight mask that offers some organic vapor protection. Dispose of the mask after a days work (about $ 5 per mask).
3M Particulate Respirator 8514, N95, with Nuisance Level Organic Vapor Relief
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UIC Health in The Arts Library
The GOLDEN lines of Airbrush Colors are engineered to meet the highest standards of professionals, for use in airbrush, brush and technical pen. These offer the ability to create opaque, high intensity colors for illustration and fine art purposes. GOLDEN Airbrush Colors are formulated from a 100% water-based acrylic emulsion, incorporating only the most lightfast pigments available. This results in exceptional permanency and performance. These highly pigmented airbrush solutions are also suitable for acrylic wash work and water color effects, and combine easily with regular acrylic paints. Golden are an employee owned company that are known for their concern for the environment and for health and safety in painting and paint making.
Statement from the Director of
Environmental Health & Safety Ben Gavett:
'Guests often comment on the beautiful rolling mix of woods,
streams and farmland that surrounds our facility.
It is wonderful to work in this setting,
as it is a constant reminder of the sanctity of the environment
and our relationship to it.
This feeling of stewardship extends to our products,
the people making them, and to you.'
makers of acrylic paints suggest that when diluted with water their
artist paints can also be used for airbrushing. The company Liquitex
make a dedicated 'Airbrush Medium' that is especially designed for the
task. Find the manufacturers' usage instructions below: