Back before signs went digital and electronic, signs were made by hand or printed in a factory. Even after the advent of neon signage, many basic signs were still handmade or printed. You can resurrect the handmade sign tradition with airbrushing. Here are three techniques you can use to create your handpainted signs.
Clean Lines or Blurred Edges
Airbrushes are precision instruments. It may take a little practice, but you can create clean lines for sign text, or you can create a blurred edge effect by pulling out and away with each stroke of the brush. If you want absolutely no splatter, start by using templates over the surface of your signs. The airbrush fills in the open spaces, but the templates cut edges leave crisp sharp corners or perfectly round edges in script.
The "ink" in airbrushes shares some similarities with artist's paint in that you can easily blend colors. There are two approaches to blending color; the wet-on-wet approach and the dry-on-wet approach. For wet-on-wet, you spray your first color that you want on your sign, usually your lighter color because you always want to blend darker colors into lighter colors. Then switch airbrush pens so you can switch colors without having to empty or clear the first pen. Both wet colors bleed into each other and create the mixed color. For dry-on-wet, you can sprinkle, blow or use a dry airbrush pen to put "ink" powder into a wet color on the sign. The effect is often dotted, splotchy or tie-dyed.
Shadowing Text or Graphics
If you want to "shadow box" your text or graphics on the signs you create, you must first lay down your dark colors. Wait for them to dry, then paint over with your light colors. This creates shadow and depth for your graphics. For text, the process often works best in reverse by laying down your light-colored letters or script, then fine-tuning an airbrush pen to put in the dark shadows around and behind the text. This may also take a little practice because perspective is everything, and if you place the three-dimensional shadow in the wrong place behind a single letter, it throws off the look of the whole sign. If you can do this technique effectively, it makes your signs appear very bold and eye-catching (something that many graphic designers attempt to achieve in their work every day).
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