Need Help With Airbrushing - Please!

Decorating By cloetzu Updated 16 Jan 2013 , 12:29am by SSCakery541

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cloetzu Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 4:56pm
post #1 of 15

I started decorating cakes about a year ago (for family and friends) ... have found my strengths and weaknesses and have gone with the flow.

One thing I really wanted to try to was airbrushing - for 2 reasons: 1) to get the dark colors (black and red - since i found it difficult to use those colors in buttercream or fondant and get a true rich color) and 2) to be able to add highlights with color that isn't as intense as using a brush...

I was given an inexpesive air brush by a friend (I think it cost about $15) and my husband bought me an air compressor for Christmas.

I had read that folks use gel/paste food color mixed with vodka as the 'paint'. I tried this but found that a)the paste/gel didn't completely dilute in the vodka and b) when I sprayed the cake it was blotchy and sometimes those undiluted pieces came out ...and then when I was all done the color created small little drips.... it didn't cause runs down the cake - just the start of little bumps that looked like they were ready to run down....

I'm planning on getting a new/more expensive air brush but wondering how much of the problem is the brush vs the vodka colors? I'm wondering if someone could give some advice on using the gel colors with vodka? Maybe I'm diluting too much? Am I better off buying premade/mixed colors?

As far as the airbrush goes, I can't justify spending too much on it since I'm not selling cakes ... I've seen one locally (which doesn't stay in stock long) for about $79 .... but wondering if anyone has any recommendations?

14 replies
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KHalstead Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 5:08pm
post #2 of 15

ONLY use airbrush colors with your airbrush!!!! I don't think the cost of the actual gun is as important as using the right consistency of color!!

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cookiemama2 Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 5:20pm
post #3 of 15

I just recently bought an airbrush ( a cheap one as well) , and I think you would have to use the airbrush colors.
I had mine clog and was using the airbrush colors.
I'm just using the compressed air cans and I thought something was wrong with the can but when hubby took it all apart the nozzle was clogged.
In the instructions mine says to even use a nylon to filter the color as well.

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dg10148 Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 5:21pm
post #4 of 15

I would try the airbrush colors I get them from my cake dec. store or I get them online. They last a long time. I have never mix my own. I use coloring books to practice on or poster board before I spray on my cake to test what pressure to use so I don't get the splatter on my cake. You will love it for your dark colors red, black and for shading. Hope this helps

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ibmoser Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 5:33pm
post #5 of 15

Try airbrush colors - they are made for the purpose and rarely cause clogging. Bronwen Weber said in an airbrush class that I took with her that you can dilute gels with alcohol in a pinch, but strain them through a coffee filter before using to get the goobers out. You also need a moisture trap in your system somewhere (at the compressor, the brush, or in the line). Moisture will build up in the line and cause spitting.

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cloetzu Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 5:45pm
post #6 of 15

Thanks for the information! I have no cake supply stores in my area (east coast of Canada) so will have to order online.... I will give pre mixed colors a try... I also like the idea of using a coffee filter to filter the gel versions in the mean time...

I'm hoping the premixed colors do NOT have the same tendency to 'run'.....??

I can understand the need for a moisture trap but not sure WHERE or HOW to address that?

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Sassy74 Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 5:46pm
post #7 of 15

I agree, you should only use airbrush colors, but I've also found that I MUST clean my gun COMPLETELY after every use. When I'm lazy and just do it halfway, my gun doesn't spray as finely the next time I use it. It's a little bit of a pain, but I clean my gun thoroughly every time. Maybe, since it was given to you, you should also take the gun apart and give it a good cleaning (if you haven't already).

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cloetzu Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 6:48pm
post #8 of 15

I think cleaning it may be a good idea but I have not idea how to do that?

When I'm done using it i just add plain water to the jar and keep spraying until it comes out clear.... I'm guessing that that is wrong and bad ?

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Loucinda Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 7:34pm
post #9 of 15

After running the water through it, run something with a high alcohol content. (everclear, vodka etc.) That will dry everything out nicely where water won't.

Also, when using the "pearl" colors, I clean mine every 3 fills while I actually using it.

Someone posted that they put all the parts in a bowl with some denture cleaner. I have not done the denture cleaner thing though.

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malene541 Posted 22 Mar 2010 , 7:52pm
post #10 of 15

When I got my colors it came with a bottle of airbrush cleaner which smells sort of like rubbing alcohol and has a light green/blue color.
I've never had any issues at all with my set-up. My Dad bought the airbrush which he said was almost $300 and my Mom got the colors which she said was $45 and my husband bought the little doughnut aircompressor which was about $60. It was a good birthday!
I admit I'm lazy sometimes and don't clean it well after each use but have never had any issues with spraying and such.
And yes, it will take me years to use up all the colors!!!

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cloetzu Posted 23 Mar 2010 , 12:21pm
post #11 of 15

thanks everyone! One more question - after you spray your cake (either buttercream or fondant) do the colors (premixed) dry 'flat' or still look wet? or feel wet?

When I used the vodka and gel color on buttercream I found that it took a very long time to dry and even the next morning felt a little tacky and still looked very wet..... does that wet look go away with premixed colors or not?

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malene541 Posted 23 Mar 2010 , 3:39pm
post #12 of 15

This cake was white fondant airbrushed completely with brown (obviously) icon_smile.gif
In the picture it looks kind of wet but in real life it was more of a matte finish. It dries really fast too. For this one about 15 minutes later and I could touch it without ruining the color.
I've never airbrushed buttercream so I'm not sure about that.

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cloetzu Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 5:04pm
post #13 of 15

thanks malene541!

I think the 'wet' look works for some things but not most so before spending money on the premixed colors I wanted to see how folks that do use them find them. glad to hear that they are somewhat mat vs wet looking! i hope that that is the norm.

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malene541 Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 6:12pm
post #14 of 15


I also airbrushed this red cake too. It is more obviously matte. It was also completely white fondant untill airbrushed. Glad this info helps!!

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SSCakery541 Posted 16 Jan 2013 , 12:29am
post #15 of 15

Hi there! I have airbrushed buttercream (LOVE that!!) and I never touched it cause my buttercream wasn't crusted. I don't think it's wet, but if you smudge the buttercream, it'll smudge the paint. I'll post a couple pics that I airbrushed the buttercream in :)


I hope this helps!

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