Defining Airbrush Makeup and Regular Makeup

According to Merriam Webster, an airbrush is defined as an atomizer for applying a fine spray (as in a paint or liquid spray) by compressed air.

Switch out that paint or liquid with one of your fave Mac or Temptu bases and you have yourself an invaluable makeup application tool.

Regular makeup applications, on the other hand, are the techniques that ALL of us makeup artists are overwhelmingly familiar with. Whether you use a brush, a sponge, a puff, or a finger, the standard tools that we rely on to help our makeups look great.


History of the Airbrush

It’s difficult to put a finger (oops – no airbrush pun intended there!) on exactly how old the airbrush is.

In theory, you can count some of the oldest known airbrush artworks from as far back as the Paleolithic Era.

Somewhat crude, but cave paintings found in parts of Europe, Indonesia and even the Aboriginal paintings of this time could be classified as airbrush art.

This version of the airbrush consists of hollowed-out bone that was blown through.

Similar principal, right?

When I first started makeup in the 90s, I was introduced to a tool by a well-known effects artist in Australia. It was used in pottery, I believe.

It was made up of two hollow, thin metal tubes that met at right angles. In a similar fashion to the hollow bone methods of Paleolithic times, you would blow through one end, and a siphon effect would collect paint from a pot held below the second part of the tool, and paint would be picked up and deposited where you had it aimed.

The thought that I used this on an actor (he was playing a painter and was meant to look like he had little flecks of white paint in his hair) horrifies me now. But almost 30 years ago, it was a slightly different story.

That device is a mouth atomizer. And they still exist today. Look them up if this is news to you.

I digress.

It’s quite a fascinating history, but we can pinpoint the airbrush as we know it to around the late 1800’s. Pretty crazy, right?


When Did the Airbrush Become a Tool for Makeup?

In the early decades of the 20th century, the giant scope of films saw hundreds, sometimes thousands of extras being employed. One such film was Ben Hur which indeed heralded thousands to create the atmosphere for this epic film that was the style of the time.

The thousands of people working as background were required to be tanned up each day. Now, I do recall hearing that they were tanned with a similar sprayer system to that which we tend to weed our gardens with nowadays.

But it has been said that makeup artists utilized the very new and hi-tech airbrush to tan the background performers.

Either way, I love the notion of artists over 60 years ago utilizing these techniques that we still use today.

And I think by the 1980s the airbrush became a tool for many a working makeup artist the world around.

The airbrush is definitely part of my setup on every job I do. Even when it seems to be a “straight makeup” job, there is always something it comes in handy for – a quick unexpected tattoo cover, coloring hair quickly, or covering a bald spot on someone’s scalp. Even blending in eyebrow covers or doing a makeup that combines a small prosthetic with a beauty makeup.

My trusty Paasche H’s are never far from reach.


My favorite and trusty 1930’s Paasche H Airbrush


Airbrush for Beauty Makeup

Some time in the 90s airbrush makeup application became incredibly popular again. And this time was brought about into the mainstream consumer market.

Everyone was talking about doing their own makeup with an airbrush and air compressor. New brands came out, and with that, came new product lines specifically targetted with an airbrush formula makeup.

I feel like materials and the airbrush kits available have come a long way since then. And nowadays, you can achieve a beautiful, flawless finish with your beauty looks using an airbrush or atomizing system that 30 years ago, left product sitting on the skin, build up in fine facial hairs and heavy-looking.

But 30 years is a long time in the word of beauty, my friend!

Brands like Temptu, Kett, and even Sally Hansen bronzing products, have taken full advantage of the airbrush phenomenon and provided us with great options for beauty makeup using an airbrush.

I love the Temptu setup by the way. I’m relatively late to the game, but what a great tool to have on hand – the best to create a flawless look!


Why Is the Airbrush So Popular for Bridal Makeup?

Airbrush makeup for brides seems to be a business within itself.

I think it is part psychology, too. To have your makeup airbrushed on your special day is all the more special and one step more than what you slap on your own face before work each morning.

It’s also a relatively quick process (if you keep all of your tools and airbrush parts clean and in check!) which is a massive plus on anyone’s wedding day!

But most of all, it’s about the finish.

The airbrush application provides a fine, flawless and soft coverage. It is the perfect approach to creating the bridal makeup look that most of us seem to aim for these days.

Touch-ups can be challenging, so short of keeping your Temptu kit tucked away somewhere for an after-lunch touch-up, you’d be best not touching your face as much as you can! No kisses from your new mother-in-law before photo time!

The age of the bride might also be something worth taking into consideration. if you’re making up a more mature bride, perhaps airbrush makeup may not be the best technique. Sometimes the airbrush makeup can tend to sit on the surface of the skin, and not really penetrate in between fine lines. This can lead to an unflattering finish. And if this is the case, perhaps a regular foundation application should be your go to.


Wedding Day Touch Ups Image by Wedding Dreamz


Skin type and tone are also worth taking into consideration for your potential airbrush makeup client.

I would tend to avoid airbrushing beauty or bridal makeup on someone who has particularly dry skin, or flaky or heavily textured skin at that. Or perhaps a more mature skin type. But that’s just me.

And we all know how vital skin prep is prior to this special occasion! And in saying this, how imperative it is to learn all about your client’s skin and makeup needs in the all-important trial run.


Makeup Application Tools

On the flip-side to the airbrush, are our more tried and true tools of the trade – our makeup brushes, sponges, powder puff, beauty blender, you name it.

From beauty to character makeup, and even beyond that to special effects makeup, it is possible (and should still be practiced by makeup artists, in my opinion!) to carry out an entire makeup using only traditional makeup applications.

I have been in situations where we have lost power for a substantial amount of time. Where my airbrush and compressor did not ship fast enough and weren’t even on the location for me in time to use for my makeup application. Or simply, when my compressor packed it in, gave up the ghost and just plain didn’t work.

And in those situations, I had to use the old-fashioned techniques of good old brushes and sponges.

So it’s safe to say, have all the tools, my friend, because you never know when you might need them!

For beauty makeup, it’s safe to say I do entire makeups 90% of the time without an airbrush.

But every situation is different. And as a professional makeup artist, it’s best to be prepared for any given situation. We all know how often unexpected things can come up.

Let’s say an actress has a bruise. Or perhaps some pigmentation is evident on their face.

Things like this truly can be made to vanish with the proper use of a reliable airbrush gun or airbrush system. You can find my favorite portable system right here.

Challenges, and unexpected marks on the skin truly can be made to vanish with the proper use of the reliable airbrush gun or airbrush system. And fast.

If you keep your airbrush makeup kit clean, these hurdles can be resolved in minutes! For me this is a massive benefit of airbrush makeup.


Traditional Makeup and Its Benefits

You can basically do anything with traditional makeup, within reason, of course. Going beyond the necessities like having good light, and a decent setup, of course. But the basic fundamentals of traditional methods and materials – foundations, concealers, powders, lipsticks, and so forth really allow you to apply makeup quite adequately in any given situation.

It’s flexible. And you can definitely be prepared for different skin types with different types of makeup.

You can also have a wider range with the density of the products you apply. What I mean is, you have more options with going super light coverage vs a full coverage that requires more product. And still have your makeup look good.

Airbrush foundation doesn’t really allow for this, as what it succeeds in is fine very mist creating the surface on the skin. Whereas traditional foundation just allows for a greater variety of skin types and coverage for all skin issues.


Airbrush Makeup Vs Regular Makeup – What’s the Right Choice?

This is such a big question.

And I think at the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference.

And consultation.

The more years I gain experience as a makeup artist, the more I realize the utmost importance of test makeups, a makeup trial, or some form of consultation before the day of the wedding, or photoshoot, film shoot, or whatever.

It’s very necessary. And will take all of the mystery and “what ifs” out of the big day.

End of story.

And there’s so much that will determine your approach and what the right tools and techniques for the job are, will come out of those initial tests or trials.

But for me personally, as I mentioned right up at the top. I never go anywhere without my trusty airbrush!

Featured Image by Ivy Aralia Nizar



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