Nail Art

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Prevent Clogging, Bubbling Back, and Spitting with Your Airbrush

Prevent common airbrush problems by properly maintaining your airbrush.

Ten minutes or less of daily airbrush maintenance can prevent airbrush guns from spitting, bubbling back, and clogging. “I’ve been using the same airbrush for 10 years and I don’t have the problems my students complain about,” says award-winning nail artist and educator Liz Fojon. To make airbrushing a hassle-free service in your salon, follow these steps.

Step 1. Choose the correct paints for airbrushing. Paints should be water-based and have a smooth texture.

Fojon recommends adding a small amount of white paint to any color you use in the airbrush. “I find that the white paint gives colors a better spraying consistency,” she says.

Step 2. After each use, empty the color cup by depressing the trigger until the paint runs out. Fill the color cup with airbrush cleaner and spray it onto a paper towel until the liquid sprays clear. Some airbrush manufacturers also recommend leaving the color cup filled with cleaner between uses and at the end of each day so that residual paint doesn’t dry up inside and clog the gun.

Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, your gun may clog, spit paint, or bubble paint in the color cup. If any of these problems occur, try the following solutions.

Clogging. Remove the handle and loosen the locknut on the needle. Carefully slide the needle out and soak it in airbrush cleaner. While the needle is soaking, remove all paint residue from the empty color cup with a polish corrector pen. Use an old airbrush needle to loosen paint chips that you can’t reach with the polish corrector pen.

If the needle is clean and the gun is still clogged, soak the airbrush gun in cleaner, being careful not to submerge the air valve. While the gun is soaking, gently clean the nozzle with the polish corrector pen.

Wipe the pieces dry and reassemble the gun. If you encounter resistance when you’re reinserting the needle, pull it back out and try again. When replacing the nozzle cap, be careful not to hit the needle with it, because this also can bend the needle.

Bubbling back. Paint bubbling back into the color cup instead of spraying out can be caused by a bent needle or a loose fluid nozzle. Replace the needle if it’s bent. Using a bent needle can crack the nozzle. Keep a spare needle and nozzle on hand for such emergencies.

Spitting. If you have a dual-action airbrush gun, spitting can be caused by not following your paint spray with a burst of air. Dual-action guns work by depressing the trigger for air, pulling back for paint, then depressing for air again. If you don’t finish a spray with air, the gun will spit the next time you press down.

If you’ve tried these solutions and still have problems, consult the manufacturer of your equipment. The company may be able to troubleshoot the problem over the phone.

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