Artists who wish to make a career with their drawing and painting talent — especially if they’re motor-minded as well — may find their niche in creating custom paint jobs with automotive airbrushing. Founded during the 1950s, the art form has grown in popularity over the last several years due to its prevalence on TV reality shows like “American Chopper” and “Rides.” Airbrush artists use small, air-operated tools to project paints, inks and dyes onto fiberglass or steel vehicle surfaces.
The hallmark of airbrushed art is often its realistic, photo-like appearance. This is achieved through the skilled, gradual control of paint flow through finely controlled nozzles, applied either freehand or via stencils made of cardboard, paper, foil or film. The form employs techniques like base coating and pre-shading for subtlety of design; brighter colors are achieved by applying paint in several layers.
Depending on their complexity, custom paint jobs airbrushed on cars and motorcycles can cost thousands of dollars.
“To those who airbrush, the joys are well known, as well as the trials and tribulations of managing the instrument itself,” writes art professor Andy Penaluna in the 2014 book “Airbrushing: The Essential Guide.” “The airbrush student has to learn significant new skills: To master not only color and shape, but also air pressure, paint consistency and the diverse ways of masking and shading that can help to achieve such wonderful results.”
Custom paint jobs are a highlight of Lincoln Tech training
The airbrushing instruction Lincoln Tech offers through its Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology programs at five campuses across the U.S. can help talented students build careers in automotive art. In addition to repairing damaged vehicle structures, students are taught how to make cars and motorcycles stand out from the crowd with custom paint jobs. Many students also have the chance to participate in regional airbrushing competitions like those sponsored by global auto parts supplier LKQ Corp.
While much depends on the skill of the artist, the job outlook is strong: almost 40,000 positions are projected to open around the U.S. by 2024, according to careeronestop.org. If you’re ready to put your artistic talents to work for you, check out hands-on training at Lincoln Tech campuses in Denver, CO; East Windsor, CT; Indianapolis, IN; Melrose Park, IL; and Nashville, TN.