Custom Airbrushed Mural

Custom Airbrushed Mural

1) We start with 3 sheets of 3/4 in. 4 x 8 plywood. Each sheet gets 2 solid coats of wood primer. Plywood really sucks up the primer so leave plenty of time in between coats. After being primed, the sheets are screwed together with 6 large door hinges, 3 on each seam. This is going to be a carnival fishing game prop that kids are going to cast their fishing line over the top of, to get candy and other prizes.

I mask off a 4 in. border around the outside and roll on a solid blue base using an exterior grade latex paint. After the blue has dried, I use a combination of a 3 in. paint brush and a 4 in. roller to freehand in some sand for the bottom of our fish tank.

2) I back mask the sand from our previous step and I’m going to use a full size automotive paint gun to spray in a darker blue fade going from the bottom of the tank towards the top. This helps add a little depth to our tank because we wouldn’t want people thinking we were shallow. The dark blue I’m using is a urethane base coat which has no trouble sticking to the latex base. However, if you water-reduce a latex paint enough, and make sure you run it through a strainer, you can spray that through an automotive paint gun as well.

3) You can see the darker blue fade here. I also masked off another wavy line through the middle of the sand and then sprayed in a darker brown to give the sand some dimension and make it look like the darker brown part is right up against the glass sides of the fish tank. This is going to be a quick mural, so I’m not spending the time to add a lot of texture or other detail to the sand.

4)  Using the 3/4 in. masking tape, I mask off the corners of the fish tank and paint them the same color darker blue I was using earlier. As you’ll see in the next step, using the dark blue here instead of black or some other color, really helps give us the 3D look we’re after.

5) I’ve painted my 4 in. border around the outside black. This is a perfect contrast to the dark blue. You can see how using black up front really brings the front of the fish tank forward and using the dark blue pushes the back to the back.

I switch to an airbrush with urethane paints and I freehand in some seaweed. I paint the seaweed right up the middle of the 2 seams in an effort to try and hide the seams a bit.

Switching to a white base coat, I freehand in some reflections on the top surface of the water (thank you Craig Fraser) and even throw in some rays of light shooting through.

6) I use a paint bush and small roller with white latex paint, along with some Dr. Seuss reference pics, to add my main fish and requisite treasure chest. In this case, using a paintbrush and a small roller is faster than masking off each individual fish and spraying white base coat.

7) I’m spraying the fish as I would spray them if I were doing them on t-shirts. Using urethane base coat black and my IWATA HP-BCS, I start by outlining all the fish.

8) Then adding the base color and shading from there. Again, this is a quick painting so I’m not doing much detail work.

9) I end up deciding to mask off the treasure chest anyways because it will have more detail than the fish and it will be easier to work with when it’s masked off. Notice that I’ve extended the light rays and added highlights to the fish and treasure chests at the points where the light rays are hitting them. Also, using root beer kandy, I add some more detail to the sandy areas. Switching to cobalt blue kandy, I freehand in small schools of fish swimming every which way in the background. (Thanks Robert)

10) A quick and simple fish tank.  “One fish, two fish, red fish , blue fish”