Airbrushing is a painting technique that uses an airbrush to achieve a smooth and uniform surface, used to create highly-realistic artworks.

An airbrush is a handheld instrument connected to a canister of compressed air, enabling controlled spraying of paint to achieve an even and consistent surface. This technique is often employed by artists and illustrators to create a high level of realism. Although the airbrush was invented in the late nineteenth century, it gained popularity as a painting tool in the mid-twentieth century.

Pioneers of airbrushing include graphic illustrators George Petty and Alberto Vargas (or Varga) in the 1930s and 1940s. Pop artist James Rosenquist later used the airbrush to evoke advertising qualities, while British artist Barrie Cook became a leading practitioner of airbrushing. In contemporary times, sci-fi artist H.R. Giger is widely associated with the use of airbrushing.

Other words in the glossary

Building your collection? We can help.

Your questions, answered

Parra's studio, with Parra at the centre, his back to the camera as he works on the large painting takes centre stage, showing a faceless blue woman in a striped dress, painted in red, purple, blue and teal. The studio is full of brightly coloured paints, with a large window on the right and a patterned rug across the floor under the painting.