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—Allan A. Apone

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The Art Of Airbrushing Makeup Part One: Basic Equipment For The Day Checker

By Bradley M. Look

In this first part (of two), we're going to look at the necessary equipment needs of the makeup artist who works as what is termed a "day checker." Within the film industry, the job of a day checker makeup artist is someone who is hired on a day-to-day basis. So, for example, on Monday the makeup artist will be given a work order to help over on the daytime soap PASSIONS (which is filmed at CBS Radford in Studio City, CA), applying makeup to a blind priest; and on Tuesday, the makeup artist is now helping out on JAG, which is shooting out in Simi Valley on a private ranch--a mere forty-mile drive (one way) from the artist's apartment. Oh, and by the way, the call is for 4:12 a.m.!

A common question that is always asked of me as both a working makeup artist and educator is "What airbrush equipment do I need as a day checker?" In fact, while I was writing this column on Stage 9 (at Paramount where ENTERPRISE is filmed), two makeup artists, separately, picked my brain on that very question.

The equipment issue for the makeup artist who is always on the go is one of weight and portability, whereas the professional airbrush illustrator, T-Shirt artist, and auto air brusher don't have to concern themselves with such issues. After all, they have the luxury of being able to work in the same location every day. That isn't the case with the makeup artist whose job can take him to anyplace in the world--from that of the controlled environment of a studio sound stage to working out of a trailer in the jungles of Central America! And though maybe not as exotic as the film industry, there are other freelance makeup and nail artists whose jobs demand complete mobility to apply their craft.

Besides needing their general makeup kit, the makeup artist will also bring a tall director's chair (for the actor to sit in while getting made up), an effects makeup kit, a hair kit, and sometimes even portable lights. Now add to that list the addition of the airbrush kit as well. As I mentioned in my first column, the use of the airbrush as a general piece of equipment to apply makeup is becoming increasingly more commonplace. So what basic equipment should you have if you work as a freelancer?

As far as airbrushes go, most makeup artists generally use the gravity-feed double-action models. Why? Well that type of airbrush can operate using only a couple of drops of product.circles For example, a complete coverage of foundation for a beauty makeup takes only 6 to 8 drops! The gravity feed airbrush is also easy to flush out and change colors relatively quickly, which is another reason for its popularity among makeup artists.circles Gravity airbrushes are also less prone to clogging, which is important when you have a Production Assistant (known in the industry as a PA) telling you that your actor has only five more minutes before he's due on set.

Iwata's Eclipse and Revolution double-action gravity-feed airbrushes are quickly becoming the standard among makeup artists. (Fig. 1 & 2) Some artists prefer the convenience of siphon-feed airbrushes, preferring the ease of snapping a bottle into place.

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Of course, besides the airbrush, the other major equipment concern is the type of air compressor best suited for the job. While most professional airbrush artists will choose the silent oil compressors to work with, their very design does not lend them to being mobile. Most manufacturers of silent compressors recommend that the oil be drained before transporting them.circles In addition, this style of compressor is neither lightweight nor highly portable for the makeup artist who is always on the go.

Instead, the diaphragm compressor is a better choice. For instance, the Iwata Smart Jet with its auto shut-off makes it a perfect compressor. (Fig. 3) It's small and compact, making it ideal for the makeup artist on the go.

If you do a high volume of spray work, then the Iwata Power Jet would be the perfect choice. (Fig. 4) Though not lightweight, it still is quite portable.circles I suggest using a luggage cart to wheel it around. The Power Jet features a 3.5-liter air storage tank and allows for multiple operator use. From the moisture filtration and pressure regulation to zero pulsation (extremely helpful when doing line work), the Power Jet has the "Smart Technology" at a good price..

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Other compressors used in the makeup industry are Kopykake's Kroma Jet and Air Master compressors. The Kroma Jet is one of the tiniest compressors available and not a bad choice for the occasional airbrusher. And probably one of the most unusual air compressors is the Tamiya Spray-Work Air Compressor. This compressor uses re-chargeable 7.2 V battery packs to operate! It's great for on-set touch-ups when there isn't access to a power source. This compressor was used extensively for the recent Tim Burton re-make of the sci-fi classic, PLANET OF THE APES.

It should be pointed out that makeup artists use a very low psi (pounds per square inch) when spraying product on an actor's face--between 3 to 10 psi! That low a pressure is unheard of in other airbrush professions.

Air hoses that have quick-disconnects are another must for the makeup artist. And don't forget the "male" side of the disconnect for your airbrush! I always carry several in my case for emergencies.

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To keep my air hoses organized, I like to use multi-use Velcro straps, which are available in most hardware stores. (Fig, 5) Also found in your neighborhood hardware store are hose screen filters, which are normally used to filter water. The number #30 mesh filter fits nicely into the color cup of my Eclipse airbrush, allowing me to strain product. (Fig. 6)

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I also like using the Aztek Cleaning Station so that I can properly dispose of any cleaning solution. (Fig. 7) Never spray cleaning product into the air!

That's it for now. In Part Two, I'll continue with a detailed listing of all the airbrush makeups currently on the market as well as other products of interest. And, remember, if anyone out there has a burning question, please send it in and I'll address it in the column so all can benefit. E-mail: arttalk3@aol.com, Subject: Makeup Questions.

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