Throughout my posts, I have alluded to the fact that I specialise more in cake painting than any other form of cake decorating.
I love the way colors come together, and how painting can make fondant, appear to be ‘literally’ realistic. For example, when a treasure box cake needs to appear wooden, this is when, paint comes in handy.
I have touched a little, on using paint brushes and that is, something that most artists use anyway. What I want to write about today is another painting technique called airbrushing. Airbrushing is very similar to using colored spray cans.
Airbrushing has become a very fashionable trend, whether it be for makeup, nails, fake tans, or T-shirts. The younger generation has caught onto this like a flame and it is now also the latest fad for cake decorating.
Airbrushing, takes away all the hassles, of buying different colored fondants. You can buy/make in bulk, batches of white colored fondant, for every decoration or cake color. Just cover the cakes in white fondant and swiftly airbrush them in another color, within, only a few seconds.
If you haven’t seen the video that I had recently posted showing the beautiful life-like cake decorations by Emma Jayne, then go watch it, because her creations would have been airbrushed, so that she can obtain the right colors and textures.
Some people may find, this cake decorating technique difficult, skill-wise, and will probably avoid, it altogether. These same people would probably prefer to print their cakes with edible printing rather than paint or airbrush.
So what is airbrushing, you ask? and how will learning this technique help me in cake decorating?
Let us not delay then in finding out. I am just as excited to tell you all about it, as you are to find out.
What Is An Edible Airbrush?
Okay, to explain this better and to give you an idea about this particular decorating technique, I will tell you how I first watched my husband, who is a registered mechanic and also steel fitter/welder, use an airbrush gun for our car.
It was a small hand-held spray bottle (very similar to what hairdressers use) attached to some kind of compressor machinery. He placed some liquid paint into another small attachment and then slowly spray, lightly at first to get an overall first cover. He would then respray over and over again, to leave the car completely covered. This painting technique is called airbrushing.
I am happy to tell you that, that is how we spend time together, I enjoy watching my husband at work – and he even helps me paint my cakes, when he is free as well (though with the edible paint lol). Happy wife, happy life (and all the women, say, “Yeah!)
So now that you, have some kind of mental imagery, I can tell you that airbrushing a car, is more or less the same technique that is applied to a cake. It is fun and it is faster than hand painting.
In cake decorating, the airbrush gun systems, which are used have several varieties – single action with bleeder, double action – non bleeder, and variable single action bleeder or non-bleeder. I am sure by now, you might run for the hills for all the confusion. However, I do promise that if you continue to read, you will view a video that I have provided for you to explain all this, by an expert in cake airbrushing. Therefore, hang in there and it will all be clear.
The purpose of my post today, is to provide you, with another cake decoration skill, that will hopefully challenge you, in further developing, your creativity.
Now, I will show you, how to create air-brushed masterpieces in cake artistry.
Edible Airbrushing Kits
Before you can do any airbrushing, you will need to obtain, borrow, or purchase a special kit used only for cakes ( and no, you cannot use the one that your husband/boyfriend/dad uses on the car! or steal your cousin’s).
- At least one airbrush gun (I prefer dual/double action system for better control and it is non-bleeder). However, the single action is the most commonly used. If you get two guns with one of each in your kit, that would be even better!
- The color loader – should be attached to the airbrush gun, or detachable as a small bottle at the bottom.
- High Performance Air Compressor with air filter water trap with pressure regulator.
- Air hose (at least more than two meters)
- An airbrush holder
- Airbrush cleaning system – this helps to stop the clogging of coloring inside the airbrush
- Airbrush clean pot (with filters) – this is useful when you need to change colors in between spraying or cleaning the left over coloring out, at the end of its use.
Other required items:
- Proper airbrush food coloring (must not mistake this for the normal food coloring used with icings/baking). Choose either ethanol or water based airbrush food coloring.
- A splatter wall or large box/ or an actual air spray booth, to protect other household areas from unwanted color sprays
- Food stencils for decorating on fondant
- Small knife, to easily remove and lift airbrushed fondant off a board, or dummies, to be placed onto the top of a cake
- Plenty of paper towels
- Always maintain safety when using any motorised device and follow the user instructions in the manual.
- Prevent cross contamination by using only the FDA approved or Kosher manufactured edible food coloring used only for airbrushing.
- Clean the appliances with the correct chemicals.
- Wear the correct protection gear, i.e. wear goggles if your eyes are sensitive to paint mist.
Tips For A Beginner
- If you need to buy yourself an airbrush gun, try to get a kit that gives the whole set (including a good sized compressor) and the dollar mark up at $150 or more. You can still use the smaller ones for less of that amount, if it is only for touch ups, or using short small sharp blasts, for not as many jobs. However, smaller ones tend to overheat faster and you have to give it time to cool in between uses. The bigger the compressor, the fewer interruptions to decorating.
- If you can do so, try to get a double/dual action airbrush gun – it will assist with better control over the pressure required for specific actions. A single action airbrush system only has a pressure system for the paint, but not to control the air. The double will slow the air pressure or quicken it depending on how you want the food coloring to spray out.
- I suggest before you even start on cakes, to practice, practice, practice – use medium-sized cookies or fondant covered cupcakes as your practice mediums.
- If you use a cake board that will be slightly larger than your cake, cover it with fondant also then airbrush it with the same color for a much nicer presentation (it is all about the presentation folks!, you already taste it with your eyes, before it enters your mouth).
- For first timers, I advise you use a stencil for your patterns/designs until you get comfortable enough to start free hand styling.
- Spray thin layers, so that you give the colors time to dry quickly and avoid any smudges.
- Have a rubbing alcohol nearby (I prefer vodka, as it can be utilized in other ways, when stressed – grin) in case you do make a small error (i.e, going over a line when you shouldn’t have).
- Clean and store your airbrush kit appropriately, so that it ensures quality output and the longevity of your product.
- Last but not least: take your time, have fun and turn off your phone (I mean it, it can be really distracting, when you are in the zone, leave it on silent, just in case your loved ones, really are dying and not just wanting the TV remote).
- Always follow the instructions of the kit manual to ensure safety and quality of usage
Common Issues When Using The Edible Airbrush
Never be afraid to make mistakes, especially if you are a beginner, that is the reason why, I advised above, to first practice, on fondant covered cookies and cupcakes. Cake decorating courses, use cake foams or dummies. This is unnecessary, if you are a home cake business and I personally hate waste.
Using a cake dummie, requires the use of fondant that won’t be eaten or used (unless of course you end up covering a cake with it). Anyway, cookies or cupcakes will be much appreciated by your nearest and dearest, and no-one wouldn’t care less about all your mistaken squiggles. As long, as they are yummy mistakes.
Here a some common problems that you may encounter while using edible paint brush:
- Airbrush, normally splatters sometimes, and leaves undesirable spots
- Airbrushing the wrong side or part of your cake, or simply just going over a drawn outline of a specific design
- The stencil was not held in place and the sprayed areas are not clearly defined
- Accidental spillage of the coloring, which often happens when you do not hold the airbrush in the correct position
- Tangling the hose while moving around
- Color does not spray – coloring can cause a blockage, if the airbrush is not cleaned after its use, consistently
- Your hand is not steady and your design gets ruined because you forgot to turn your phone off while working
- You are in a rush and left everything to the last minute, which means your decoration is incomplete and you will kick yourself for doping so
Fixing A Mistake
If you had used the wrong colors or just want to start all over again, because, everything really does look that bad, then just take some paper towels, soak them in a bit of vodka (take some yourself if it really is, that bad) and then slowly wipe the areas needed to be fixed. If it starts to run, don’t worry keep wiping with vodka until all the colors are gone. Pick up the airbrush and start again. Just like that.
Putting It All Together – in 4 Easy Steps
Every edible airbrush or multi use airbrush kit, will come with an instruction booklet or pamphlet. The only time you will not get one of these is if you borrowed it, or bought it second hand at a garage sale/op shop.
If you do not have any, just search on the internet, or follow my four simple steps in the instructions below:
- Remove the compressor, hose and airbrush systems from the box together with the manual.
- Attach the hose to the compressor (every airbrush kit is different so, you will need to follow the user manual in this part)ensure that this is screwed on tight.
- Remove the ring and hose connector from the airbrush system. Connect the compressor hose.
- Ensure that you clean pot is also ready to be used with its filter (this is optional and I have given a home made alternative below).
- Turn on the compressor and start creating magic.
The Fun Part – Using The Edible Brush
Before delving into what you can do with an edible airbrush, we need to look at how to handle one. There is a certain way to holding it, and how to control the pressure.
After you have installed the kit, turn on the power, and point the airbrush gun, at the center of your pal, to check the airflow. If you can feel it, then it is ready to be used.
The next step is, to add the food coloring. This is easily done by holding the airbrush system at a slight angle and adding 4-5 drops of the color into the color/paint holder of the airbrush system. 4-5 drops at a time per use is enough.
Once you have added the color, use a piece of white paper to do a few doodles on to ensure that the airflow and color comes out right using the lever to check the dual system/single system functions well. Another good reason for this, is to also check, that the color comes out just as you want or not.
The three important aspects of airbrushing are: speed, pressure and angle. All these three components are also the most important components, in just about every other decorating technique.
Practice first, by spraying a few different colored lines, using different pressures as you press/pull the lever pull.
After a few practices, you are now ready to paint your cake with airbrush. I suggest that you spray a few trials on paper every time, prior to your applying it directly on to your cakes, so that you can manage any pressure issues or blockage beforehand.
Use your other hand to guide or add support as you spray. If you do not have a clean pot, then use a plastic bowl of sorts (i.e a large empty yogurt container, with a lid) and punch a small hole, big enough for the pen-end of your airbrush gun to go through in the center of the lid.
Place a wad of paper towels inside and close the lid again. You will have a home-made alternative cleaning bowl, that you can spray into, when you want to change colors or empty your left over colors at the end.
Finally, here is the video tutorial, that I promised at the beginning, and kudos to you for reading it up to this point. Hopefully you will be able to see how much more you can do with your cake artistry, using the airbrushing technique. You may even learn about what types of airbrushing kits are suitable for your own home business.
How To Airbrush Cake Masterpieces
The edible airbrush decorating technique, is very easy to use. Giving you examples of what amazing decorations can be created, will be too many for me to list. Here are only a few that I have listed below:
- Ombre Cakes
- Space/Galaxy Designs
- Stenciled Shapes to form outlines/shadows- fairies, butterflies, people, wedding couples
- Ocean colors
- Sky or clouds
- Nature – leaves, wallpaper of roses or flowers
- Metallic Cakes – gold, silver, rose gold, bronze
- Emotions – smiley faces, hearts
- Seasonal themes – pumpkins with stenciled cut-outs
- Tattoos on cakes
- Rainbow hues
- Floating Halloween figures
Actually, there are thousands more ideas that can be added here and I would not have the room to place the many images that can be included as well.
If you want to challenge yourself, beyond just being ‘normal’ and quite ordinary in your cake decorating techniques, I suggest that you invest not only in, learning more from professionals, but that you purchase tools that will help you to create masterpieces in cake artistry. One of the best ways to do that is to use an edible airbrush kit.
I hope that you are inspired by today’s post and please share your experience with airbrushing or even ask for help.
Have a wonderful day,