How do you want to be set up? Are you a mobile operation? a semi-mobile operation? a permanent fixture? or borrowed/shared space?
I do need to breech one major safety concern you need to be aware of with your location. That’s ventilation.
I won’t get into law heavily, but rather I want to introduce the subject as something you might need to be aware of.
Law is based on your location. Where you are. Your country, state, county, and city all have requirements that might effect your choices. The law does make one very clear distinction between hobbyists and professionals. If you’re a hobbyist you probably don’t have to worry about the legal ramifications of the things you do. If you’re a professional, that’s another issue.
For instance some states require spray tanners to be licensed beauticians, others do not.
The size of airbrushes, the amount of paint necessary, and even the small size of potential air sources allows many airbrush users to have mobile businesses.
I’m thinking truly mobile. You go in, do a job, and move on to the next place. Think of it like making house calls.
The bigger something is the more unwieldy it is to move around. You want small things. Portable things, as many as you need, but as few as you can get away with.
Though it goes along with size, in this case you also want to make sure there’s not a lighter way to do something, or a lighter piece of equipment to take the pace of something you will have to lift over and over again.
Your operation is completely visible. Professionals are neat, orderly, and precise. Part of the magic of mobile airbrush operations is turning something mundane into something completely different, organized equipment gives people a better impression of you.
Spraying is inherently messy, but like organized, cleanliness sends a message about you. You might not get a job because of how clean you are, but you might lose a job because of how clean you aren’t.
Ventilation, or ‘moving air’, is a really, really Good Thing for anyone who sprays. Because you can’t dedicate a spot and get the ventilation just right, you need to make sure that the location you spray has adequate ventilation.No closed rooms without an open window, and preferably a fan of some kind to draw the air out of the room.
People generally don’t like being next to loud compressors. They can’t talk, they can’t think. Your air source will probably need to be quiet.
I think of semi-mobile operations like booths. You go somewhere to set up for a limited amount of time, like a day or weekend. Fairs, and flea markets specifically come to mind. You set up a booth, sell your wares and services then break down your booth at the end of the day or weekend.
It needs to fit into whatever you’re going to haul it around in. That might be a trailer, the back of a truck or SUV, or a semi trailer flatbed.
How many of you are there to lift and haul your equipment? How close will your venues let you get with your vehicle? You’ve got to move it. Some places won’t let you onto the grounds or floor (convention centers come to mind) other places let you drive right up to your space (state fairs come to mind). Places that won’t let you drive right up to your space ‘might’ have dollys or push carts for you to use, but don’t count on it.
This isn’t as much of a problem. Though having a system, an order in which you pack and move things can be helpful for those times you’re dead tired and you’re breaking everything down in the middle of the night.
Keep your airbrushes clean, but for the most part you really just need to keep your customers happy.
Most of these venues will be outside or in buildings so large that you shouldn’t have to worry, but you might consider having fans and a method of reducing overspray.
You have more options. Greater distance from the noise source lets the noise diminish. You might consider a larger, louder compressor but you might still want to do something about the noise to at least reduce it somewhat.
Small Permanent Space
I see this as a small studio or shop front of some kind. You have lots of options but not necessarily a space that you’re willing to customize into the perfect space to do your thing.
Size matters…but only in that you have to fit everything into your space. The nice part is that you’ll only have to move it when you move your studio.
Weight only matters if this is something you move around a lot, otherwise heavy only matters when you end up buying your buddies lunch for the help moving they gave you.
It’s your space so organize it the way you want. It’s only important that you know where to find everything. For me that means having a single place for everything, but I know that’s not how everyone operates.
Unless your studio is open to the public it simply needs to be clean enough for you to do your thing. If your studio is open to the public I do suggest keeping your studio clean, or bullying your assistant into keeping it clean! Now I have to find an assistant to keep my studio clean…
This is the second biggest thing you’ll have to worry about. But, you can go either direction here based on how much money you’re willing to throw at the problem. You can go the cheap route. Open a window or the garage door, and possibly stick a box fan there to help move the air. Or you can go all the way to a spray booth. The spray booth will require ducting though. The nice part about the spray booth is that if you set it up correctly you won’t need to wear a mask or respirator while you work.
Noise, will probably be the biggest thing to worry about. You’ve only got so much space, but you do have lots of options for how to reduce said noise. The easiest way to do this is to simply get an airbrush compressor. They’re not very noisy, but they are expensive. (lack of noise ain’t cheap!). But you can also stick the compressor in a closet or build a permanent enclosure around it to muffle the noise of louder, less expensive compressors.
Large/Custom Permanent Space
There really aren’t many limits here. How many people will work in this space? How will workers flow through the space? Do you want a house air system? What kind of ventilation do you need? Do you have to follow any specific guidelines to allow enough space for workers?
I might recommend hiring someone to help you with these details, like an architect or an industrial designer. But otherwise you’re looking at the same restraints as for a small space.
Setting up your work space
When choosing your work space you need to consider two things.
Ease of use
You might already have a place in mind. Airbrush equipment itself doesn’t need a lot of room. You really need to consider the thing you’re spraying.
It’s one thing to spray a sail boat and a completely different thing to spray a t-shirt.
Ventilation is both for your own health and the health of the people around you.
I’ll say this because it bears repeating again and again.
Always wear your mask!
There are only two exceptions to this rule.
- Spraying Pure WaterYour lungs don’t mind water in the air, that’s what humidity is. But water plus other stuff equals bad for you!
- Using a Spray BoothIf you’ve set up your spray booth’s ventilation correctly then you don’t need to wear a mask. The air flows from you toward the piece into the air filters and out of the building.
If you can’t afford a spray booth, wear your mask!