Airbrushing Neon Letters - Airbrush Guru

Airbrushing Neon Letters

Here we will create a Neon looking word or sign actually, this technique can be used on many different surfaces so don’t limit its use to just paper or illustration board. In this example we will be rendering our sign on a white background.

For this step by step you will need the following:

  • golden airbrush colors black, white and yellow.
  • One sheet of masking material, Frisk film and X acto knife.
  • One sheet of airbrush paper, Bristel board or illustration board
  • and of course your airbrush. I’ll be using a gravity feed airbrush during this step by step for those of you interested.

Above is the print out I will use of the word air; which I rendered in Photoshop.

Having printed our word example off there at home please turn the paper over and with a number 2 pencil trace the outline of each letter.

Now flip the paper back over and secure it to your painting surface with masking tape. Make sure you leave yourself enough room to add the neon border around the word AIR. Once again trace the letters; what you should have once you remove the paper from the painting surface is a faint outline of the word AIR as seen below.

Apply your Frisk film using a credit card to help work the air bubbles out of the film.

With our masking in place let’s now refine our design by drawing directly on the film with a pencil. When working on illustration board, paper, Bristle board its always best to keep your painting surface as clean as possible which is why we’ll work the rest of the design out on the Frisk film. As you can see I’ve used a small ruler to straighten out some of the lines and added what will become our neon border around the outside edge.

With our design completed in line form we’ll now cut the design out of the Frisk film; remember your hand, the X acto knife will follow where your eyes lead. I’m also going to cut the film out several inches beyond the outside edge of our neon border, this are will act as the night sky in which our neon sign will hang.

Pictured above you can see I have removed some of the Frisk film leaving only the letters and neon border covered. I have put in place some masking tape around the outside edge to control over spray, keep in from collecting outside our painting area.

Using Golden Carbon Black slowly cover the exposed area building the black up very slowly. No need to rush here as it will take a bit of paint to go from white to black, no need to ruin things at this point by trying to apply to much black at one time. As you can see I applied black right over the areas we left masked, no worries just don’t apply to much as it will run on these slippery areas.

With our black night sky given time to dry remove all the Frisk film exposing our letters and neon border. Using Golden Yellow I have started to add some color to our letters letting it drift into the black around each letter; this will lend itself nicely to the neon affect we are looking to render here.

You can see what it should look like at this point with the yellow applied over all the exposed white areas of our design.

Now please add some white to the yellow you already have loaded in your airbrush (mix the two colors together) and with this add some highlighted areas right down the center of all our letters and border. Again do not be concerned if it drifts off into the black area around each letter, border of our design as you will see this will work to our favor. I’m using 12 to 15 psi to apply most of these colors by the way.

Clean your color cup out as we want a nice strong bright pure yellow for this step which will be to add yellow over the highlighted areas we just created.

Again clean your color cup out; you can now understand the value of just adding a few drops of paint each time to your color cup as you don’t want to be wasting a lot of paint during these colors changes. Back to pure white please and again add a highlight right down the center of all our letters and border. This need not be very straight nor does it need to be connected through the letters, break your line up once in awhile. While you have the white add some small stars to our night sky, just some tiny dagger strokes nothing really fancy.

One last time clean your color cup out completely so we get a nice bright, pure yellow for this our final step. With the yellow go back over the highlighted areas we just created, use the yellow sparingly this time as we want these highlighted areas to remain very strong. Add a touch of yellow to the stars we created with the white, sign your name and you’re done.

Fairly simple straight forward way of creating a neon sign effect, there are other ways, techniques that can be used to create a neon effect we will explore those in the coming months.