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Airbrushing/airbrushing on pastries

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Question
Hi,
I'm a professional pastry chef with no experience in airbrushing.My boss recently took me to France so I may see the different techniques of decorating individual pastries. From what I've seen many of their pastries have a velvet finish. It has a very clean and even color and I was wondering which airbrush would be the best for this application and also what coloring are they using is it cocoa butter?Just in case this is not clear on what i am trying to achieve you can look up pastry shops such as Fauchon, Pierre Herme, or Le Notre and you will see how they finish their individual pastries. We (my boss and I) are looking for equipment that will have long term value and versatility(if possible)so spending money on quality is an important factor.  I would love to hear what you think and the suggestions you may have. Thank you in advance!
Michelle

Answer
Well, first of all, lucky you to have such a cool career and such a boss!
I will tell you that I have no experience myself in airbrushing on pastries. However, from just general knowledge, a little research and the pictures of the shops you mentioned, I can give you some direction, I think.

I do know from other questions I have answered here that much good airbrush work on pastry is done with cocoa butter. Your equipment choices will depend on what kind of work you plan to do. Will you be using this to just lay on an even layer of color? Will you be using stencils? Do you want to be able to do actual painting and detail work?
If you want only to do even color and stenciling, a single-action airbrush will work fine. This means that you push the button and get both air and a preset amount of color, like a spray gun.  You can adjust the aperture to be able to use thicker materials. Paasche and Iwata both make good quality single action airbrushes.

For more detail applications, you will want a double action airbrush. This means that you have more control over the amount of color coming out. You push down for air, pull back for color.
The Paasche VL3 is a good quality workhorse double action and is what I would recommend.
Your compressor will depend on where you will put it in your shop and how much use it will get. You will probably be running it at about 25-30 psi, depending on what you are spraying through your airbrush. GM has recently begun making an almost silent 1 HP compressor. I have been using one for about a year and I wish I'd had it 10 years ago. You can stand right beside it and talk over the sound of it. It's not much louder than one of those cheap little diaphragm compressors, which you should run away from, by the way.

If you can search the other questions I have answered, there is one from a gentleman asking about cocoa butter airbrushing. There's some good info in his question, actually, and you might be able to contact him through this website, too.

I hope this gives you some good information to start with and if you need anything else, please contact me again. Thanks!

Airbrushing

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Ellen Choate

Expertise

I can answer questions relating to basic and advanced airbrushing technique, general how-tos, preparation and compatible media for different substrates, proper paint-to-air ratios, troubleshooting, color theory, maintenance and repair, stencil cutting and use, and most other areas relating to airbrush. I'll be posting tutorials in the future if that would be helpful, and if possible.

Experience

I learned to airbrush the hard way, watching and collaborating with people who didn't know much more than I did. Later I got instruction from people who knew what they were doing and learned what I had been doing wrong. I have been airbrushing for over 30 years; the first two years were in an amusement park painting as fast as I could, often for 12 hours a day, six days a week. You get good real fast. I have painted on almost everything imaginable, from walls to a bus to prosthetic limbs.

Education/Credentials
I studied art at the University of Texas at Arlington for three years but haven't made the time to complete my now obsolete "graphic arts" degree. We did layouts and color separations by hand, thank you very much. It has served me well, but not in the way I expected.

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