Ms. Beth writes: Hi Lisa,
Huge fan of your incredible art and I also appreciate and enjoy your videos. I don’t have any experience in airbrushing (yet), so I’ve been researching and I have noticed that some artists tend to be wearing a mask and others are not while airbrushing, is acrylic airbrushing harmful? And one silly question….are watercolor paints okay to use instead of acrylics? Many Thanks.

When you’re getting started out with airbrushing, yes, wear a mask if you’re working indoors. While in theory, if you’re careful while you work, you really won’t need to…in practice I made myself quite ill early on doing this. Most of the airbrush paints themselves are non-toxic. The problem is that if you’re spraying a lot of paint, it just sits in the air. Breathing all of that in can coat your lungs in paint, making you unable to get enough oxygen. I was coughing/sneezing pretty colors for days, all while seriously dizzy and weak because of the lack of proper oxygen while this worked its way out of my lungs.

While my story may be an extreme case, it happened to me personally so I’m a huge advocate of wearing a mask while working indoors. There are times when I’m airbrushing small amounts and I don’t wear one, but anytime I’m airbrushing a blurry background where I’m spraying large quantities and filling the air with paint, I always wear one. If you find yourself sneezing colors that are not so natural, you know that you were breathing in too many particles of paint.

I’ve not used watercolor paints, but they should work. The pigment would likely be a bit more muted than the airbrush paints that I use. Remember that being watercolor does not mean that its non toxic.