Sugarcraft Logo

.Enhance cake designs with your airbrush




Cleaning-taking your AB apart


Airbrush colors - required for AB
Books on airbrushing
Buttercream icing
Tapered pallet knife
Puppies, ice cream cones and the Fourth of July go hand in hand for summertime fun. This month's cake decorating designs feature airbrushing technique. I use the airbrush on a daily basis to enhance a colorful floral design or accent figure piping on cakes and cookies. In a fast-paced production setting, the airbrush allows the decorator to base ice the cakes with white icing and apply color and detail where needed.

Know your equipment

    The key to successful airbrushing is good, clean equipment and practice. Usually most functional problems can be corrected by a thoroughly cleaning the needle and the airbrush itself. Build up of food color or the presence of a hit of icing inside the airbrush can cause an uneven spray pattern. If the color pattern is splattered and blotchy, adjustment on the air flow mechanism on the compressor may be needed. Practice is essential to a crisp, attractive finished product. A simple coloring book is ideal to practice spray control and shading. Following the out-line on a roll of patterned paper towel teaches hand and eye coordination. For further instruction, check with and books on airbrush art.

The Champ

    Puppies steal the hearts of young and old alike, and the Champ is sure to be a design your customers will enjoy. Begin by base icing an oval layer with a smooth, white buttercream icing. Set the cake layer aside until a slight crust is formed. Gently roll a clean, dry wooden rolling pin across the top sur-face to smooth any icing ridges.
    Project the image onto the cake. In a very small, resealable container, mix dark brown liquid paste food color with a few drops of rum or vodka spirits. Dip a good quality artist's liner brush in the smooth flowing brown , color and outline the image on the icing surface. With some practice you'll find the outlining process is easy  and fast. Allow the cake to sit until the spirits have evaporated and a stable outline remains.
    Begin airbrushing the dog following the folds of the skin. Remember, all objects have shades of color with light
source highlights, so don't completely fill the outline with solid colors. Your artwork will have depth and interest if you practice this technique.
    Add a complementary color around the border area. An inscription and ac-cent piping make the design complete.

Fourth of July
    Stencil usage in cake decorating has created a whole new means of placing a consistent design on top of a cake. A festive burst of color sets off the in-scription on this Fourth of July cake. Cookie cutters provide a quick and easy star outline to follow with air-brush color. Manufacturers have created multi-ple-size, nested cookie cutters that can be used to imprint the entire cake sur-face for a quick airbrushed design. Us-ing two airbrush colors under the white piped borders completes the air-brushed accent on this cake. Once you've grasped airbrush tech-nique you can create cakes that cele-brate summer themes all season. Your customers will enjoy your cakes' fresh looking appearances and you'll enjoy this nifty cake decorating tool.

Add new dimension to old designs with an airbrush

      Beautiful airbrush work can enhance your decorated cakes and add new dimension to old designs. Subtle shadings give depth to designs. Soft-colored borders made with the airbrush frame the cake's message. A rainbow glows in a scenic airbrushed cake. A portrait appears in photographic natural color in airbrush work. All this and more are possible by having control of and knowledge of the workings of an airbrush.
     Much of the bakery use of the airbrush is confined to spraying on borders, colored backgrounds and shading of flowers. These uses along with simple design spraying using stencils or cut paper designs make up most decorators' use of the airbrush.
     It is important to have good, reliable equipment and plenty of practice.
     Many airbrushes are available from It is good to read through their informationcarefully before making a selection. It is valuable to go to bakery conventions and workshops to familiarize yourself with the assortment available. Also, talk to people using them to answer questions you might have about airbrush use. Hands-on experience with the brush is best.
     I use a single-action airbrush that has a small color cup on top. This airbrush sprays color as soon as you press the trigger. It also allows me to adjust the amount of color coining out with a trigger adjustment. Check the AIRMASTER system.
     The hose is connected to a low-pressure compressor. Some are equipped with a water trap and filter to absorb humidity, which can cause splattering. The fluctuations in the compressor, along with the amount of air pressure and the consistency of the liquid color used in the color cup, cause beading when spraying.
     My compressor is equipped with a regulator gauge, which allows a variation in the air pressure coining from it. Mine seems to work best in the 14-22 lbs. of pressure range, depending on liquid color and type of airbrush work. For simple stencils and borders, I use the lower pressure. For more detailed work, I need to thin the color, apply more pressure and vary my distance from the cake, when working on smooth, iced cakes.

Practice airbrushing on paper

     Practice on paper or white cardboard before trying cakes. Start with non no cooler than 38 to 40 degrees. If small clots, making them even in size, customers must freeze the cake for a controlling flare and over-spray by the time, advise them to seal the box well angle of the brush and distance from and bring to room temperature before the paper. Try about 12 pounds of  pressure to start and increase pressure  and increase pressure in small increments to see the results.
    Progress to lines, both thin and flared. Practice brushing from light to dark and back again.
    The more you pull the trigger, the more color you will spray. It is best to keep the color coming out at a lower pressure. The closer to the surface you are, the darker the hue. Do not go so close to the icing surface that you blow holes in the icing.

     Using the airbrush like a pencil and staying close to the cake's surface will allow you to make very fine lines and to write messages. Bracing your hand helps.

     Notice the practice board done in  pink for dots, lines and writing.

The use of the stencil is illustrated with the Scottie dog, a design I cut out of paper. If you need both hands to spray and hold a stencil, use a corsage pin to prick a tiny pinhole in the part of the design you wish to hold down, and insert the pin into the cake through the hole so you can work freely. I recom-mend corsage pins because they are easy to hold, see and remove.

Make scenic designs

    Torn paper patterns make realistic designs for cloud formations on scenic air-brushed designs. I've thinned the liquid color used for sky and water and included some reflections of clouds, mountains and other land masses to show light com-ing from behind them. Note the very fine foreground detail, which can be made with an average airbrush.
    A simplified background will be beautiful, with decorated details—such as a ship or sailboats, waterfowl or foli-age and trees—added with icing tubes.
    Remember that the surfaces need to be free from dampness and wet spots to eliminate spray spread and splattering.
     Freezing already sprayed cakes is difficult, as you colors may bleed and blur. If cakes need to be held for a short time, it is best to put them in refrigeration no cooler than 38 to 40 degrees. If customers must freeze the cake for a time, advise them to seal the box well and bring to room temperature before opening. This lessons water beading and bleeding.
     Practice so you may feel more comfortable with your airbrush. Keep it clean by burbling the nozzle in clear hot water after each color and before hanging it up at the end of the day. Be sure all liquid is expelled so the air gun is clean and dry, ready for the next day's use.
   The more you experiment with the airbrush, the more innovative and proficient you will become and the more enjoyment it will bring you.