Airbrush tips for color filling engraved acrylic?


Last night I got an enquiry for 600 vintage motel-style keychains, and the best way for me to re-create that look would be to somehow color fill engraves.

Using an art brush would be too time intensive and I assume inconsistent in smaller engraved areas. I saw the crayon talk here but that would be to labor intensive because of the quantity. Some sort of press would be ideal IF I had one but I don’t and they aren’t cheap, 2 color acrylic doesn’t work since they will be double sided. So that leads me to air brushing. I know I’ve seen some of you mention having air brushes, but I can’t find mention of anyone using them on acrylic engraves.

Any brush brand suggestions? Paint type tips? I’ve never used an air brush, so this is new to me.


Unless you are doing some kind of fancy fade from one color to another why not regular spray paint like Krylon Fusion (designed to stick to plastics) before before peeling the masking? I’ve seen several posts where folks have reported success that way :smiley:


While it will still be labor intensive, can you just squirt the paint into the proper areas with a syringe? That is how I get paint into tight/small spaces. Works awesomely if the area that needs paint is recessed.

Lots of woodworking stores carry syringes for getting glue into tight spaces. You could also use the syringes for infant/toddler liquid medicine.


It’s possible they could be 2-color. I also have other products where an airbrushed color fill would come in handy where I physically couldn’t mask edges because of edge detail.


Interesting idea but my labor costs would slaughter their budget.


What about anchoring the material on the bed, running the areas to be colored in separate operations, running the first, removing from the machine and painting the first color and selectively masking it with tape. Return the pieces to the cut out and running the second engrave and paint it.

What about two pieces of two color acrylic glued back to back?

If the shape is irregular, flipping it in the cut out won’t work for registration.
There are requests that aren’t cost efficient. If their budget can’t pay for the required labor, then it is a job you really don’t want in my opinion. Yeah, that would really sting.


An Iwata Neo would work very well, it is top feed so you don’t need to use to much ink at a time and waste paint in the bottle adapters. You can get them online, or if you are near a Hobby Lobby they carry them and you can use a 40% off coupon. General you just need a good primer, then paint and sealer and you should be good.


The detailed edge pieces are a different product and aren’t 2 sided - just another application for the air brush if I go that route.


If she doesn’t see this, you could PM @smcgathyfay - she’s probably the airbrush expert here. She paints people with them (for magazine shoots no less) and has been doing it for years. She should have good intel on not just the airbrush but the compressor needed and paints.

(The Iwata that @thepapersedge recommended is one that’s been recommended here before though.)


Perhaps you could try 3-ply acrylic. This would allow two-color on both sides without having to add a paint step.


Easy for acrylic - remove the masking, rinse or brush out the engrave to remove any crumbs, fill the gap with acrylic paint, scrape an old credit card across the top level to make sure you have removed most of the paint from the surface and let it dry.

Then go back and remove any thin smears on the surface with a damp paper towel.

(It’s what I eventually got to with that roulette wheel, and I’m pretty sure that’s what @smcgathyfay does too - she demo’ed on some earrings once.) :slightly_smiling_face:


If you’re new to airbrushes, and this is a time-sensitive project, I’d go with the suggestion by ekla to use spray paint. Airbrushes take some time to get the hang of, to learn to clean properly, and to find the right paint-to-thinner mix. In addition to that, you’ve got to find the right paint that is going to adhere well to the acrylic and resist chipping and flaking off. Fortunately, the engraved area you will be painting will be roughened by the lasering and should hold onto the paint. This saves the step of starting with a primer coat.

TL;dr Keep the protective mask on the acrylic, shoot spray paint into the engraves, consider following up with a spray of clear coat.


Yeah the more I think of it, the more I think the Krylon might be the way to go. Maybe I just want an airbrush. LOL


I have four. And yes, you do want one. :wink:


Yeah, not much sympathy when she has to get up early for a job…:roll_eyes: “ugh, had to get up early in a tropical paradise and paint naked supermodels on the beach!”


It’s a hard work but someone has to do it. Sadly It’s not me :pensive:


Having tried Krylon Fusion on a keychain once, my feedback is that the more broad and the more shallow the design, the better. Spray paint just doesn’t want to neatly settle in to deep, narrow spaces. I had much better luck with cheap craft acrylic paints, and the application time was comparable when you consider all the spray paint hassles.

The 3-ply plastic posted above looks pretty cool.


The iwata neo is a decent brush, however cleaning can be problematic…the nozzle is tiny and since I would recommend using acrylic paint, it can clog that tiny tip. The iwata eclipse is a better brush with a floating nozzle which also gives you control over spray width.

Thayer-Chandler Omni (Sold through Badger airbrush) is another similar brush.


An airbrush is not that hard to master just spraying…spray paint may become too wet and seep around the masking. Lots of youtube vids on airbrush and you can call me direct if you need troubleshooting.


Keep in mind with the 2/3 colour acrylic that you can see the layers from the side. I don’t know if that matters to the final product or not