Airbrushing Tips and Techniques

March 20th, 2010 by Beth Somers

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about airbrushing cakes lately, so I put together a beginner’s tutorial. Check it out, and refer to this checklist of things to remember when using an airbrush.

    • Use your airbrush with food safe colors only to avoid cross contamination. Do not use the same machine for crafting and for cakes.
    • Follow the use, care, and cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer of your airbrush to keep your machine running smoothly.
    • Sketch out your cake design prior to beginning so you have a clear idea of which colors go where on the cake, and in what order you will spray them onto the cake.
    • Just like using a piping bag, pressure, speed, and angle are super important. Practice makes perfect, so airbrush onto paper towels or parchment paper to get a feel for your machine. Kids coloring books are also great for practicing because you can try to stay inside the lines. Or not stay inside the lines – whichever you prefer!
    • Cover all surrounding surfaces to protect them from airbrush color. Use butcher paper, old newspapers, science fair backboards, or disposable plastic tablecloths for easy clean up.
    • Hold the airbrush nozzle 6 – 8 inches from the surface of the cake. If you get closer, the force of the air from the nozzle can cause the surface of your cake to get pocked. Further than 8 inches and the airbrush color will fly everywhere…your countertops, cabinets, and maybe a little bit on the cake, too.
    • Spraying with the nozzle at a 45° angle will produce broad, softer lines. Hold the nozzle at a 90° angle for a sharper, more defined line. Darken colors by retracing them with the airbrush.
    • Clean out the pipes between colors with a squeeze bottle full of hot water. Colors won’t get muddied, and your needle will stay clear of build up. Cleaning the pipes well after each use will prevent ugly splatters on your cakes down the road.
    • Airbrushing is a great way to decorate icing or fondant covered cakes.
    • Heighten airbrushed decorations with other design elements:
      • Add buttercream accents, borders, and inscriptions for extra dimension.
      • Stencils are easy, elegant, and reusable.
      • Cut out fondant flowers or shapes.
      • Tinted piping gel looks like liquid – try it for water or beverages.
      • Color Mist™ is an inexpensive alternative to an airbrush machine. It comes in a rainbow of colors and couldn’t be easier to use. Great for cakes, cupcakes, and even cookies.

Airbrushed Cake

Beth Somers Beth Somers is the Senior Test Kitchen Manager and has taught at the internationally acclaimed Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art in Darien, IL. As a competitor on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars, she shined as a champion during season 6. Before joining Wilton, Beth honed her pastry skills at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. Beth loves showing people how fun and easy it can be to bake and decorate amazing sweet treats with Wilton products.

102 Replies

  1. evelyn says:

    the air brushing was interesting were can you buy the air brushes? and nice job.

    • Kathy says:

      HI there.. Go to they sell packages for Cake decorating!
      Ask for Doc he soooooooooooo helped me.. best customer service ever.. I love mine..
      Kathy S

  2. Nadine says:

    I live in Jeddah, so do you have any idea where I could get an air-brushing set.

    • Jan Groves says:

      I bought a complete set of airbrush and compressor with colors on E-Bay from TCP Global Corp. Their link is as follows: . Phone number 858-909-2122. They own U S Cake Supply.

      • Beth says:

        I agree with you, Jan. I’ve had the pleasure of being sent a lot of TCP global products to review, and they have high quality across all their lines. I’ve reviewed (among other things) their airbrush makeup system and one of their general airbrush systems, and loved both. Plus they are very well priced!

  3. Beth Somers says:

    Evelyn and Nadine, I would recommend calling your local craft stores. They usually sell air brush machines and colors. You can research various brands, like Kopykake and Badger, online before purchasing. If you have problems finding a retailer nearby that stocks them, you can buy online through You might even find one through Amazon or Ebay.

    • Jamies Tiers says:

      PLEASE dont send someone to a craftstore for airbrush anything! They carry the cheap quality stuff and the results will make the person think they are at fault….go to either or ….you don’t need a brush kit…bearair gives you a live tech artist for help. You only need a small compressor…a good brush…I like the Peak top feed. It does a nice job…and the top feed really helps to NOT get the paint color on anything since it has a lid and you will probably only use a small amount at a time…it is easy to chance colors. running vodka thru each color change insures a clean transition.

      • Jamies Tiers says:

        P.S. Sorry, I didn’t mention give the vodka a second of just air running to dry it out. I will evaporate and leave the cup clean for the next color.

        • Warren Garland says:

          Thank you Jamies. I am just starting my research on air brushes by using U-tube and any simple publications I can find. I will be purchasing a system soon. The vodka tip is a new one and is a great help.

      • JOHN WORRALL says:

        so what do you do with vodka ? mix it with some orange or lime flavour !!!!!

  4. Ana Maria says:

    The best explanation of airbrushing I’ve ever had! Thank you so much!

  5. Nikki Ebert says:

    Has Wilton ever considered giving air brushing classes through Michaels or AC Moore?

    • Janet says:

      Excellent idea! Please sign me up. My dear husband got me an airbrush for Christmas and I’d love to have “proper” instruction on how to use it.

  6. Nanette says:

    excellent tutorial, I really enjoyed it. very imformative & now I’m excited to purchase. I’ve been using the Color Mist but, I’m sure this is much more precise. THANKS!

  7. Theresa says:

    I do hope that Wilton considers marketing an air brush however, just a note on your video, noticing the way the air brush was being held, it is much easier to control and protect cake if you wrap it over yur arm to keep the tube from getting into your cake.

    Thank you,

    • Beth Somers says:

      That’s a great tip Theresa – I can’t wait to try it!

    • Deborah says:

      Wilton just came out with an airbrush! I saw it at Michael’s yesterday and if you print out their 40% off coupon you can use it ! Yea! I’m going back to get it today! Can’t wait!

  8. victoria angelica says:

    como me encanta todas estas tortas, que me mandan muchas gracias, felicitasiones wilton y todas sus profesoras, lindisimo aporte gracias.. victoria de usa……..

  9. Helen Pepper says:

    For me, the best airbrush is Aztec. It is very comfortable to hold, much like holding a pencil. My “set” came in its own wooden storage box and many nozzles, complete with the description of what kind of spray you can expect to achieve with each color nozzle.

    • Kay Wells says:

      Great idea, please tell me where you got your airbrush ? Also Thanks for your input , it sure is nice to know what kind of airbrush is best !!

  10. Lori Bates says:

    I’ve been looking for an air brush kit or set, and never have found any from Wilton…do they sell them?

    • Beth Somers says:

      We don’t currently sell airbrushing equipment, but your local craft store should have a few machines to choose from.

  11. pauline Rudnick says:

    do you have fluted apple pie pans with removable bottoms that are two inches high

  12. pauline Rudnick says:

    do you have apple pie pans that have removable bottoms with two inch up sides

  13. Given the popularity of cake TV shows which are using airbrush to achieve amazing cake designs, it is timely for you to bring this to Wilton consumers. As a muralist, I wish you had touched on different ways to frisket or mask to achieve a cleaner look. I would recommend anyone who wishes to airbrush cakes with any justice at all, should take an airbrush class to understand the myriad of techniques one can use to achieve various effects. You can take a beginner class at any art school, walk away with the basics- and the rest is up to your imagination. Airbrush paint is similar in consistency to food colors and learning one, is easy to transition to the other.

    • Beth Somers says:

      Thanks for your comment. This is just a beginner’s look at airbrushing, and there is definitely a whole lot more to it! You give great advice – a beginners class would be beneficial for anyone who wants to give airbrushing a try, especially since it would involve lots of practice time. I can’t stress enough how important practicing with the machine is. The more you use it, the better you get because you understand how different angles, motions, and colors work. Hopefully this beginners tutorial inspires someone to try airbrushing!

  14. Margarette Perre says:

    would ike t have information on hair brush if possbe and cake ration hope to hear from you soon.
    thank, you

  15. Maria Ramos says:

    Wow!! Thank-you so much for this on line classes. I just love them.
    Keep up the good work!! The cake looks biautifull.

  16. Josephine says:

    I have a passion for decorating cake,so this info, is really informative.

  17. vicky says:

    you are simply the best .
    Please keep it up

  18. sally says:

    are you kidding me she was horroble.

  19. jinglipo says:

    The technique used with stencils for airbrushing is very impressive but the freehand one is not well defined as the colours appear very light and unimpressive.

  20. Loren says:

    Can you put the mist into the compressor or do I need to I need to find colors online???

    • Beth Somers says:

      Color Mist doesn’t need to be put into the compressor. It comes in a spray can for easy application all on it’s own. The same principles apply though – 45° angle for a broader spray of color, 90° for more defined lines, and spray color over the same area to increase the intensity.

  21. Susan says:

    What should the color consistency be to use with an airbrush? Does it need to be thinned, and with what?

    • Beth Somers says:

      There are special airbrush colors that need to be used with the machine. These colors are very fluid (like water) so that it can pass through the airbrush nozzle without clogging. Chefmaster makes an assortment of edible airbrush colors.

  22. Lilia Ramirez says:

    Estoy fasinada con las clases que tome,no me pierdo ninguna,pero me encantaria que todo lo que sale por internet,lo dieran en español,tengo dificultad para traducirlo.
    Mucho les agradeceria tomen nota de esta petición,somos muchas las personas que tenemos este problema.
    Esperando tener suerte.
    Mucha gracias
    Lilly Ramirez

  23. Kay Wells says:

    Thank you , that was Great !!!!! I have taken all of your cake decor. classes and I wish you would come up with a class for airbrushing.
    Keep these classes coming !!!

  24. Wilma says:

    Thank you for the lesson on airbrushing. It’s quite interesting. I have not been able to find the described airbrush colors. Is it possible to thin down the Wilton colors with clear vanilla or water or both for use in the airbrush?

  25. SILVIAA. says:

    Gracias por la técnica ¡¡¡¡¡¡ Fue increíble estoy aprendiendo mucho con ustedes.

  26. Judie Williams says:

    I would like to know if that was a single action or duel action airbrush used in this great demo. I just din’t know which one I should buy.

    • Beth Somers says:

      It’s a single action airbrush.

      • Jamies Tiers says:

        Yes a single action will do …for some applications. Or if you stencil…you really should get a double action…you control the air and the paint volume this way..this lets you not only do large sprays of sky and water for example….but you can control small areas and even do intricate flower petals etc. the control is important if you want to do more than just spray a background. Once you have a dual action you won’t go back…

  27. Primrose says:

    Please consider giving airbrushing cllasses through michaels. I love to learn through wilton ideas. Thanks Please reply.

    • Beth Somers says:

      I will pass along your suggestion. Seems like you’re not the only one who would be interested in a course. Thanks!

  28. Gracie says:

    Great video, would you suggest buying an airbrush online? Iv’e checked my local stores (which are very limited) and I can’t seem to find where to get one. Thanks. =-)

  29. MERCY NARVAEZ says:

    hola mi nombre es Mercy estoy muy interesada en cojer este curso de pintar los pasteles yo vivo en Newark New Jersy por favor deme que direccion me quedaria mas serca para poder cojer este curso mi direccion de correo es por favor de contestarme lo mas breve posible gracias

  30. Jules says:

    Can the wilton gel colors be adapted to airbrush with please?
    thanks, Jules

    • Beth Somers says:

      Hi Jules. Wilton Gel Colors are not adaptable for airbrushing becuase they would cause your machine to clog and spit. Look specifically for edible airbrush colors, which are very fluid and designed specifically for this task.

  31. andrew says:

    i was wondering if there was a store that you can buy the food coloring

  32. Nikki Thompson says:

    You can buy an air brush machine at Michaels or

  33. Nikki Thompson says:

    The air brush colors too!

  34. cheryl maurin says:

    Looking for a dvd and learning how to air brush cake balls? I would appreciate your assistance.

  35. Tammy says:

    I would take a class on airbrushing & I would LOVE to see a class on teaching to make fondant/gumpaste animals! I have already taken all the cake decorating classes Wilton had at Michaels & the candy making!

  36. Uche says:

    Thank you all so much for all the information on Air brush. I know better.

  37. Vlad says:

    What cleaning solution should be used for cake decorating airbrushes?

  38. Bea Korenek says:

    Question?? Is there a way to thin pearl dust so it can be airbrushed??
    I don’t like close to any cake supply and it would take several days to receive a pearl sheen through the mail. Thank you.


    • Carhy says:

      Duff products has a pearl finish for the airbrush which works really well. Michaels should have it. That’s where I get all my supplies

  39. Gennie says:

    I really need your guidance on something…
    I’ am making a princess cake for this saturday and I made a gumpaste crown as a topper. When I airbrushed it with silver color it does not have a smooth finish and is leaving spots in between…I’ am thinking it was probably the confectionary sugar that I didn’t dust off did not pick the color, I may be wrong. Anyhow, Is there a way to fix this to make he crown look good.
    Also can you tell me how long does airbrushed color take to dry out?

  40. antony says:

    can you write nice fine lines like when you want to write eg happy bday coz am seeing the pen air brush only-according to me-has broad sprays and not fine lines.or whwt can i do to make it write thin letters?how much does it cost in dollars.please reply on my mail.thanks alot and God bless.

  41. Tristan says:

    My fiance is a freelance baker, she does anything from wedding cakes to cookies. Were planning on opening our own business that will be a restaurant/bakery. I was just wondering what brands of airbrush machine were the best coming from customers that have used them. I saw KopyKake and Aztec mentioned in the previous comments and im just looking for one for HOME use that isnt incredibly expensive and does a good job.

    • Gordon says:

      Hi!…Any airbrush will work,just keep it exclusively for food products. Basically 2 types of airbrush, single action and double action, most cake artist use single action airbrushes, I use double action because of more control it affords and because I am a “Uber Airbrush Artist”, I demand major control of all my tools.

  42. Kevin says:

    Can any airbrush be used for cakes, or are there “food safe” ones? Same question for the compressor.

    • Gordon says:

      Hi..any airbrush will work, just use that airbrush only for food products. As well as any compressor with a good air filter and regulator…However, not all compressors are quiet enough to use in business situations… basically,the quieter the compressor, the more it cost.

  43. charl says:

    I stay in South Africa and bought a air brush kit. i want to know where in South Africa can i buy the paint. please help

  44. I am a Airbrush artist with no small skills when it comes to airbrushing, I am often referred to when there is a issue on airbrushing cakes on as well as a couple tutorials on Youtube…Beth Somers is a excellent cake artist with good cake decorating skills of which I enjoy her tutorials alot.
    Keep Caking!

  45. Claudia says:

    How much airbrush color do I use. I’m filling up the little cup an its used up in 30 sec of spraying. I can only get one side of a square cake painted?
    In all the demos I see only drops being used. Iam pouring color! Am I doing something wrong?

    • Gordon says:

      Hi,..most cake decorating can be done with small cups, larger applications may need bigger paint cups…there are many size cups you can purchase.

  46. elaine says:

    Gracias por la informacion. Estaba buscando informacion para decider comprar el “air brush” y este video me ayudo a decidir, Lo voy a comprar.

  47. Rash says:

    Hi. Can i use normal food coloring to use in an airbrush to decorate a cake?? Thanks

    • Gordon says:

      Normal food coloring isn’t quite as intense as made for airbrushing coloring, and its a bit more difficult to work with, but it can be used.

  48. Gordon77 says:

    Ooops,…my screen name is gordon77…Airbrush Cake Artist Demonstrator extraordinaire. To find me on the net or “Youtube” my name is “Uber Spoony G”.

  49. Krista says:

    Can i use the same air compressor for crafting and decorating? As long as i am careful to switch out the attachments? I don’t want to buy two.

  50. Monique says:

    I was wondering if anyone knows how I should store my cake after airbrushing. Should I leave the airbrushing for the day of or is it ok to refrigerate it over night? I am a first time airbrush user.

  51. […] started – Wilton the cake decorating experts have put together a short video about getting started with your airbrush and how you can make the most of your new piece of […]

  52. naseema Naidoo says:

    Hi im wanting to purchase airbrushing dvd or books for cake decorating.


  53. Jolene says:

    I am hoping that Micheals and wilton will bring in an Airbrushing cakes class soon.

  54. […] Airbrushing: Operating a paint gun that using an air pump/compressor to spray a fine mist of food colouring very finely and evenly onto iced cakes, cupcakes or biscuits. […]

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  62. sandra says:

    I was wondering if you can air brush on brown frosting. I am making a birthday cake for my mom and she just wants chocolate no fondant or white icing and I can’t find white color for the air brush anywhere and it’s so late to order it

  63. Candida says:

    Hello, my name is Candida I have a total of three airbrush guns and one machine all of which I love and use a lot. Each of the guns has it own problem and all of them no longer work . None of them are backed up with food die because I clean them real good after each use. I cant keep buying a new airbrush gun each time my gun decides it doesn’t want to work, either it wont spray pain but it will air, it will splatter or drink out the spraying end.

    So my question is where can i send these to get fixed i will pay for new parts or a fixing cost its just i really need these fixed because they are a big item i use in my bakery. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.

  64. Indu says:

    Can we use normal liquid food colours in airbrushing?

  65. Lucii says:

    That is the worst looking air brushed cake. It looks like a child did it. If that is the best you have you shouldn’t video it. I mean really, that is so juvenile! How about some techniques for adult beginners? I am a beginner and I do way better!

  66. mila votaw says:

    I had one and i loved it. but with all the moveing i have done over the yr. not sure where it ended up, so i’m trying to find out how i can get another one.

  67. Tracey says:

    Iv just spent £60 on a airbrush set secondhand.i bid on it on eBay iv recently found out he used the gun to lacquer guitars.i don’t no what to do now I can’t afford another one or send it disabiled I make cakes to help me through the day.when its my childrens or my granddaughters birthday.iv been told iv got osteoarthritis in both of my hands and now my knees so it’s hard work mixing the colours in the icing that’s why iv brought the there anyway I can use this gun.iv got two birthdays coming up two days apart for one another.please HELP me

  68. Payal says:

    Thx for the details but my question is that after we do the spraying on fondant the dark colors comes on hand while cutting the cake or while we touch how can we prevent this to happen

  69. Adam says:

    Hi Beth

    Fantastic tips for airbrushing cake..specially cleaning your airbrush after use..clean it when its wet and you won’t have to clean when it’s dry 🙂

  70. Ashleigh says:

    I have a Wilton airbrush that I bought on clearance and I cannot find Wilton brand colors to go in it will the sweetshop brand airbrush colors work in the Wilton machine

  71. Margaret Lord says:

    Is it better to airbrush,dry, & then use your pattern press or vice versa?

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