Cake airbrushing is one technique you can use to take your baking to the next level. Airbrushes are ideal for adding designs, patterns, and special effects to cakes, gum paste, sugar paste, fondant, piping, icing, and isomalt. Airbrushing helps you create astounding imaginative decoration details. The airbrushed color is applied to the icing that is already on the cake, rather than being mixed into the icing and being applied.
Airbrushing lets you work with precision. It is a neat application, unlike filling and using traditional icing tubes. Edible airbrush paints are available for purchase in bottles in a variety of colors, which alleviates mixing food coloring. Fill the airbrush cup with the desired edible paint color and begin to create!
Airbrushes and edible paints and airbrush kits are perfect for beginners and experienced bakers and pastry chefs alike. They are easy to use to color, blend, or shade broad areas of icing and fondant, write a script, be used with stencils, or add accents and intricately detailed patterns and designs. With imagination and practice, even the novice baker can create amazing edible creations in no time!
How to Buy a Cake Decorating Airbrush Kit
Airbrush cake decorating requires purchasing three primary elements:
- Edible food colors
You should know the difference between single action and double action cake decorating airbrush guns. Single action airbrush guns are best-suited for beginners. The double action airbrush guns allow dual simultaneous control of coverage and color. Simplified,
- Single action airbrush guns are simple, operate similar to a can of spray paint, operate slower, and are the easiest to learn with. They work by pulling a trigger that engages pressure that blows out the edible food color spray. The more you pull back on the trigger button, the more paint color is released/sprayed.
- The double action airbrush gun allows you to increase production by controlling the air and spray coverage as well as the volume of color that is released. You can control two operations at once. Double action airbrushes are typically for more advanced cake decorators.
A basic airbrush kit includes an air compressor and compatible single or double action airbrush. Some deluxe kits include FDA-approved, Kosher ingredient edible food coloring paints. These kits typically include a mini, portable 110v. air compressor model that puts out 15-20 PSI.
A more deluxe cake decorating airbrush model may include a single action airbrush (or dual action airbrush) but the air compressor has more complex features including a knob to adjust the air flow. Typically these air compressor upgrades have a three-speed adjustment (low, medium, and high). This adjustment allows you to control how strong the spray is and color will be applied to the cake. Similarly, the low setting allows you to work with a softer air flow to more easily complete detail work.
Airbrush kits that include a dual action airbrush typically have a more upgraded air compressor. The dual action trigger releases the color and also releases the air. To truly obtain non-stop convenience, a deluxe air compressor will regulate the air flow, cycling on and off to maintain pressure as you continue your work. A compressor may also have a moisture trap that will alleviate any moisture build-up in the air hose line.
Edible food color paints should be no less than FDA-approved. Many kits include several bottles of colors. Any color paints used in the cake decorating airbrush must be fluid enough so it does not clog the airbrush gun. To avoid voiding any warranty, it is suggested to follow the airbrush manufacturer’s food color paint brand recommendation.
Best Cake Decorating Airbrush Kits for Beginners
Master Airbrush Cake Decorating Kit
The Master Airbrush Cake Decorating kit comes with everything you need to make professional designs without less mess. The airbrush function is smoother and offers crisper pictures than simple frosting while the easy to use trigger and color is a cinch to master.
This airbrush kit comes with a Premium Master Airbrush Model TC-20 High-Performance Air Compressor. It includes an air pressure regulator and air filter water trap. It comes with two of Master Airbrush’s award-winning airbrush tips plus 12 vibrant chef master colors. The colors are edible and offer some of the best colors you can get for cake decorating. They’re made in the USA and follow the FDA’s strict safety standards.
The tips are the model G34 dual-action airbrush. It has a one-sixteenth ounce gravity-feed fluid cup and 0.3mm tip. The other tip is a Model E91 single-action siphon feed airbrush with a 0.8mm tip and siphon bottles measuring just under three ounces. It also includes a tool to help clean your airbrushes more efficiently and a book with instructions, quick tips for getting the best result, and troubleshooting advice.
There are quite a few benefits to purchasing this particular brand over the others. The Master Airbrush Cake Decorating Kit is just a better all around choice for the following reasons.
This set has a number of advantages over a few other runners-up. First, it has two types of airbrush tips included in the package, so you have more choices right from the very beginning. It also has a good set of quality colors to get you started, too.
One of the airbrush tips is a dual action airbrush where most kits only have a single action. Both tips are excellent to have because you have a lot more control with dual action while single action is best for spraying large, uniform color areas.
It gives you more control over the air flow and the type of filtration. It has an air pressure adjustment that can move in increments from 0 to 57 psi. Most kits have predetermined setting from one to three with no indication of how much pressure each setting is. The water trap filter and true diaphragm give you better stability and color without clogging in the piping.
Frequently Asked Questions
The kit is a touch more complicated than your average kit, so let’s take a look at a few things you should know.
How loud is the compressor?
It’s not very loud compared to some full-sized air compressors used in a car shop or other tool. It’s comfortable enough that you shouldn’t have trouble working on your cake decorating for longer stretches. It turns on and off as the machine needs more air so your ears will get a break in between.
Is it easy to use?
Learning to use the compressor isn’t too difficult. It comes with a full set of instructions, best practices, and troubleshooting tips. The design is intuitive and doesn’t take long to figure out how to master the control for the dual action tip.
What voltage is the compressor?
It uses a standard 110-120 volt range. If you live in the US or countries with similar power currents, you should be fine.
Can I use chocolate?
The compressor is designed to work with food coloring consistency. Chocolate is far too thick and wouldn’t be able to spray through the nozzle. Plus, chocolate would be incredibly difficult to clean and could damage your tool beyond repair.
If you aren’t ready to invest in the first kit or you have reservations for some reason, here are two alternatives. We aren’t quite as excited about these kits, but they could be an excellent second option.
U.S. Cake Supply Cake Decorating Airbrush Kit
The US Cake Supply kit comes with a single action air tip with three airflow settings and a set of 12 vibrant colors. The compressor is powerful enough to distribute an even coat of color, and it features a gravity feed airbrush with a 0.4 tip.
It includes a detailed users guide with instructions, best practice tips, and troubleshooting advice. The tip is easy to use and sweeps uniform color across the surface of the cake. You control the width by the distance of the tip to the cake, and you never worry about clogging.
It’s a good alternative for those who don’t do a lot of intricate designs and mostly color larger areas. It’s also a bit cheaper than the previous kit, but if you can swing the difference, we think you’ll love the choice of a dual action tip.
Cake Boss Decorating Tools Airbrushing Kit
This is another kit that uses a single action tip with a lengthy hose and even pressures. You can adjust it three different ways to control application and width is changed by moving the tip further or closer to the cake’s surface. It’s highly reliable, doesn’t often clog, and sprays uniform color. The kit comes doesn’t come with any colors, but it’s a good option if you don’t have a lot of space for storage.
It sprays up to 18 psi, which is enough for uniform color. It also includes cleaning tools to make sure the airbrush is adequately cleaned out and a plastic dropper to help with color transfer to the reservoir.
It comes with a booklet that gives you instructions and tips. Plus, it includes a storage bag so you can keep everything together easily.
There are a variety of types and styles of cake decorating airbrushes from which to choose. If you are a beginner cake decorator, you may elect to research one of the cake decorating airbrush kits that pairs a sufficiently powered air compressor with a single- or dual-action airbrush gun. Many kits also include a variety of FDA-approved edible colors. We suggest not getting the “cadillac of airbrushes” immediately. Learn the basics on a simple kit. Most beginners’ problems involve learning application control and consistency, and how to thoroughly clean the airbrush to prevent clogging, rather than having purchased a poor product.
If you are only interested in a good cake decorating airbrush (not a kit) and are just starting, you may choose a simple single action, gravity fed airbrush. They allow you to go slower and learn the capabilities of the equipment. As you get comfortable with the process, you may switch to a gravity fed, dual action, internal mix airbrush. There are many fine ones on the market.
As you expand your skill and expertise and do more decorating, you may choose to use one airbrush per color, or one bottle per color setup. A siphon fed airbrush will help speed up your production.
Airbrush Operations – Types
Airbrushes and their air-paint mix operation may be external or internal. The way the paint mixes with the airflow determines the way the spray appears when hits the surface.
Internal mix airbrushes blend the air and paint inside the airbrush tip, and then it (the paint) is discharged. This type generally produces a more even and consistent spray.
External mix airbrushes allow you to control the paint volume with the small knob on the airbrush gun. Air and paint are blended after they exit the tip of the airbrush. This type is better for small-area coverage, not for detail.
Airbrush Operations – Action
The airbrush trigger is used to control the airbrush air-paint functions that affect the spray pattern. Single action airbrush and dual action airbrush triggers operate a bit differently.
Single Action Airbrushes
A simple single action airbrush operates like a can of spray paint, except it allows you to adjust the air pressure (coverage) and the amount of paint that is applied. Pushing down on the trigger releases paint and air simultaneously. Just release the trigger to stop the paint flow. A separate volume control knob regulates the amount of paint that is applied when the trigger is pressed. Turn the knob clockwise to decrease (thin) the paint flow. Turn it counter clockwise to increase (thicken) the paint flow. Stopping to adjust the paint flow slows down the painting process.
The spray pattern is always determined by how far away from the cake/paint surface you spray. The closer you spray, the smaller the spray pattern will be. Similarly, the further away from the cake/paint surface you spray, the larger the area or spray pattern will be.
Dual Action Airbrushes
Dual action airbrushes allow non-stop painting because there is no need to stop to adjust the paint flow. The amount of air is controlled at the compressor by its airflow setting. Pushing down on the trigger gives you air. Pulling back on the trigger releases the paint. How thick an application of color you spray depends on how far back you pull the trigger. Dual action airbrushes generally give you more control over the painting process.
Dual action airbrushes are ideal for project with varied spray widths and color volumes or layers. The spray pattern is always determined by how far away from the cake/paint surface you spray. The closer you spray, the smaller the spray pattern will be. Similarly, the further away from the cake/paint surface you spray, the larger the area or spray pattern will be.
Regardless if your airbrush is single action or dual action, it will be one of three airbrush styles:
- Gravity Fed airbrushes require the least amount of air pressure to operate. They operate more slowly allowing you to paint detailed cake patterns. They consistently. The color is placed in the small bowl on top of the airbrush gun. When you pull the trigger, gravity draws the paint into the airflow, which forces the paint into the needle and out the tip. Nozzle sizes range from 0.10mm to 0.35 mm.
- Siphon Fed airbrushes increase efficiency. They require less air than gravity fed airbrushes. They increase production by allowing you to spray more at one time. Siphon fed airbrushes also allow you to conveniently use a variety of different size color cups and bottles and to change colors quickly. Nozzle sizes range from 0.1mm to 0.5mm.
- Side Fed airbrushes have the color cup attached to the side. It combines the gravity fed and siphon fed airbrush capabilities depending if the color is above or below the nozzle. The 3600 rotating cup allows you to work at any angle including upside down. Nozzle sizes range from 0.10mm to 0.35mm.
Edible Airbrush Colors
Airbrush edible colors must be a consistency that easily passes through the gun without clogging, but retains its body when it is sprayed onto the cake surface. There is a wide variety of colors from black and white to vivid primary, seasonal, and rainbow to metallic and pearl types. The pearl and metallic colors add an iridescence to butter cream icing and fondant cakes. Adding opaque white to colors creates pastel shades. It can also hide decorating, spraying, or script errors!
Edible airbrush colors are concentrated and must be FDA-approved. They are also typically made with Kosher approved ingredients. Many cake decorating airbrush kits include a variety of bottles (typ.: 0.7 fl.oz.). They are intended to be sprayed onto cakes, pastries, gum paste, sugarpaste, icing, fondant, isomalt, etc.
Cake Decorating Airbrush Techniques & Technologies
Airbrush systems allow you to paint and decorate on cakes and fondant. Using different angles, air pressure, and color volume you can beautifully add accents, layers, shading and pastels that are very difficult and cannot attractively be hand-painted. Detailing requires a long, narrow-point needle.
Airbrush spray guns are equally effective for coverage. The larger the spray area, the easier it is to blend and cover the cake. It takes practice and patience, but to achieve a smooth consistent coverage, your goal is to cover in as few passes as possible. On the other hand, you do not want to overspray.
Airbrushing is one tool that may be used to create a variety of decorations. Silhouettes, stencils, and motifs such as lace, leaves, patterns, etc. are created simply and expertly using an airbrush tool. Detailed features such as stems, dew drops, curls, script, etc. can also be airbrushed to enhance the previously stenciled or created main design. Airbrush stenciling cookies, for example, will have a clean, non-blurred pattern if the stencil is put close to the cookie so the airbrush color cannot blow under the stencil.
How to Airbrush Cakes and Pastries
- Cover your surface to protect it from airbrush color overspray, mixing spills, etc.
- Clean your airbrush before beginning. Put some warm water in the paint cup (color well). Spray out the water. Repeat until the spray is clear.
- Spray with air only to dry out the inside of the airbrush.
- Only use FDA-approved, edible, food safe colors.
- Hold the airbrush nozzle 6” to 8” from the cake’s surface. Holding it too close causes the pressurized air to pock-mark the cake. Holding it too far away causes the airbrush color to spray everywhere it shouldn’t!
- Hold the airbrush nozzle at a 45° angle to obtain soft, wide lines and passes. A 90° angle produces a sharper, more defined line.
- Spray the color, and then re-spray to darken it.
- Clean the pipes and needle using a squeeze bottle of hot water between colors so they do not become muddy or splatter during its next use.
Mediums and Special Airbrush Effects
Airbrushing is ideal for decorating fondant cakes, icing, and other design elements. Imprint a pattern directly onto fondant and airbrush it for texture, detail and depth. Stencils are easy, reusable, and add style.
Isomalt is a sugar substitute that can be heated and molded into various shapes (i.e.: geometric shapes, flowers, ribbons, etc.) to create edible artistic works. Airbrush highlights, accentuate features and add dimension.
Airbrush decorations can be enhanced with other elements such as borders, buttercream accents, and inscriptions. Edible markers allow you to write or draw directly onto fondant cakes. Edible images may be made with edible printer icing sheets, ink, and a compatible printer and attached to your iced cake. Rice paper continues to be popular for flowers, feathers, ribbons, etc. Airbrush pastel petal tips, shadows, or wet-look reflections on the images to add depth and realistic magic.
Other Tools To Get Started With Airbrushing
Once you’ve gotten the airbrush, there are three other things you need to make the process easier. Let’s take a look.
You don’t want to reach over the cake and risk messing up designs you’ve already done. Getting even color and not compromising your work is a lot easier when you can just turn the cake on its own turntable.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a turntable, but you should get one that turns smoothly and is evenly balanced. One excellent feature that not all turntables have is the ability to tilt. While not critical, it does make decorating the top of a cake a lot easier, and we would seriously consider finding one with this option.
Also, make sure that the base is heavily weighted so that you don’t risk knocking your cake over when you move it. The cake should sit evenly on the plate with plenty of room to spare, and the turning motion should be very smooth to prevent discolorations.
Other types of tools are critical to creating things like texture and 3D designs. Airbrushing can get the primary color or design on the cake, but adding a little bit of flair is only possible with a range of tools.
The best type is one that includes everything in an organizer so that all your tools are within easy reach. The necessary tools are exactly where you need them, and they all have a place to go when you’re done.
Useful tools to include are a series of spatulas for frosting applications, different frosting tips for creating shapes, wheels that can impart textures to the surface of the cake, and a set of frosting bags. Other tools could be ones for working with fondant and for cutting shapes out of a cake for adding onto layers.
Other Colors For The Airbrush Kit
Even though two of our kits come with colors, you can always use extras or more colors. The more color you have, the less you have to spend mixing to get that color just right. Colors should be edible, and FDA approved.
Make sure the colors are meant for airbrush kits because you want a vibrant color that won’t drip and is the right consistency for your airbrush kit. Using unapproved color consistencies can result in dripping or clogging in your airbrush tool and a whole lot of disappointment when your design doesn’t turn out.
A brush set is another set of tools that can really elevate your design. They help you decorate small details that can make a design pop. Brushes of different sizes and shapes can help make fine detail and outline pictures in a way that really makes the design pop.
Brushes are also a great way to work with frosting that’s too thick to go in your airbrush set. They can create textured designs and work well to fill in any imperfections in the frosting. Brushes are also good ways to put different types of details into the color you’ve sprayed from the airbrush kit.
Think of the cake lifter like a spatula for your entire cake. If you’ve got to transport your cake, touching it could mess up the design you’ve worked so hard on. A cake lifter allows you to safely pick it up and reposition it without smudging or marring the design. A good cake lifter uses a slick, non-stick metal with a full side and a heavy duty handle.
Stencils can also help you create easy designs for your airbrush. They make putting designs on the cake really simple and can expand the types of things you’re able to accomplish with your designs.
Stencils should be flexible enough to bend around a cake and remove easily. They should also be safe to use around food. Not all plastic is safe for food use, so make sure your stencils are specifically for culinary use and don’t have any toxic BPA or coloring that can wear off on your food.
There is a wide variety of cake decorating airbrushes and air compressors from which to choose. The items are sold separately as well as in kit form. Kits can range from $60 to $300 or more. Airbrushes may be simple or dual action. Air compressors may be mini, portable models or deluxe, maintenance-free with adjustable settings. Many kits also include FDA-approved, Kosher ingredient, edible food color paints.
Selecting an airbrush or kit that matches your skill level, style, and a project is important to your satisfaction and culinary success. Some cake decorators will choose the least expensive airbrush and upgrade later. Others will immediately choose a deluxe air compressor and dual action airbrush and grow into it as their experience, expertise, and skills improve. Regardless of your decision and budget, it is important to choose the product that feels right to you, that is easy to use, and creates the results you envision.