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This article was taken from our August 2020 Issue Buy this issue now

Ask the Expert: Ben Cullen


Ask the Expert: Ben CullenBen aka The Bake King, is a well-known cake artist who can often be found creating incredible lifelike designs or on Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers.

Q: What guidance so you have for getting shadows right? How can I avoid going too dark too soon?

A: This is something I seemed to always get wrong myself. The main thing I have learnt with shadows is they’re not actually black. To use black when airbrushing shadows really runs the risk of going too dark and ruining the piece. I would thin the black paint down or opt for a grey and build up layers slowly.


Q: What are your tips for cleaning and maintaining my airbrush?

A: This again is something I can’t pretend I keep up with as much as possible and so I know how you can easily rush away after finishing a piece or need to be somewhere. But for the longevity and proper working condition, it is so important to try and clean out the airbrush after every use. When working on a piece, I always airbrush in order of light colours to dark so I don’t have to clean out so much between colours. After a project, the airbrush always needs to be cleaned through with water or the designed airbrush cleaning solution. You can get away with letting the airbrush sit with water based colours in it but with powder based colours, this can clog up your machine the longer you leave it making it more difficult to clean out for its best functionality.


Q: How can I stop my airbrush from splattering leaving little unwanted dots of colour?

A: This goes back to cleaning whilst using. If colour starts to build up in the nozzle because it’s been sat between uses, once the air flows back through the machine, this can pick up those bits and splatter them on the piece. You must try to clean your airbrush and the needle itself every now and then to make sure it’s all clean and set as it should be for top functionality. I also find vigorous movements don’t help as you again can create air in the cup. Try to airbrush with a smooth and consistent hand and arm movement and keep the nozzle area clean and you should have no problems.


Q: Can you give me some advice for airbushing on buttercream? My client does not like fondant…

A: I don’t often airbrush on buttercream but luckily for me, the Spectrum Flow airbrush colours I tend to use can airbrush on most, if not all, surfaces and buttercream is one of them. As long as I’m using the powder based colours, this will airbrush onto the buttercream in the very same manner as fondant. The smoother you get your buttercream, the easier it will be to achieve a flawless covering of airbrush colour.


Q: How do I get an even coverage when airbrushing?

A: The best way to get an even coverage when airbrushing is to keep moving. If you can move in a continuous motion over the areas you want airbrushing, you can build up the colour bit by bit slowly until you’re satisfied you’ve achieved the shade you want.


Q: What metallic paints would you recommend?

A: I’m sure there are lots of metallic paints out there that are amazing that I personally haven’t tried but for me, I absolutely love the Spectrum Flow bronze and gold airbrush colours. They achieve such an effective shine and can really transform a piece. I’ve also recently tried some Roxy & Rich powder colours that seem incredibly promising!

Ask the Expert: Ben Cullen Cakes