Airbrush Tanning Procedure 2

A step-by-step tanning procedure with detailed directions and basic illustrations

Here, we have one suggested, printable procedure for applying a spray tan. Keep in mind, there is no right way to perform a tanning procedure and we suggest examining many methods and to practice until you adopt one that fits you. Through observation, experience, and practice, anyone can become a respectable spray tanning technician.


Remember that a key component to a great spray tan is exfoliation. Remind your client to prepare by washing with an exfoliating product, shaving and waxing the night before their tanning session. If the client shows up unready, offer some on the spot products like exfoliating spritz or exfoliating wipes. The client should not be wearing deodorant, perfumes or makeup of any sort for the tanning session as these can result in an off color or minimal DHA absorption.

The client should also bring with them some dark, loose-fitting clothing and sandals or flip-flops to wear after the session. We provide some disposable products such as clothing, strapless sandals, shower wrap or bathrobes under our Airbrush Tanning Supplies section if you wish to stock them for the unprepared client. They may also wish to bring their own towel or some other item to sit on as to not stain the car seat, etc. on the ride home.

Items needed for procedure

There are some immediate items to have on hand, besides equipment, to conduct the spray tan. It makes for easier cleaning afterwards if the client stands on a towel or sheet during the process as this will catch overspray and keep the floor cleaner. It is also convenient to have a small hand towel to wipe away solution quickly if accidentally overspraying an area or if a problem occurs with the airbrush or spray gun. A headband or hair cover should be worn by the client to keep hair out of the way when spraying. We carry disposable hair covers with elasticized edges that are perfect for tanning.

The Tanning Procedure

Some Technique Tips before you get started:

  • More is not necessarily better! The recommended amount of solution to use on one person is 2 ounces, give or take a slight amount for larger or smaller individuals. If you are applying more than 3 ounces of solution on a person, it is likely too much. Over-application can cause an off-color or orange skin tone as a final result.
  • The compressor should be set to the recommended solution pressure of about 10-15 psi. Consult your user guide for this step, but don't be afraid to experiment with different pressures before the actual session. The key is to find the finest atomization of the spray without producing a large amount of overspray.
  • The spray gun should be set to an elliptical rather than round pattern if possible. Not all spray guns will have this feature, but the spray guns we sell will have this option.
  • Keep the airbrush 6-8 inches or spray gun 8-12 inches away from the client throughout the tanning session. The closer the airbrush is to the skin, the smaller and darker the spray becomes. If the airbrush is too far away, nothing will reach the skin.
  • Always start spraying the airbrush or spray gun slightly to the side before making contact with the skin. This is called the "feathering technique" and is used to avoid pooling or running of the solution as your finger reaches the needed trigger pressure before actually spraying on the client.
  • Maintain steady spraying strokes. This method is also used to avoid solution pooling and running, and also helps you to avoid spraying sections a second time.

Getting Started

Make sure the session set-up is in a well-ventilated area. Check that the compressor is set to the needed pressure setting and that the airbrush or spray gun is functioning properly. Pour about 2 ounces of airbrush solution into the solution bottle, maybe a bit more for darker or larger individuals or a bit less for smaller individuals. Remember that more is not always better! Make sure your client is in place and comfortable, and the session is ready to begin.

Feet and Front Legs

Start with the client facing you.

Spray the right foot in a horizontal motion starting far away from the toes and gradually moving closer to the leg as you spray up to the ankle. Once the ankle is reached, keep the same distance all the way up the leg, still using the horizontal strokes. When you reach the top of the leg, work back down it using vertical strokes up from the thigh down to the ankle until the entire front of the leg is covered. Repeat this with the left foot and leg.


Have the client slightly bend their knee, one at a time, and lightly spray over them using a horizontal motion.

Inside Legs

Have the client rotate their right leg out and away. Spray the inner leg with horizontal strokes first and finish with vertical strokes. Repeat with left leg.

Outside Right Leg

Have client turn 1/4 rotation left from you.

Cover the outer right leg with horizontal then vertical strokes.

*NOTE: If the client has dangling strings on their swimsuit, just spraying over them will leave a pale string shadow on the client. In most cases, it is sufficient to just lift the strings and spray solution lightly on the skin.

Neck, Shoulders and Back

Instruct the client to turn so their back is facing you.

Begin spraying at the neck down to the top of the shoulders and continue down the entirety of the back starting with horizontal strokes and repeating with vertical strokes.

Back Leg

While the client is still facing away from you, spray the back of the right leg with horizontal strokes followed by vertical strokes. Repeat with the left leg.

Outside Left Leg

Have the client turn 1/4 rotation to the left.

Spray outside of the left leg starting with horizontal strokes and finishing with vertical strokes. Keep in mind the note above about swimsuit strings.

Top of Arms

Have the client turn to face you.

Have them place both arms forward and slightly down with the fingers apart and the palms of the hand towards the floor. Begin spraying the right arm starting about 8 inches away from the fingertips, coming in closer as you move up the hand. Spray horizontally as you go up and vertically on the way down. Repeat with the left arm.

Bottom of Arms, Side and Waist

Have the client reach up with their arms with elbows bent and fingertips pointing at the ceiling. Spray starting at wrist, taking care not to spray the palm and continue down the arm, side and waist using horizontal strokes following with vertical strokes. Repeat on other side.

Stomach, Chest and Chin

Have the client hold hold their arms out from their sides and look up at about a 45 degree angle. Spray the chin and work your way down the neck, chest and stomach with horizontal strokes. Finish with vertical strokes.


Have the client close their eyes, inhale deeply through the nose and hold their breath. Spray face lightly with horizontal strokes followed by vertical strokes.


Emphasize greatly to your client that aftercare and maintenance is important in extending their spray tan. It is recommended to moisturize twice daily using a tan extender or lotion as this will greatly extend the life of the tan. We also offer a great selection of these post-tanning products.