View Full Version : Help needed for airbrushing shirts

11-23-2003, 04:14 PM
I have a few stencils I would like to airbrush onto cotton twill shirts, jeans and t shirts and need help.
Should I use transparent or opaque paints?
Will my Silent Air 20A compressor be sufficient for running two Paasche VL airbrushes?
What paints are recommended? I understand that they can't be too thick with the compressor I have.
Any help will be appreciated.

11-23-2003, 07:31 PM
Hi janel,
I don't know that much about airbrushing fabrics. As far as I know, all fabric paints are opaque. I have done some t-shirts and I used Createx Paints:
I hope this helps!
I looked up the Silent Air 20A and the specs on it says that it has a 55-85 psi operating pressure with a 33 second refill rate.
OK, in my honest opinion, based on these specs and knowing that fabric airbrushing requires higher air pressure settings.......I would suspect that you are going to be taxing this little compressor. If you gave it time to rest every once in awhile and only used one airbrush at a time, it will probably do just fine! Hopefully one of the more experienced t-shirt airheads will step in and offer some better advice!
The thickness of the paint requires that you raise the operating air pressure of the regulator/compressor in order to get the paint to go through the airbrush as well as getting it "blown" into the fabric.
Good Luck!

Alan Cross
11-24-2003, 01:13 AM
Janel you already have advice so let me just say welcome to Wet Canvas and also the air brush forum!
Alan :)

11-24-2003, 06:38 AM
I paint mostly on t-shirts. I use Createx paints which are transparent, except black and white which are opaque. I set my regulator to 60 psi. I usually use white or ash colored t-shirts. If you are going to paint on black or other dark colored shirt, you have to lay in white first. You can use opaque paint, but it just doesn't look as good (in my opinion).

Hope this helps a bit, good luck!

11-24-2003, 07:11 AM
Hi Janel,

Great question I was thinking about posting a simple christmas project for beginners along this line. For airbrushing textile you should use createx paint, it comes in both transparencies and opaques. You Createx is heavy pigmented acrylic paint that is pre-thinned for airbrushing. You can also use Media or Golden fluids (not Golden airbrush). You can use most airbrush paints. You can not use just any acrylic paint and thin it, it will not hold up. I tend to use between 30 & 40 psi when airbrushing the base background, usually around 30. I use around 20 - 30 psi when airbrushing the rest. These are airbrush paints which is causing me great confusion when people are saying they require more air-pressure, they don't. I don't know what t-shirt artists use for air-pressure but every person in my house owns some form of clothing that I have airbrushed and I can say from experience that the paint outlasts the cloths.

Unless you are experienced I wouldn't bother with two airbrushes at this point, one will do nicely, just use a few jars. I just counted mine and I have about 12 jars and 10 spray tops. I use badgers jars and tops, they are thick glass jars with metal spray tops. I use one for a cleaning solution, one for white or black, and then put colors in the rest.

Step one: pre-wash the fabric and rinse twice, no fabric softner. The clothing out of our closet tends to have a residue on it either from non-rinsed soap or from fabric softeners. New clothing has been to warehouse to warehouse and has insectiside residual on it. I would stick to one airbrush if you are beginning, just use multiple jars for the paint.

Step two: place the t-shirt/jacket/etc on a board. I insert an old canvas or frame back (cardboard) into the jacket, tape the sleeves back along with any excess on the bottom.

Step three: Paint, depending on the color of your background you may wish to spray down opaque white to give the painting a base to build off of. Denim takes a lot of paint to base, do not expect to see white white in the beginning, I don't even try to get to white at this point. I use a higher airpressure for this part only to soak through the material a bit. You do NOT have to saturate the material, just an even base. I only do this on dark fabrics and denim.

Step four: When you painting is complete you must heat set the paints. This is what gives it the color-fastness. Use the highest temperature setting for you iron. Do not put the iron directly on the painted area. Cover it with a color-fast towel. Don't use one too new or too old because you will get fuzzies all over it. When this happens you can pick them off, shave them off, and most of them wash off. Material is too be washed in cold water, no bleach.

You can use a spray adhesive to hold your stencils in place just make sure to let it dry thoroughly before applying it.

I hope this answers all of your questions. If not, post some more and I will do what I can to answer them.


11-24-2003, 10:22 AM
Thanks so much to everyone for the information and the welcome to Wet Canvas.
Createx seems to be the way to go. Other than medium, do I need catalyst, bond all, retarder, etc? I live in a very warm climate and may be spraying sometimes without air conditioning.
Another question, I'm looking for a wholesaler for cotton 'camp' shirts and simple white cotton twill type dresses with pockets to spray. Any suggestions? Unfortunately the internet is my only resourse to find things.

11-24-2003, 02:47 PM
catalyst, bond all, and retarder are not necessary. I thought I would need them once years ago and I tried them. I could not find any difference with or without them and I have not bought anymore since. Just remember to heat set good an you will be all set.

As far as wholesalers goes I don't know of any off hand. You may wish to check with a silk screen shop. I live in a rural area as well and the internet has rapidly become my favorite way to shop.


11-24-2003, 04:06 PM
All-right Janel!
See, I knew there would be great advice for you! That Penny knows her stuff!

Penny, Thanks, I don't know much about tee's! We have several T-shirt AB shops around town. When I wanted to do some tee's, I talked to these guy's and they told me to run my brush at 80 to 85 psi and use the createx paints! They were using Vega's, I don't know if that had anything to do with why they ran such high pressures. I always thought that pressure was too high! I'm glad and thankful to see your advice here!

11-24-2003, 04:25 PM
Hi; I do T's and other textile.

I use Golden Fluid Acrylics and Airbrush Med. The Goldens are transparent.

I was given advice by another textile painter about the paints and he was not wrong. I really like the Goldens. Now having said that remember some of us like driving Fords and other Chevy's. :)
So once you get started you will try a lot of brands and decide for yourself.

I have been spraying with a Paasche VL and it was a bear at first, now we have an understanding and all is good. On the T's I spray at 40 to 45 lbs. Sometimes when adding white highlights, I will reduce the psi to keep from blowing the white through the fabric and having to reapply several coats.

If spraying a thick or tight weave then would have to bump it up to penetrate the fabric I believe.

I just got a Badger Anthem and I am anxious to try it out. (have to do conventional brush orders first though ;) , so I can pay for my habit)

As for using two airbrushes. Can you spray with both hands at the same time. ???? If not, then if you hook up two brushes and only spray one at a time, it would be like using only one brush. I do like Penny though, I just change colors with the jars.

I am planning on doing two different types of airbrushing in the future and will then have up to four brushes on one compressor. However, again, will only be spraying with one at a time.

You already received some fantastic advise.

Hope this helps.
Remember Have FUN

02-22-2004, 11:34 PM
As for using two airbrushes. Can you spray with both hands at the same time. ????


02-23-2004, 04:49 PM
Well, since I'm here, I'll add my 1 or 2 cents worth too. If you check around, you'll find most of the professional t-shirt artists use Createx colors, and Aquaflow silk black opaque and aquaflow opaque white. You'll find aquaflow's white and black spray much smoother than createx's with less brush problems. You're colors are normally transparent and you'll use that to your advantage to create mixed colors as you lay them down on material. Spray at 30-60 psi. Some folks even use higher settings, but they have done this so much, they work very fast. Like penny said, on denim or leather or black t's, lay down white in coats and let them dry between coats until you get good coverage. I recommend heat setting after you get the white base down then painting your art... then heat set again. Practice on pelon as it's very close to cotton or 50/50 t-shirt material as far as flow and saturation. If you need to draw your art first, use a stick of vine charcol and it will blow away as you paint. There are a few very good videos out there about t-shirt airbrushing, and they will same you lots of time, effort, and errors. Also, a very good online forum for t-shirt artists is at westcoast airbrush. A quick search should locate their site. They have some tutorials and an extensive forum consisting of some of the best t-shirt folks in the business, and they are all very nice. Most likely a forum search will answer any question you may have, but if not you'll get plenty of help. Good luck, and be sure to post some pics of your works and progress!