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How to Airbrush Clothes

Gabriella Sannino

Painting your designs on clothing with airbrushes can be a rewarding creative outlet. Surprisingly it takes very little effort to get started. The first thing you will need is the idea. This starts with a piece of clothing such as a plain t- shirt, a jacket, jeans, or canvas shoes. Next you would need the design.

Whether this is your own design or one you bought or borrowed, lay it out on the article of clothing to visualize how this may look finished. You can draw or transfer the design to a hard piece of card board to cut a stencil for use with an airbrush gun.

  1. Picking out an airbrush may seem like an overwhelming task, but you have several options at your disposal. The most recommended airbrush equipment was a single action gun which has one flow of paint onto your clothing, or a double action gun which you can control amount of paint being expressed with a trigger.

  2. A small electric air compressor is usually used. You could use canned air but this eventually freezes up and creates problems with your paint. Some supply and hobby stores carry airbrush kits with everything you will need except the design and the stencil. Aside from the action of the brush there is also the feed system. It seems most draw paint from a bottle or tank below the gun but some have a little 'hopper' on the top. The drawback of the gravity feed type using the 'hopper' on top is that the paint can spill out if you tip the brush. they also can't hold as much paint but they are easier to clean and change paint. The preferred unit is the vacuum feed using the original paint bottles below the brush.

  3. Getting a good source for your air supply is important. This is commonly an air compressor but you can also buy cans of compressed air that look like spray paint that attach to an airbrush. The canned propellant Its only good for short bursts because the decompression will cause the gas to cool and will eventually freeze as it enters the gun and ruin the spay job.

  4. Painting is when the fun begins. You are doing clothes so you need to get a high quality water based fabric paint. Regular paint such as enamels and to a lesser extent acrylic will eventually wash out of clothing. Regular paint forms a hard surface that does not soak into the fibers of fabric while fabric paint is much more of a liquid and "stains" the fibers.

  5. Using stencils are the way to go keep in mind you can use whichever design you want. A thick sheet of paper or scrap cardboard will work. You need to break down the image you want into different colors an apply them in layers using different stencils. Say brown in the shack and stump of palm tree in one stencil and green for leafs and bushes in another stencil, or just free hand everything. The most useful stencil use is just a strait edge to give a clean line instead of a fuzzy line. If you have never done this before and you just want try it I would recommend this setup for $30.

BAD 2503 Basic Airbrush Set by Badger

  1. Using this product will give you everything you need except paint and stencils to just "try" airbrushing. If you have an air compressor with a pressure regulator spend a little more money on the brush and skip the air in a can.

  2. Test your airbrush on scrap material before starting your project. It's best to get familiar with the equipment before trying to create your masterpiece. Lay your article of clothing out on a flat surface. Be aware of the over spray from your airbrush. You may want to do this project somewhere you don't have to worry about the surroundings. Place the stencil on the clothing and begin to spray using short bursts while moving your hand across the design. Continue this process until you've completed your design.

  3. Allow ample drying time as recommended on the labels of the paint you've used. Once your creation has dried you are ready to show it off. Be sure to follow the paint manufacturer's laundry instructions. And always clean your air brush so it will be ready to use on your next project.