T-Shirt & Textiles Airbrushes & Equipment
Let's face it- we've all had an article of clothing we've wanted to customize before... Today we're going to share with you which equipment is the best to have in your arsenal when working on textiles and why.
Really, there are only 3 main factors to take into account when airbrushing textiles- the airbrush, the compressor and the paints you are using.
Keep in mind that depending on the surface you are brushing, you may need to take some extra steps to make sure the material absorbs your paint. For standard cotton t-shirts (50/50 or 100% Cotton), the process is pretty straight forward and no additional steps are needed- you can start brushing with no preparation.
For most textile airbrushing, a siphon or suction fed airbrush is going to be the most effective way to go. What is the end goal with your textile airbrushing- is it for your own shirts that you want to customize or do you plan on charging for commission work? This is important because if you plan to take on commission work, then you want to be as streamlined as possible to lower your turnover time on each project. For this, the siphon feed will give you what you need as far as saving time because changing paints is a seamless process if you have pre-filled bottles ready to go. All you need to do is run a reducer through the brush in between each paint and you're ready to spray with a new color.
If you are interested in taking your time and ensuring quality, then you may want to consider a gravity fed airbrush. In this instance, time is not an overbearing concern so the ease of changing paints doesn't really impact your decision that much. What does make all the difference is the greater control of the spray you get with a gravity feed because of the way the paint is being fed into the brush. With a siphon or suction fed airbrush, there is a bit of a delay between when you pull on the trigger and the time it takes for the paint to be pulled from the bottle and 'sucked' through the brush. On the other hand, the gravity feed delivers downward pressure, forcing the paint into the brush and yielding a faster reaction to the trigger- this will result in more accurate and controlled airbrush strokes versus trying to work with the delay of a siphon feed.
Here, the only golden rule is going to be that the compressor you choose is able to produce between 40-60 PSI of working pressure. This means that as you are working and spraying, your compressor is able to comfortably produce a steady flow of air up to 60 PSI without letting up or straining. If you get a compressor with too weak of an output, you will have a much more difficult time staying consistent with your strokes and keeping sharp edges/lines in your work as the compressor is straining to produce the necessary pressure.
Another way to ensure you are seeing a consistent, uninterrupted stream of pressure from your brush is to make sure you grab a compressor with a tank. For detail work like this, having a tank on your compressor makes all the difference as it will allow you to spray without experiencing any pulsation of the air flow. These pulsations come from compressors without tanks and cause an inconsistent air flow because the air is being compressed as you pull back on the trigger instead of being steadily released from a large tank of pre-compressed air- so this could definitely impact your strokes and quality of your lines if you are mid-spray when it starts pulsating.
The last thing to keep in mind is how often you plan on airbrushing. If you know you will be brushing often, then it only makes sense to spend a little more for a compressor that will last you a while. Many low-cost compressors are made as entry-level offerings with beginners in mind and usually are not made for heavy work loads or to hold up to continuous every day use. For this reason, it only makes sense to spend a little more on a machine that is able to handle the work load and is designed for every-day use, saving you the time, money and hassle of having to buy another one down the road.
Acrylic paints are used for textile airbrushing because their ability to be applied to a wide range of surfaces (in this case, they work well with t-shirt fabric). These are highly pigmented paints and extremely fast-drying, making them ideal for this kind of work- also, once the design has been completed, heat setting is applied to make the paints last much longer on the fabric. Wicked Paints by Createx are a favorite among hobbyists and professionals because of their reputation for strong adhesion to textile fabrics (among many other surfaces).