How To Airbrush T Shirts – Beginner’s Guide - Airbrush Guru

How To Airbrush T Shirts – Beginner’s Guide

Personalizing T Shirts, jackets and hats using an airbrush has been around for years hitting it’s height in popularity in the 1960’s and 70’s for the most part. Today airbrush t shirt shops can be found in some retail malls, flea markets and a few Walmart stores across the US as well as online custom shops.

As a home based business it’s a great way to make some extra money while expressing yourself artistically.

How to airbrush T Shirts
Above shirt airbrushed by T Shirt guru Jammer

Tie dyed shirts have been all the rage again recently with high school aged kids so we can only hope airbrush t shirts will come back around in popularity also.

So there is my short take on airbrushing t shirt, now what you will need to get started.

Things You’ll Need


The most commonly used airbrush kit for airbrushing T Shirts is the siphon feed airbrush which handles the higher viscosity textile paints tend to be very well. Be sure to buy the correct hose for the airbrush you buy; Iwata, Badger, Paasche all use different size hose’s.

Siphon feed airbrushes also allow for quick color changes which is a must when airbrushing t shirts. The trick is to have separate bottles for each of the main colors you will be using that way you can change colors quickly.

Airbrush holder – provides you with a secure place to set your airbrush down when not airbrushing

Airbrush Compressor

You’ll need a compressor capable of providing you with 40 to 60 psi working pressure meaning when you are using your airbrush the compressor will provide a steady flow at 40 to 60 psi.

If you are just going to be airbrushing a t shirt once in awhile the air compressors marketed for airbrushing should work.

If you plan on doing a lot of t shirts you will be better off with a commercial type compressor from Sears, Home Depot, Lowes.

Airbrush Textile Paint

To ensure your design does not wash out of the t shirt, you’ll need to use a airbrush paint made specially for the task of airbrushing t shirts. Most if not all of these paints require heat setting the design once airbrushed on the t shirt.​

Goldens GAC 900 can be used as a clear coat over your design but must be heat set also. GAC 900 can also be used before you start airbrushing your design on the shirt to knock down the fuzzes which tend to catch over spray.

Apply tone or two coats of GAC 900 and heat set as per the manufactures directions to provide you with a super smooth surface to airbrush your design on. For a simple name design this might be a bit over board but for more complex t shirt designs it might well be worth taking this step.

Two of the more popular airbrush textile paints are Createx’s Wicked colors and Aqua Flow.

T Shirts

Of course you’ll need t shirts to airbrush your designs onto. Weather to use 100% cotton or 50/50 blend t shirts is more or less personal preference either will work. It’s said that 50/50 blends the airbrush designs fades less over time and of course the shirt will shrinks less. There is no need to wash the t shirt before airbrushing your design.

Airbrushing T Shirts Tutorials

There you have a list of what you will need to airbrush t shirts. Now getting your design ideas onto the t shirt to airbrush it. Below are the short tutorials on how to make stencils, how to make t shirt boards and how to transfer design easily on T-shirts.

Airbrush T Shirt Stencils

A huge advantage when using a stencil for airbrushing t shirts is that you don’t have to worry about the excess paint getting on your t shirt.

Above you can see some of the t shirt stencils I have used cut out of pennant felt, a horse, clouds, circle

​To make stencils for airbrush t shirts, where you will be using the stencil repeatedly, the best material to use is pennant felt. This is a fairly cheap for stencil material that you can use over and over and not have to worry about cleaning.

Where using card board, plastic, x-ray film as stencil material can get pretty messy as they will not absorb the excess paint, pennant felt will.

Pennant felt is thin material that is very easy to cut and is flexible. When your stencil gets too much paint on it, you just toss it and make another.

Here you can see the cloud stencil I cut out of pennant felt

Once you have your pennant felt stencil cut, it can be held in place on the t shirt with repositionable spray adhesive. Be sure to allow the spray adhesive to dry a little before sticking it on the shirt for best results.

Airbrush T Shirt Board

T Shirt board I cut for a children’s shirt you can see how much smaller it is compared to the adult T Shirt board behind it

Why use T Shirt Board – First you must separate the back and the front of the shirt. Common sense tells you if you didn’t separate the front and back you’d end up with paint on both sides. To separate the front and back side of a t shirt, you’ll use what is referred to as a shirt board.

The T Shirt board also acts as a foundation from which to hang the garment so you can stand it on an easel while airbrushing. And lastly it provides you with a way of gently pulling the garment tight to provide a nice flat, wrinkle free surface to paint on.

Materials for board – T Shirt boards can be made from foam core board, card board, 1/8 th inch masonite or hard board. Cut your T Shirt board about one inch bigger than the width and height of the T Shirt you will be airbrushing. With the appropriate tool round the top corners of your T Shirt board off so as not to snag on the shelves.

How To Transfer Design Onto T-Shirt

We’ll cover various ways to transfer your design onto a T Shirt for airbrushing.

Method One – Filling the colors first

Here is a very easy way to transfer a T Shirt design onto your T Shirt for airbrushing. This of course is just one of many ways to accomplish transferring a design that I hope you find helpful.

1. Print out the image to the size you would like it to appear on the shirt.

2. Place the image inside of the shirt in the proper position for painting.

3. Fill in the colors that you would like to use.

4. Start outlining the colors.

5. Finish adding your color, heat set and you are done.

Pretty easy stuff making it possible for just about anyone to airbrush a simple t shirt design using this airbrush technique.

Method Two – Outline First

1. Place the image in the shirt in the right position; normally its centered at the arm pits of the T Shirt.

2. With black, outline first your design as pictured below.

3.Now add some color to the design.

4. Add the name and star burst.

Heat Setting Airbrushed T-Shirts

Once you airbrushed t-shirt, its time to heat set your shirt so that color won’t fade away or washout with first wash. Either you can use commercial heat press or you can use household iron.

Heat Press

Pictured above is a T Shirt Heat Press which is commonly used in commercial airbrush t shirt shops to heat set their t shirt designs. 

Heat Setting with Iron

For the t shirt airbrushing hobbyists or small commercial t shirt airbrushing operation, a more cost effective method for heat setting their t shirt designs is using a house hold iron. What you will need is a house hold iron, parchment paper (to cover the design) and a clean flat surface.

  • Place the t shirt on a clean flat surface with no wrinkles in the shirt
  • Place the parchment paper over your design.
  • Iron the shirt for two minutes using the highest setting on the iron (300 degrees is suggested) keeping the iron moving all the time.

Airbrush T-Shirt Design Ideas

Here are some of the T-shirt ideas you can airbrush today…