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There's no better way to show off your original art than to wear it. Whether you're looking for a way to stand out in a crowd or you're launching your own clothing line, transferring art to clothing is a relatively hassle-free project with stunning results. Professional artist Sarah Bliss Rasul, whose art is on display in various galleries throughout the U.S., provides words of wisdom on her T-shirt designs---her own collection of original art T-shirts was inspired by her interest in the fashion world and belief that clothing design is "one of the best ways to express yourself."
Pick the method that best suits your purpose and resources: either printer transfer, airbrushing or stencil design. Airbrushing requires a steady hand and some expertise, printer transfer is the simplest method and stenciling, according to Rasul, is beneficial since it "can prove to give you cleaner lines and allow you to clone several of the exact image to a shirt." Regardless of the method you choose, stay away from spray paints and opt for waterproof colors or textile paints and markers.
To do a printer design transfer, take a photo of your artwork and upload it to your computer. Edit the picture as desired, and then print the picture onto T-shirt transfer paper using an inkjet printer. Iron the printed picture onto your shirt---voila! Your shirt is done.
Airbrushing proves a bit more involved than doing a printer transfer. Start by testing your airbrush on a piece of identical fabric (purchasing an extra shirt as a "test shirt" may be necessary).
Connect your air compressor to the correct hose and airbrush. Prepare your colors---one separate bottle for each color. Spray your design on your shirt, or use a stencil (next step) if you're uncomfortable with free-handing.
Trace your design onto a clear stencil sheet. Cut out your design with an X-acto knife---take your time, especially if you plan to reuse the stencil. You'll want it as close to your original design as possible.
Test a strip of fabric as you would with airbrushing, then place the stencil on the T-shirt and use an airbrush to color in the pattern.
To ensure the color dries properly, allow at least five minutes between coats. Rasul suggests you "be patient, especially when using a stencil and fabric sprays. Use light, even coats and don't layer on the coats too thick or the design could chip off."
Heat-set your airbrush or stencil design with an iron and cheesecloth for two minutes. This will protect your design from the elements, and from washing. Though Rasul states that hand-washing may generally keep your shirt in better shape, she says, "If you use the correct materials for fabrics, you can machine wash the shirt without it fading."
1.T-shirt (100 percent cotton, or 50/50 blend)
3.Siphon feed airbrush and correct hose
5.Ink jet printer
7.Digital photograph of your artwork
9.Word processing software
6.T-shirt transfer paper for ink jet printer
10.Clear stencil sheets
12.Fabric spray color
Don't get frustrated if your first designs aren't perfect. Rasul confides, "When I first started making my own T-shirts I used a trial and error method. I would suggest to everyone who wants to make their own clothing to do their homework. There are lots of videos that show you step by step methods for airbrushing, stenciling and transferring." And certainly keep trying. The only way to improve your work is to get comfortable with the tools and materials.