Airbursh OR silkscreen/screen print Shirts?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by AreYouAMac, Jul 7, 2008.

  1. AreYouAMac macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2008
    Hi all.

    Well I was wondering.. what would be best for having designs on a shirt?

    The two I am debating on is Airbrushing or silkscreening/screen print.

    Things to think about -

    1) Fading -
    Do Airbrush designs fade overtime? I am not sure how much loss of color will be gone.. and how long will it take to start fading.
    I'm unsure if silkscreen will fade or not.

    2) Cracking -
    I am positive that Airbrush designs do not crack but most definitely silkscreening will depending on the quality and thickness of the paint

    3) Vividness / appealing -
    Which one do you think will look more appealing?

    3) Quality -
    Well I figure quality will come down to the shirt and the process on the shirt

    4) Easiness -
    I have yet to try silkscreening... but it does look messy to me. Airbrushing on the other hand... does not seem too bad as I have used it before.

    5) Metallic colors -
    Gold and silver... There are airbrush paint that have gold and silver.. but I am not sure if they too will also fade over time and how they will both look.

    Thanks for any input.
  2. InLikeALion macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2007
    Greener places than I used to live
    Easy. Screen Printing. Each shirt will be "exactly" replicated (as in no inconsistencies from the human airbrusher). You see a huge screen printing design industry because it is more cost-effective and higher quality. How many times have you gone to the mall and seen designer t-shirts? How many times have you thought that airbrush place in the mall was a tacky/cheep trinket shop?

    Not to belittle those who do airbrushing. It can be a really amazing art form. But my point is that you don't generally get that quality vibe from airbrushed t-shirts.
  3. rema macrumors regular

    Sep 16, 2006
    I must say im not an expert but do have some experience in screen printing t-shirts

    1) Screen prints generally hold there colour over a long time, and there should be no issues with fading

    2) screen prints generally don’t have cracking issues if you use the correct ink that’s for fabric printing, or fabric binder with pigments

    3) There’s a huge range of screen printing colours to choose from, and the appeal aspect does really depend on the design. Quality is really good crisp lines and it is easier to do like a batch of t-shirts with same design.

    4) the actual printing side is pretty simple and easy to do, after some practice should be easy its juts just the actual set up of the screens, exposing the images that can be a bit technical and the chemical involved.

    5)You can get metallic screen printing inks, that will last a long time, there are some with added glittery bits that sparkle they don’t last as long in my experience, the glitter bits disappear and your lift with just a metallic type print. but I guess it does depend on the type and brand of ink used

    Hope that’s helps a little bit

    There is a great forum I’m a member of with lots of info and tips about screen printing and other methods of printing t-shirts its
  4. likeavaliant macrumors regular

    Oct 14, 2006
    If you expect normal people to wear your shirt, then definitely DO NOT AIRBRUSH. screen printing is standard for normal tee shirts. airbrushing is for your grandma's sweatshirt with a picture of her cat on it.

    and if you're worried about a mess, just outsource the job. it's not that expensive, but screen printing is fun no matter what.

    what kind of shirts are you trying to print up?
  5. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Got any suggestions on where to get them done?

    Looking for high quality printing on specialized fabric that evaporates sweats.
  6. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

    Sep 22, 2006
    Airbrushed shirts are tacky. Maybe its just the style (since they all seem to be the same), but Ive never seen one I would wear. Its one of those fads from the 90's thats best to forget about.
  7. klymr macrumors 65816

    May 16, 2007
    I agree 100% with all the above posts. Screenprint those babies. I've never done any screenprinting myself, mostly cause I'm scared to buy the supplies and then screw it up, but I hear it's easy and a lot of fun. If I had more of a disposable income I'd be printing all sorts of stuff. I just can't afford for it not to work out right now.
  8. AMDfector macrumors newbie

    Dec 1, 2009
    It's really a matter of taste and personal prefernce

    Airbrush vs. screen-printing really boils down to a matter of taste as well as the function and purpose of the garment.

    I use Mac for 3d animation, motion graphics, as well as photo and video editing and poster/sign design graphics. I have been a professional airbrush artist for the past 25 years owning a store for six years as well as working flea markets, malls and festivals. I will express some personal observations that I have encountered in the market and clientele base I work in. I live in a rural town and the experience of an artist in an urban area may be different from mine.

    To understand the durability of the two mediums you must realize what the inks are made of and what you put a garment through, especially a favorite one you wear often.

    Screen printing uses ink called Plastisol which is PVC particles suspended in a special emulsion. The worker drags the ink through a screen with a scrapper. Once heated and cured it leaves basically a melted plastic design that sits on top of the fabric for a more rough textured feel. It is very durable in the wash. Yet producing designs with subtle shades, shadows and color/tone gradients that give a dynamic three dimensional sort of look is very difficult. That’s why screen print has more of a commercial/corporate mass produced sort of look with few colors. There are new digital printing methods that print directly on the shirt with a digital printer that give that more dynamic 3D look. Because the paint is on top of the fabric it is prone over a long time to crack and peel.

    T-shirt airbrushing is done with a water based acrylic that must also be heat set for permanence. It leaves the garment with a smoother feel because the paint soaks into the fabric. A skilled airbrusher can paint designs that are photo real because of the subtle shades, shadows and tones that can be achieved with many colors. Before computer graphics took over much of ultra real ads you saw in magazines may have looked like photographs but are actually airbrushed.

    Airbrush will not wash out but is more prone to some fading of vibrancy because as you wash and dry the garment and it scrubs against other clothes, particles of the fabric break off, and some of the paint goes with it. That tuft of lint that you peel from your dryers filter is your clothes breaking down with particles of your airbrushed picture included. Airbrush will also tend to cost more especially if the artwork is detailed and time consuming to design and paint for the artist. The airbrusher can create a stencil in order to speed up the mass production of a design so that a large order of shirts can look consistent.

    The choice between the two is a matter of taste and personal preference. One customer comes to me wanting 15 shirts to advertise his business and prefers a more corporate commercial look. The screen print suits his taste and function. A local rock band comes to me and they want a free style, radical graphitti art sort of look with a cool cartoon character in the logo. The airbrush look is perfect for them. They like the finished design but it becomes priceless when all their friends say “THAT’S COOOOOL!!”

    Many of the negative remarks written above are a matter of personal taste. The person who wears $60 Ralph Lauren/Polo shirts is cool in their click and may think airbrush is cheesy. The person who wears a $60 airbrush shirt with a one of a kind custom drawing will get much attention and oohs and ahhhs in his click. The grandma who drives a luxury Mercedes will not get a “Batman” mural sprayed on her hood but she will buy her granddaughter a custom painted batting helmet with butterflies all over it for little league. I have had all sorts of demographics to purchase airbrush over the years for many different functions.

    Finally the skills and abilities of each individual airbrusher vary greatly. You will see a well laid out website with sub standard artwork. But guess what? IT SELLS! When I first started my work looked like “junk” but I made hundreds of dollars. I conclude it’s because people who buy airbrush can’t draw. I have heard that comment from many of my customers. And many are not fine art connoisseurs. They’re not looking for a Michelangelo, they just have an idea and they want it on a shirt and they want it to look cool.

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