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Airbrush verse Screen Print and Greensboro
September 18, 2015
Airbrush vs Screen print
I have been a professional airbrush artist for the past 4 years working flea markets, baseball tournaments and festivals. I will give my critique of what I have encountered over the past 4 years. I live in Greensboro N.C. and I’m the only regular airbrush artist that I know of within 40 to 100 miles. Different people from their prospective areas are looking for different things when it comes to T-Shirt designs.
Screen printing uses ink called Plastisol which is PVC particles suspended in a special emulsion. The worker squeegees the ink through a screen with a brayer. Once the artist is finished, the paint leaves a melted plastic design that sits on top of the fabric for a rougher textured feel. Because of the plastic texture it is very durable in the wash. The disadvantage is with this tec
hnique it’s virtually impossible to create subtle shades, shadows and color/tone gradients that give a dynamic three dimensional sort of look. This is why screen print has more of a commercial/corporate mass produced sort of look with few colors. But remember, because the artwork is plastic and above the surface of the shirt, over a long period it is susceptible to cracking and peeling.
T-shirt airbrushing in Greensboro is done with a water based acrylic that must also be heat set for permanence. Instead of the artwork being on top of the garment as with screen printing, the artwork is force into the fabric by air which leaves the garment with a smoother feel because the paint soaks into the fabric. A skilled airbrush artist in Greensboro N.C. can paint designs that are photo real because of the subtle shades, shadows and tones that can be achieved with many colors. Airbrush designs are not “Cookie cutter designs” but custom. Before computer graphics took over much of ultra-real ads you saw in magazines may have looked like photographs but are actually airbrush pieces.
Airbrush will not wash out but is more susceptible to some fading of intensity due to washing and drying the garment. The process of the garment rubbing against other clothes causes the particles of the fabric to break off, and some of the paint goes with it. That pile of lint that you peel from your dryers filter is your clothes breaking down with particles of your Greensboro airbrush shirt picture included. Airbrush in Charlotte will also tend to cost more especially if the artwork is detailed and time consuming to design and paint for the artist. The airbrush artist in Raleigh 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 personal preference. One customer may want 15 screen print shirts to advertise his business and prefers a more corporate commercial look. The screen print is probably best suited for his purpose. A local dance team may want a free style, radical ty dye look of a sort, topped off with a silhouette character in the logo. The airbrush look is perfect for them. They like the finished design but it becomes incomparable when all their friends say that’s cool. Where can it get one and their answer is, “It’s one of a kind.”