Expand Your Product Line and Your Bottom Line
If you understand how to effectively present, promote and deliver the product, and if you’re able to identify, adapt and cater to changing trends, there will always be a market for airbrushed t-shirts and other clothing.
T-shirt airbrushing is one of the best ways to refine your skills and increase your airbrushing speed; the speed at which you’re able to produce/output quality airbrushed work. Maintaining a solid portfolio of quick, excellent t-shirt designs that are periodically reviewed for market relevancy and sales performance, can provide a steady stream of revenue for years and years.
Keeping all of that in mind, may I humbly submit the following:
I don’t want to airbrush $20 dollar t-shirts for the rest of my life!
Sure it’s a great way to get paid doing what I love but airbrushing the same 10-15 minute design over and over again can get extremely monotonous. So what can we do to switch things up and throw a little variety in the mix?
I dunno, let’s first try and identify our major pain points, and then we’ll see what we can do to remedy them.
Pain Point #1: Monotony
We covered this. No question, there are definite advantages to having a strong arsenal of quick and easy airbrush designs – but wth? that can get frickin boring sometimes.
Pain Point #2: Price
A good baseline goal for t-shirt airbrushing is to always aim for a minimum of a dollar per minute. However, like most any other item produced at the hands of a skilled laborer (read: Airbrush Artist), there exists a point of diminishing returns. In other words the monetary return on time invested declines to a point where it no longer makes sense to produce the product. In my experience, unless you’re a specialist in a niche market, the point of diminishing returns for an airbrushed t-shirt is right around $50 bucks.
The bulk of consumers who are in the market for an airbrushed t-shirt will generally pay between $15-$30 without batting an eye. When the price starts treading north of about $50 dollars however, our customer base tends to thin out a bit.
Pain Point #3: T-Shirts are temporary
Just like eggs and bacon, t-shirts are a consumable product albeit with a longer lifespan but consumable none the less. Never mind those that would stretch the life of a shirt 5-or 10 years, the normal average lifespan of a properly heat-set airbrushed t-shirt is gonna be about 2-3 years; maybe 4 if you really baby it. This has a direct influence on the price a person is willing to pay for it.
So what can we do to try and make more people pay more money for our airbrushed art?
Get rid of the t-shirt.
Enter the Cheap and Easy Airbrush Canvas. Moving your airbrushed artwork from t-shirt to canvas alleviates pain points by offering several immediate advantages:
- People expect to pay more. Airbrush the same exact design on a white t-shirt and a framed canvas, which one do you think people would pay more for?
- No more monotony. Quickies will absolutely still sell well in a canvas format–promote them as airbrushed posters; think sport team posters for game rooms– but people are not getting the same designs airbrushed on a canvas that they would be getting on a t-shirt. Show car or pet portraits? Ya you’ll probably still get those. But name designs? No thank you; not here. Also, since you’re able to charge more, you’re able to spend more time on it.
- The lifespan of your product just jumped from 3 years to 30 years. Which again, people are willing to pay more for.
So lets effing make one already!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Foam Board – I used Elmer’s 3/16 in.
- Pennant Felt – many types of fabrics will work, pennant felt just happens to be my favorite to airbrush on. It’s forgiving and easy to work with.
- Scotch or 3M brand Super 77 spray adhesive – there are many other brands with varying levels of adhesion, based on testing, Scotch and 3M Super 77 perform the best and have just the right amount of adhesiveness.
- Craft cutting board – available at craft and sewing stores.
- Razor blade or Xacto knife.
Cut a section of pennant felt large enough to fully cover one side of the foam board. Leaving a bit of excess on all sides will make for an easier fit later when applying it to the foam board.
Iron the pennant felt. I’ve noticed the surface consistency of some pennant felts can really vary. There’s nothing worse than trying to airbrush in fine details and having random fibers poking up catching over spray. Ironing the pennant felt first is going to give you a nice flat, even surface to work with it.
Holding the can about 6-8 inches away from the surface, spray a steady even coat of Super 77 on one side of the foam board with about a 50% overlap on each stroke. This stuff can get everywhere and is a pain to cleanup if you don’t get on it right away. Best to spray it outside on some cardboard.
Give the Super 77 about 2 or 3 minutes to get tacky then grab the foam board with both hands by the edges and fan it up and down a few times to pop any bubbles and dissipate any excessively adhesive areas.
Lay the pennant felt on a clean, flat, even surface and then place the adhesive side of the foam board face down on top of it. Apply even pressure over the entire board then immediately flip it over and peel up one side of the pennant felt to the center of the foam board. Starting from the center of the foam board, use a sweeping motion back and forth across the pennant felt with firm pressure to re-apply it to the foam board. This irons out any bubbles or wrinkles that may have occurred when you initially placed the felt on the board. Repeat this same process on the other side.
Place the foam board felt side down and using the edges of the foam board as a guide, cut away the excess felt with a razor blade.
Boom son; you’re done!
These cheap and easy to make airbrush canvases can be a great addition to your existing airbrush product line up. They offer all the advantages of wood, metal, or traditional canvas substrates without the disadvantages that come with urethane paints. I.e., prep, basecoat, respirator, paint booth etc.
They are extremely lightweight and mobile, which makes them easy to take to carnivals and state fairs; it also makes them very easy to work with and rotate while you’re airbrushing. Because they are easy to hang up, they can add a big visual impact almost anywhere. Perfect for using as wow pieces to draw customers into your shop.
Now, back to the lab!