Killer Airbrush Q&A: Painting on Matte, Neon Shirts

Airbrush Q&A

Got questions? What airbrush artist doesn’t? Gear and equipment, materials and additives, techniques and tools—the options are legion, and keeping up with it all can be overwhelming. Fortunately, when you’re confronted with a puzzle, Airbrush Action has got your back! We’ve asked top artists to help us get answers for these readers’ questions. Log on to our Facebook page to pose some of your own, or e-mail ceo@airbrushaction.com, and we’ll answer them here, and in future issues.

On the Matte

Can you airbrush over matte black? Or matte finish? – Donte Adams

Absolutely. But it’s a good idea to test the paint you plan to use on a scrap piece of the material before you get down to business. “Sometimes paint of different manufacturers has a different sheen,” notes photorealistic painter Kirk Lybecker. “It happens a lot in artist colors. If you are not intending to put a clear coat or varnish coat on the work, this is going to matter. One of the laws of airbrush survival is to try it out before you screw up someone’s motorcycle.”

In general, though, “You can airbrush on anything that will stand still for it,” Lybecker says. “I don’t recommend trying this out on the cat, for reasons that I don’t care to explain.”

Neon Knights

Has anyone ever worked on color shirts (neon green, yellow, and pink)? Do I prep as black shirts? – Albert Avila

Neon shirts, a major fad in the 1980s, are making a comeback. “There’s no prep needed, really, you can paint right on them,” says Terry Hill, master of T-shirt airbrushing. But you do have to keep that background color in mind.

“The majority of T-shirt paints are transparent, so the shirt color is going to come through the design,” Hill explains. “If you spray blue on a neon yellow shirt, for example, what you’ll see is green.” Color contrast is affected, too; fluorescent paint on a neon shirt won’t pop the way it will against a white background. So it’s important to think the design through carefully before you start.

“Fluorescent shirts make very nice backgrounds for sunset designs and such,” Hill finds. “You just have to create your design and make your stencil with the color of the shirt in mind. It can still be contrast-y enough to look great.”

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