Every couple of years, more or less, a groundbreaking idea emerges, or re-emerges, that gives a particular application(s) the shot in the arm it urgently needs. And such an epiphany punctuated the September 2007 Las Vegas Getaway: the amazing marriage of House of Kolor’s automotive-targeted Ice Pearls on T-shirts!
Before we delve into the how, I’ll share the back story, or, to quote Merovingian from the Matrix movies, “Za why.” Skip Chance, House of Kolor’s Director of Sales, brought to my attention a T-shirt that Terry Hill airbrushed as part of a quick demo incorporating House of Kolor’s Ice Pearls (by the way, Terry’s Getaway demos are extremely informative and worth the price of admission alone). My jaw dropped, and fireworks feverishly popped in my head! The shirt just exploded under the light, with sparkles seemingly bouncing in a million directions with brilliant luminescence. I stared at it and said, “What theâ€¦?” David Monnig, of Coast Airbrush, waved this magic little jar, labeled “Ice Pearls.” “This is what you’re seeing,” he said.
Craig Fraser added, “They’re actually micro flakes of glass. The makeup of Ice Pearl up is very similar to what’s found in women’s shimmering cosmetics.”
When I addressed the possibility of skin irritatin, Hill, who had discovered and successfully used this technique twenty years before with Ditzler Micro Sequins (a now defunct product), confirmed that he’d never known of anyone to experience an allergic reaction to micro flakes. Also, Terry shared that heat-setting a shirt with Ice Pearls wasn’t a problem because glass melts at about 1200- degrees and shirts are pressed at 375. In fact, Hill further explained that, “it has the added benefit of being suspended in a medium that acts as a clearcoat for your shirt.” Mind you, other more widely used methods of adding glitter to garments, such as aerosol spray glitter and craft glitter or dry flakes using hairspray as an adhesive, all ultimately fail in the wash. Not so with this method. Shirts sprayed with Ice Pearls hold up beautifully in the wash. Most importantly, heat-setting and washing had no effect on the Pearl’s brilliance–the art still looked great!
I also discovered that when the Ice Pearls are not reflecting, you can’t see them. The significance of this is that you don’t have to worry about the Ice Pearls covering or muddying up any of your work, unlike traditional flakes that are shaken over the top of the art. You see, Ice Pearls are suspended directly into the base pigment of whatever medium you use (in this case Createx Extender), so unlike traditional flake, you’re never going to experience those dead spots where the flake has positioned itself incorrectly on the surface and translates to little black spots. Ice Pearls always attach to the shirt at optimum angles for reflectivity because of their microflake design. The other unique thing about Ice Pearls is that they’re manufactured for automotive use as an additive to base-coats, Kandies, and clears, among others.
HIP HOP ICED
My testing took place after the Getaway, and Skip was kind enough to send samples of the Ice White, Ice Red, and KPF series Kameleon Green-to-Blue pearls (this is a Kameleon color shift pearl, and not the glass flake as with the Ice Pearls).
My first experiment incorporated a custom design using each color in specific areas. I wanted to know if I could control the area to be covered, as well as the intensity. Again, this runs completely contrary to traditional T-shirt glitter applications where the location and intensity are very random. Also, I wanted to know if the results would be consistent enough to use in some of the display/production designs at my shops.
With these objectives in mind, I got busy. I thought the perfect design for this application would be the “Rollin” hip-hop shirt featured in the July-August 2007 issue of Airbrush Action. So I decided to come up with a similar theme but rendered on a white shirt to maximize the color vibrancy.
I airbrushed the Ice Red over the car, which reacted perfectly with the red of the car, and offset it nicely with the rims, where I applied the Ice White. Ice White was also used on the grill and on his “ginormous” watch. Last, I sprayed the Kameleon Greento-Blue on the “bling” lettering at the bottom.
I worked with a mix of one-half-teaspoon of Ice Pearl per every two ounces of color (you may use more or less depending on your personal preference), and unlike glitter, there’s no over-spill or glitter flying everywhere. And, because Ice Pearls are so finely manufactured, they sprayed through my Iwata Eclipse smoothly and perfectly. However, make sure to shake well before spraying to resuspend the Ice. Folks, I urge anyone currently using glitter on their shirts to throw out that messy crap. Ice Pearls are simply unbelievable.
The real moment of truth came when I viewed the result under the light. Awesome! The specific areas sprayed with the Pearl Ice exploded with reflectivity and light. What’s more, the millions of tiny prisms enhanced the actual color of the original paint, and the color shift that occurred in the letters blew me away. Until Ice Pearls, I thought I’d seen everything related to T-shirts.
Unfortunately, photography does not do the effect enough justice; you really have to see this in person to believe it. You’ll have to trust my word for now that this is a vibrant, clean, and powerful way to profoundly enhance your designs and pointof-purchase appeal. That’s huge.
THE HEART DESIGN
Now, let’s further examine how this new approach will enhance your everyday life in the T-shirt biz.
One of my best sellers is definitely heart designs, so I thought of no better way to really show off the effects of Ice Pearls than in a super-sweet lover’s heart design.
This piece starts with a medium-sized heart stencil. To keep the Ice Pearl isolated, I used the negative part of the stencil. First, I airbrushed the inside colors of the heart with fluorescent pink edged with red, fluorescent violet, and violet. Keeping the stencil attached, I sprayed Ice White over the color. Ice White seems to offer the most vibrant reflectivity, particularly on a T-shirt. With the stencil removed, notice the awesome brilliance of the light reflecting off of it (Step 1). It’s worth repeating that photos just don’t accurately show the brilliance of this technique.
With fluorescent pink, I formed the small hearts and swirls that surround the main heart, and then edged them out and added depth in the swirls with brite red and just a little violet (Step 2).
The name was added with a drop-shadow. A close-up of this step better illustrates how the opaque black covers the Ice White, showing the great distinction between the shimmering background and the name (Step 3).
Highlight and we’re finished. The focal point here is how the Ice White offsets the traditional paint alone. Wow! What a difference(Step 4).
THE SEXY PIXIE
For the next test, I selected a design that’s not totally custom and not completely production. Here, I applied the Ice Pearl to the whole shirt and not just to specific sections.
My theme for the next image was Victoria’s Secret meets sexy cartoon pixie. I’m sure you were thinking the same thing. With a medium brown-colored pencil, I lightly sketched the drawing onto the shirt. Seeking the emerald look, I fleshed out my little vixen with Forest Green. I had some fun with the hair, the pose, and just the general flirty attitude (Pixie 1).
I airbrushed Caribbean Blue and Fluorescent Yellow to the wing to warm it up a bit (Pixie 2), and rendered more detail to the wings and finished the rest of her body (Pixie 3).
To add more depth, I deepened the color in the baseof the wings with Brite Blue, following the forms. Brite Blue was also used for the hair to really give it that emerald glow (Pixie 4).
For the randomly chosen light source, I airbrushed a mix of Fluorescent Pink and Fluorescent Violet. Notice that the designated areas for this color coordinate with the ever-so-cool pink pixie dust that will fill the background.
Here, I gave our Pixie her much needed warmth (Pixie 5) and finished adding Pink and Violet to the rest of her body (Pixie 6).
For the magical pixie dust, it’s important to keep your movements flowing and random, but still have an idea where you want it all to go. If you don’t pre-meditate this to some degree, your pattern may wind up being too heavy on one side or the other (Pixie 7, page 52).
Then, I used opaque white to highlight her eyes, hair, wings, and face, and to add extra “magic” to the pixie dust. The white also served to offer a sense o f movement and to give the illusion of pixie dust flying all around her (Pixie 8, page 52).
Because Ice Pearls really shine when applied over a lot of color, I decided to saturate the background with a mix of Sunrise Yellow and opaque white–I just had an instinct that a nice warm glow would complement our Pixie perfectly. For this application, opaques were perfect for cleaning up areas around the Pixie that needed it.
The edges of the background were completed by blending in some fluorescent pink to the yellow (Pixie 9, page 52). With the Pixie and background complete, I added the Ice White to really make it shine! Using our ratio of Ice White to extender, I shook it well and sprayed about 10 to 12 inches from the surface. Another great thing about Ice White is that the more you spray the denser and brilliant it becomes.
In other words, you’re in complete control of its level of intensity. Also, there’s a very short dry time after Ice Pearls hit the surface. I was blown away by the result. The amount of light jumping off the shirt forces you to step back and take it all in. It looks absolutely amazing in person! (Pixie 10, 11, and close-up).
For me, Ice White was the most sparkling and effective for T-shirt applications, and the added revenue from Ice Pearls by far outweighs the cost. Coast Airbrush packages Ice Pearls in 1/2-ounce jars that retail for $24.95 (they’re also available from HOK jobbers in 2-ounce containers for $97.89). Add just one-half-teaspoon to a 2-ounce color bottle, and that should last for about 20 T-shirts.
Put another way: a half-ounce bottle of Kolor’s advanced technology. And kudos to Terry Hill for sharing a long-held secret. I’d be remiss if I didn’t advise you to wear a mask when spraying Ice Pearls. The use of Ice Pearls, and how to profit with them, will be taught hands-on in the T-Shirt Airbrushing course at the upcoming Las Vegas Getaway February 25-29th, and subsequent Getaways(see page 41 for details).