I really love going to shows and having something to remember them by. Some shows now are done with completely paperless transactions, meaning I don’t get the traditional ticket stub to save. And, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I lose the stub. There’s dancing and shoving and craziness at general-admission shows and sometimes stuff happens, what can I say?
I’m going to admit this: I am a concert t-shirt junkie. I love them. I would buy one for every show if I could. First, I think it is great to support a band that you like, especially the up and comers who are doing all their own marketing and paying for everything out of pocket themselves because they don’t have the benefit of a huge label’s financing and a slick marketing team. Some bands are just so far removed from all that stuff, though, they don’t even notice. One t-shirt doesn’t put a big bump into their profits. Then there are festivals, where you could rack up hundreds of dollars’ worth of t-shirt sales just to get one for everybody you see. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend that kind of money on other shows and concerts.
So… what’s a fan to do?
Well, it depends on how creative you are and how much time you’re willing to invest in it. A friend of mine from high school and I figured out something one day. She’s big into self-tanner and actually had an airbrush kit to do it herself. I had no idea this was a thing but it is. I got to wondering if there were other things we could do with the spray gun and bought some cheap t-shirts and some paint. I borrowed her gun and made a stencil with the logo for the school play we were doing at the time. I used the gun and sprayed the t-shirt through the stencil and tada: custom designed shirts!
The possibilities are endless if you’re willing to sit with a craft knife and make a stencil, and once you get used to it, it starts to get really easy. As far as the spray gun goes, I have a few recommendations.
- The best spray guns are HVLP paint sprayers. For this type of work, you need something with a nozzle on the smaller side and something that doesn’t have a lot of overspray (meaning the pressure doesn’t vaporize most of your paint into the atmosphere instead of onto your shirt where you want it to be).
- They sell electric HVLP sprayers and also sprayers with their own small compressors. If you don’t go for one of those two options, you will likely need to buy an air compressor also to run the gun itself. I use one that has its own tankless air compressor. That means the compressor runs the whole time, but it is pretty quiet so it isn’t as bad as it sounds.
- Gravity fed guns will allow you to use less paint than siphon fed guns. This is a lot of fancy talk for where the tank goes—top is gravity fed, underneath is siphon fed. And if you don’t understand the concept, think of your shampoo bottle. After awhile, you have to start storing it upside-down or you’ll never get the last bit out of the bottle. It’s the same concept. If it’s upside-down already, you get all of the paint with less work.
- Plan your design and make a really good stencil. You can copy an existing design, although that’s kind of frowned upon, or you can make up your own. Tape the stencil in place! I made one for a band that listed all the shows that I’ve seen and where I saw them. It was pretty awesome, and now if I catch them again, I add the venue at the bottom of the list. It’s really cool.
- Practice, practice, practice! Seriously, lay out some newspaper and spray your design til you can get it looking crisp and neat. Take your time and it’ll look awesome!
- Don’t get washable paint. Easy clean up, yes, but unless you want your design to disappear when you launder your shirt, stick with fabric paints. If they clog your paint sprayer, use a little paint thinner and you should be good to go.
Enjoy your one-of-a-kind concert memorabilia!