How to Airbrush Black T Shirt (Hulk)

Do you have any experience or do you know how to airbrush on black t-shirt? Well, to create a real masterpiece on the black surface that it will look like it is coming out of that black is a real challenge. After reading the following tutorial I found out it is not an easy task, especially since I don’t have any experience with painting on t-shirts at all. If you’ve also never done anything like t-shirt or you’ve never painted a black t-shirt I think you may find this step by step guide very useful.

The client brought a black t-shirt and asked me to make eyes on his back, eyes that will tell something like – “I’m watching you!“.

I choose eyes of comics figure – Hulk and client asked me to make it all in blue tone. A few manipulations in Photoshop and I had design ready to show for customer. He approved it and I could start working.

First I had to make guides to transfer the picture onto the t-shirt. I’ve made a stencil out of a few taped together pages of A4 sheets where I actually printed the picture. I used a marker to select parts I needed to transfer the picture. Because the shirt is black I left for stencil only bright areas and some small details. Then I made few holes on the edges of that stencil so I can fit it onto the t-shirt.

I’ve used paints Jacard (white opaque). I’ve sprayed it over the stencil and right after this step I ran into a trouble because of fuzz that is so unpredictable and so obvious when you work with t-shirts. What I’ve done is I got rid of it just by using a masking tape (taping it around my finger with the sticky site on the outside). When the textile is clear from the fuzz you can work on it without the problem. I also recommend ironing it before you start.

Airbrushing Hulk on T-shirt – Step 1

After you’re done with stencil you should remove the stencil look by freehand airbrushing (airbrush Jas 1117 in my case). To make the whole affect as best as possible I’m using the rule which helps me when I work on dark surfaces all the time:

The light will show the shadow; Shadow will show the light. ->Tweet this

On this level it’s very important for layer of white paint to create surface for further details and colors layout. What we do is to lay “the light” not giving a damn about the details right now. Those will be done at the end.

There is an universal rule for all the artist not only for airbrush artists nor t-shirts paintings – From time to time make a step back and look at your work from the distance. It will help you to find mistakes and define which part still needs more of your attention.


OK, now in this step I’m working on the right side of the painting and making an accent for the main areas with white color. Next I’ve laid a layer of white color on the left area where I’m going to have the main shadows. The source of light is on the right which means the whole left side is going to be covered with shadows except for areas of reflected light from other objects.


White base is ready. Now I need black, not usual black but mix of brown, blue and violet to create real looking shadows. I’ll start from the top and then go softly over those areas where I’m going to lay shadows, as you can see on the next picture.


Now I’m going to explain why I didn’t use black color. White color on textile stays on top and does not mix with color of textile but I need a mixes of colors because only mix can show the dimension. There are no clean colors in Mother Nature and our eye is receiving only mixes of different shades. So to get closer to reality I’m mixing color by putting them on each other. This is very popular technique used by all artists which gives depth to our image and also it allows to have a control in the process of laying paint. The best for this technique are transparent paints. You can put one on top of another to get the required dimension.

Here I’m making the image even deeper with my black color.


I’ve marked the area where I made shadow that wasn’t on the reference (sorry but I didn’t save the reference picture). I’m going to explain why. The human nose beside bones is built out of muscles also. You can see those muscles at the particular angle. I’ve made some notes for myself to watch all the muscles of this face where I should be very careful with shadows. That’s why I covered it with white.

I’m filling up the left side with black and continuing to optimize the main shadow areas. I’ve also used flexible mask to make skin texture look as real as possible. I’m a newbie in this area and this was my first experiment which I think ended very well. I really like this effect a lot.

The colors made for this tutorial are made using special process because, for example, to get blue I’ve had to use mix of blue and a bit of yellow. I use very occasionally clean colors, as I’ve explained before – there is no such colors in nature, all the colors are mix of something and the pallet is made by shades.


On this snap (finished art) you can see that I’ve added colors only to the light areas, on dark areas I’ve left a mix of black and white colors and I just dimmed it all with blue because from the distance the human brain will complete all the shades by itself.

You can put your signature bellow because the job is done. I always leave my signature on my works unless the customer doesn’t want it but up until now I haven’t had such clients because if you do your job well they will be happy to have your signature there.

Of course, as you can see I connected the painting with the t-shirt itself using black color which will give the whole image the dimensions.

Another 5 hours of work and another piece of art is going to the customer that pays.

I hope you like this tutorial and I want to say thanks to everyone reading and following it to the end.

dmitryFor everyone who want to see more works from Dmitry, check out his Facebook Fan Page

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3 Comments on “How to Airbrush Black T Shirt (Hulk)”

  • Not as easy as it seems, actually very hard on ! Congrat it looks nice

    • Yes Nico, you are right, it is not that easy. It’s also a pity that author could not find other pictures from some of the steps and still it’s an awesome tutorial where I, for example, learned some new things.

  • That is a very nice piece of work and a good tutorial.
    I agree that you make it look a LOT easier than it is to actually do..