Monday, June 29, 2009

Painting Gorgeous Hawaiian T-Shirts

Ladies and gentleman, It is so much fun to paint in the watercolor style on T-shirts. People ask me all the time "Is it airbrushed?" I tell them "No, it's hand-painted with a bamboo brush. I developed my technique in 1985 after learning from an Australian girl how to mix acrylic paints for use on fabric. She used only sponge brushes and painted circles and squares on white cotton fabric, which she then cut and sewed into beautfiful jackets, pants, & tops.
I started practicing on old sheets and pillow cases and purchased lots of colors of liquitex brand paints. Light blues, aqua, violet-blue, white and primary colors to create pinks, rasberries, fuscias, dark purples and yellow are my favorites. Sometimes now I add hot colors to the mix like Light and dark orange. I love the new Golden paints because they have such vivid color due to their amazing pigments.
In 1985 I began to paint on cotton as my canvas. I started with abstract brush strokes to get loosened up. Sort of a Japanese calligraphy stroke for sky, earth, land is how I began loosely adding water then paint, then water then paint. I was hooked. I continued with a vintage hibiscus looking flowers, purple orchids that were so soft and amazing to me. I never knew I could paint. It just came to me. I kept going without fear because I was using old pillow cases and sheets that didn't matter if I made a mistake. I could throw it away if it wasn't beautiful. This enabled me to relax and go with the flow of the Paint. Well, with my first thirty pieces I cut them into halter dresses, capris and little cap sleeved tops that I took to a boutique in Wailuku, Maui and sold. I bought a car with my first sale. That was fun. Throughout the years I moved on to t-shirts, sweatshirts, leggings and pillows which sold wherever I worked. While working as a registered nurse in California since 1989, my designs would sell like crazy. I tried my first Craft Fair at Cross Creek in Malibu, near "the Colony" and had great success.
I have always outlined my designs as a finishing touch using an ultra fine point permanent marker to enhance all the colors and shapes. Now thirty years later I am finally relaxing and allowing the paint to just be. It is exhilarating to let go and enjoy the freedom. Follow my video demos to see how you too can paint as easy as one-two-three. See for samples of hand-painted tees and look for coming soon for all my Hawaiian Designs Made on Maui. Hope you enjoy and have fun painting. It is great therapy for body, mind, soul and spirit. I teach monthly at Ben Franklin Crafts Ka`ahumanu Shopping Center on Maui and will do streaming live video on Class times and dates are posted on my web-sites. Aloha for now. I look forward to seeing you soon. Post your comments ok.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

T-Shirt Design

So you want to be a T-shirt designer! Me too. I decided somehow that I love the t-shirt as my canvas. It all began with painting on tees, one by one with acrylic paints as my medium. I have never used fabric paints specifically, but do use a fabric painting medium to add to my iridescent colors to make them adhere and extend the paint more beautifully. I use any kind of acrylic paints which are watered down to a nice consistency that I can use wet into wet for painting on t-shirts with 100% cotton or cotton blends such as cotton/lycra, cotton/spandex, and even 50/50 poly cotton, which I rarely use. After many years of painting on tees I decided it was about time to mass-produce my work and sell them extensively. I haven't duplicated the hand-painted look yet, but did come up with a multitude of graphic Hawaiian designs that have been received well here on Maui. You can see many samples of my hand-painted t-shirts at and the Amaryllis of Hawaii Books I created.
I started by drawing ideas on paper but realized by viewing many Youtube videos, that I could do vector drawings in Adobe Illustrator that would be camera ready high resolution drawings suitable for the silk-screen process. So I began to practice drawing in Illustrator. What fun. Using the pen, pencil and brush tools I began by just scribbling, drawing leaves, drawing petals doing swirls and basically just playing with the tools to get the hang of it. By making a line then highlighting it and changing the brush I could see how my lines would look in a different brush style. This was fun. By simply drawing one side of a petal, highlighting that curved line then selecting the flip tool I could change position of that petal or copy (control c) and pasting (control v) or alt and dragging it to repeat that image over and over. What a trip! I was on my way. I drew plumerias by making one petal and repeating the petal by copying and pasting several times then selecting each petal and with the free form tool turning the image slightly (rotating) to the desired position and situating it to line up at the center of the flower. I will show you next time by filming it and actually demonstrating for you.
The leaves followed and the swirls too. The tedious part was placing every piece of line and deciding if it looked good there. FUN for me.
So I began to draw and save unfinished work because it is better to just get started than wait forever as you can go back and work it again until it is finished, just like doing a book you can start anywhere as long as you get going and stay at it every day, you will complete it if you believe in yourself and just press on.
I stuck with just using black line work for now because I wanted to keep it simple and knew that my designs would be printed with white ink on colored tees and on black tees. The first multi-colored designs were worked in Illustrator also with several colors of blue plumerias done in line work. I suggest you start your first drawings by drawing with the mouse or on a lap top by just using your finger on the mousepad. I like this best. The mouse is trickier for me but you can get the hang of it.
Just try it and have fun. Save your work and come back later. I will show examples of my t-shirts in the header of this blog which were all created in Illustrator except for the long sleeve four tropical flowers design which was a watercolor that I photographed then tweaked it (MOVED parts of the paint splatters and copied and pasted to other areas) in Photoshop and had the graphic artist for my silk-screener do the color separations and at the last minute I told them to do the paint splatters in baby blue rather than gold, (the original color). It was a really exciting though stressful process because I had chosen to do fourteen new designs between August 2008 and December 2008.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Aloha everyone,
Welcome to t-shirtsbymarilyn, where I'll share with you how to design and paint on t-shirts!
I'll show you how to get ideas, how to lay-out your design and how to design on the computer in adobe illustrator and photoshop.

I look forward to sharing.