Erykah Badu’s afro & The Healer lyrics iron transfer tee

So here’s that new post (after a while) as photos of tees I did in the recent past started coming my way. Take this advice people, never give the t-shirts you made away without taking some photos of them first!

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The all-famous Erykah Badu. When her New Amerykah album came out in 2008 there were just so many crazy beat things going on in there, you couldn’t keep your head out of it. Favorite track, The Healer, a tribute to the great J Dilla, had this awesome bold Madlib production on it, it got stuck and had to become a tee.

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This is a kind of rework I did on one of her afro photos, photoshoping letters one-by-one to add this lyric line around her head, spoken like it’d be in a weird graphic novel or comic book. It goes: “We ain’t dead” said the children. “Don’t believe it, we just made ourselves invisible”. The song has great lyrics throughout but this line just does it for me with that sneaky “you can’t see us but we’re there” attitude of lo-fi young culture and love for hip-hop theme.

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How to do your own iron transfer tee: Help by Thee Oh Sees

Here’s my latest effort. As I had the opportunity to take more photos this time, I thought it’d be wise to build a kind of guide on how to do an iron transfer t-shirt. So, here are the steps.

My choice first of all was the brilliant Oh Sees album cover for Help. The cover is all yellow-ish around the design but that can be very easily turned to white with Photoshop. What you should then do is print a sample page before printing on the actual iron-on transfer paper (it comes a bit expensive, best check your inks, colors, size etc. first). Remember that for iron transfers you always have to use an inkjet printer and don’t forget to mirror print your image if necessary (it wouldn’t make much difference for this purple bat as it’s already almost mirror art).

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Next step. Use a scalpel knife or something of the same nature to cut around your transfer. Cut close to the design line.

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Once you’ve done that you’re ready to proceed. Preheat the iron to the maximum temperature, turning off steam (don’t forget that, it’ll ruin your transfer). Do your ironing according to instructions that come with each paper, always on a firm surface (I used the floor) with an ironed piece of cloth beneath. Iron your t-shirt as well, to avoid any cracks.

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It’s wise to use silicon sheets on top of the design when ironing for best results.

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When you’re done with the ironing you have to act fast. Remove the silicon sheet, always have the knife handy for lifting paper off the design edges, pull the paper off while it’s still a bit hot (this way you’ll achieve a matte finish and won’t have pieces of paper stuck on your tee).

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There you go, all done! And always check whether the t-shirt fits you before going on with the transfer. This Oh Sees tee was a size too small after washing and had to be given away. Unfortunately.

Black & white tee: Make Up’s tribute to Love

Make Up are mostly famous for their talented frontman Ian Svenonius (you will nowadays find him with his recent band, Chain & The Gang, who are also a lot of fun but in a different way). Back in 1997 Make Up released their Sound Verite album, with a cover that paid tribute to the classic 1967 Love album Forever Changes (another extraordinary persona there, the great Arthur Lee). Art in both included the faces of band members mixed in a psychedelic sort of way.

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My idea for this was to simply reproduce the Sound Verite cover for a black & white transfer on a black tee. To do this I just Photoshop-ed it a bit to change the red color to white and smooth the design lines a little. I used the JET-Opaque II iron transfer paper as I needed the design to have that white base (otherwise it wouldn’t be visible on a black tee).

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As you can see, after some washing was done, the transfer lost lots of that original heavy black ink color and shrinked a bit in the bottom right. For the first one, I’d say follow the washing instructions that come with the paper (washing in higher temperature will result in this discoloration). The shrinking on the other hand, may have appeared ’cause I didn’t put enough pressure with the iron on that side of the design. I do not own a professional heat press which has the best results with this kind of transfers (however, screen printing remains the best way to do t-shirts I hear), so if you don’t too, apply as much pressure as possible when ironing over the paper.

Black Flag’s album cover detail on a white tee

So Raymond Pettibon did play the bass for Black Flag back in 1976 (at least according to Wikipedia, they were called Panic back then). Of course he didn’t continue his music career but did a lot of art, the famous four bars logo and stuff like that for the band (his most adored album cover however remains Sonic Youth’s Goo, more on which you can find in this older post). The detail on the t-shirt below is from Black Flag’s 1984 Family Man album done by the same artist. I just love the bright colors for this dark subject depicted and thought it would look great on a white tee.

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To do this I used the Jet-Pro SofStretch iron transfer paper which you can find in the yolö online store (if you live somewhere in Europe anyway, for dark fabrics refer to the previous post). The paper worked pretty good to begin with but, as you can see, there were a lot of cracks after washing a couple of times. To avoid this I would suggest following the washing instructions that come with the paper, usually something like cold water, wash inside-out etc. Never did follow those which I think would be a good idea to start doing.

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To be honest, I don’t mind those cracks that much, they give an old feel to the t-shirt.

Never got to find out what that “November 23, 1963” date is all about. In fact, it’s one day after the John F. Kennedy assassination. Other than that I really don’t know. If you have a better clue let me know people!

Burned iron-on transfer: Girly Sonic Youth tee

There’s such a huge gap in the t-shirt photos I have. I used to make a lot for friends and now have to go looking as I didn’t keep an archive unfortunately.

This is a much more recent one, done probably around 2010, girly tee involving Sonic Youth’s Goo back coverGoo’s album cover is surely one of the most loved, heavily printed and altered for fun pieces of art. Same goes for almost all the album covers done by Raymond Pettibon, whom you can check out in OFF!’s Black Thoughts video doing his thing (great artist, definitely refer to his bio if you’re not yet familiar).

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For this tee, I went with the back cover as an alternative to the exhaustively used front one (don’t get me wrong, I own a Goo tee too and love both, album and t-shirt art). The line goes “NOTHING….LIPSTICK, A LITTLE BLOOD”.

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See that brown-ish decolorization on the transfer? That ought to be the tip for this post. It’s better not to go buying iron-on transfer paper from a chain store brand. Such bad quality. I ironed this one for a few seconds more than I should have and suddenly turned to burned brown paper. Be careful choosing your paper, do your research and spend a bit more to have a nice result.

Remaking a destroyed t-shirt: Fugazi Repeater photos

I absolutely love Fugazi’s Repeater all the way through, great album. Used to listen to it a lot when I was younger. The cd booklet contained some of their best B&W photos. Going through these I came up with the idea of placing 2 square photos on a t-shirt, the guitarist and bass player turning their backs to the photographer and each other, but kind of like jamming or something like that.

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I have to say that I did print that t-shirt  first at a tees printing shop in my neighbourhood, used a plain white one. That was quite a long time ago. Well, that one didn’t survive to see much, it was thrown away after getting soaked in red wine along with some other clothes back in 2003.

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As I was really fond of it, I just had to reproduce it once again by myself. Nothing difficult there, 2 black & white photos scanned and lightly photoshoped, I used a color tee this time (should have sticked to a white one, I think it looked much better) and it was ready.

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Got this for about a decade now, it seems to be getting pretty worn down so a new reproduction might be on its way.

A stencil and iron-on transfer mix (as it turned out): Gang of Four tee

Done around 2003, this was supposed to be an all Brazilian-like baggy yellow t-shirt with a green Gang of Four stencil on it, inspired by their first few singles corner font line. I was probably also listening to Pigbag doing their Brazil nuts tune at the time.

At first, well, the t-shirt wasn’t that yellow and I didn’t have any fabrics spray paint so I used the first green one I found at home. Stencil didn’t turn out that good, spread quite a bit.

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It wasn’t after some time that I thought of printing and using each letter on top of the original stencil which was already a little worn out from washing. Darker green transfer worked great and background now-lighter spray paint looked like a photoshop shadow. Or even better.

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A simple idea for combining two different tee techniques, but do be careful when ironing on top of spray paint, use silicon sheets or something like that. This is what it looks like now, completely fainted.