Upcycle Your Wardrobe with Airbrush Paint and Embroidery

How do you enliven an old pair of jeans? Try a little air brushing and stitch.

aztek airbrush set paint on jeans
I was easily able to create shading and blending on
my daughter’s jeans with the airbrush system from Aztek.

My teenage daughter, Meredith, has been spending a lot of her hard-earned paycheck on a cosplay outfit for an upcoming anime con. This means that she’s had little cash left over for her regular wardrobe.

When I received an AztekĀ® Broad Stroke EZ Airbrush Set and a set of acrylic paints from Testors, it gave me an idea: What if we gave some old jeans a new look with paint and stitch?

Here’s how we did it.

1. We chose silver and turquoise paint colors, figuring they would stand out against the denim but still be in harmony with the fabric.

2. I filled two small quick-connect airbrush bottles each with paint. The beauty of the these bottles is that you can fill them, spray the paint, and then recap them to keep any leftover paint safe for the next use. Plus, you can switch out the jars on the spray gun very easily–no mess.

Note: we hooked the airbrush hose up to a compressor. If you don’t have a compressor, you can use canned air.

3. My inclination was to lay out the jeans on a drop cloth on the floor and spray them. But the directions say to keep the airbrush upright. So, I made a spray booth. I opened the top of a cardboard box, folded down the sides 45 degrees, and put that on the drop cloth. Then I draped the leg of the jeans over the back of the box so I could spray them with the airbrush in an upright position.

upcycle jeans with airbrush paint embroidery
We highlighted the silver painted areas with embroidery
floss and used a fine-point black permanent market
to sketch around the turquoise painted circles.

4. I went first, holding the stencil in place while I sprayed the paint. Although the airbrush directs the paint pretty accurately, you’ll want to wear gloves and a face mask, just in case. You can adjust the intensity of the spray simply by turning the screw top on the paint jar slightly while it’s attached to the pen.

Note: If I wanted a very precise edge to my stenciled image, I would have taped the stencil onto the fabric with painter’s tape, to keep it in close contact with the fabric.

5. Meredith gave the airbrush a try, spraying the jeans with each color, over lapping the stenciling here and there and going back and forth between colors. She daughter loved the results.

We let the paint dry (it didn’t take very long) and assessed our work. We decided to add hand stitching around the silver circles and some light outlining with a black permanent marker around the turquoise. Perfect!

Final thoughts:

  • I’d never used an airbrush before and found the Aztek Airbrush Collection easy and fun to work with.
  • I really like the way you can shade and blend with the misted paint. Very creative for stenciling and other mixed-media crafts.
  • I was worried that the paint–especially the metallic silver–would make the fabric stiff. But that wasn’t the case. The jeans are still very wearable.

I think a thrift shop jeans jacket will be our next project!

Be sure to check out all the great art and craft products you can use to upcycle clothing, create home decor, and more from Testors.


Art to Wear, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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