Remember when I put out a single about love & outer space? And the dope cassette art for it was based on a NASA photo of Space Shuttle Discovery? I know what you’re thinking, “Man, it would have been so cool if you had made that art into a t-shirt.” Good news! I did!!
But these are no mass market shirts. I wanted to replicate the look and feel of your favorite old t-shirt, and that requires some effort!
The space shuttle heat transfer.
I modified the original NASA photo into a simpler black & white image, so we could get iron-on, heat transfers made. I’ve done plenty of DIY silk screening in the past, but I had never designed heat transfers before. It took a few tries but ultimately worked out pretty well.
After ordering the transfers, I needed blank shirts with the right feel. If they felt new, it would ruin the whole effect. After a good bit of searching, I stumbled on a company that runs their t-shirts through multiple, harsh mineral washes to soften them up. Bingo!
To make the design look worn-in, there are some easier approaches, but those only result in that Target brand, fake-vintage style. Nothing wrong with that! It just doesn’t feel or look like an actual well-loved tee, nested in the back of your dresser drawer.
Me, using sandpaper to scuff up the heat transfer.
A genuine look requires multiple stages of manual distressing. When the heat transfers arrived, I peeled them off the sheets they came on and rubbed them with fine sandpaper. This produced some good scuffs and occasional tears.
Brendan took the sanded transfers, ironed them onto the shirts, and handed them back. I pulled out a bottle of nail polish remover and a small paintbrush. Painting acetone onto the design is a little tricky; if you use too much, it just smears everything. So I took my time with it and grimyed up the shuttles just enough.
Brendan ironing on the heat transfer.
Brendan peeling the transfer’s clear backing off the shirt. Very satisfying.
Afterward, Brendan ran all the shirts through a washing machine filled with salt and washing soda. This just gave the transfers a more finished, natural appearance and slightly brightened the fabric.
They turned out super soft, true to size, and thin—like your favorite, beat-up band shirt that you just can’t bear to get rid of. Every shirt looks a little different, which is a feature, not a bug. Given all the labor & experimentation involved, we limited this first batch to an extremely small run. If you want one, you better move quick!
If your size sells out before you can get one, ping me, so I know to make more of that size next time.
Close up of the heat transfer after it’s been applied and distressed.
The torso of a man wearing the finished t-shirt.
To celebrate this excellent new apparel, I’ve included a previously unreleased lyric video for the song that inspired it. I managed to sync NASA footage of the sun with the underlying beat of the song, and I think it came out looking pretty dang neat.