Instructables
Last year I had the urge to print my own T-shirt. I couldn't find photo emulsion locally and I didn't want to pay to have a large quantity shipped. Instead, I made a stencil (with an island) as a cheap substitute.

Yes, that's a check engine light. I now own a VW and was told that I'd have check engine lights every 1000 miles.... It's been a little bit less than 10,000 miles now... no light. I'm still amused by the low washer fluid light and alarm :)


My apologies for the low quality pictures....
 
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Contact Paper (the stuff with a sticky back) -- shelf paper works too.
Fabric Paint
A bit of cardboard or plastic or something to prevent the paint from bleeding through the back
Something to push paint around evenly (a scrip bit of cardboard will work)
Razor knife and cutting board

Step 2: Find an Image and cut stencil

The image I'll be making is a common check engine light. Carefully and patiently cut your stencil.

Once the stencil is cut to your liking, remove the paper backing and stick the contact paper on your shirt.

Step 3: Apply Paint

Apply a line of paint above the stencil. Using a straight bit of cardboard (or in my case a plastic ruler) - drag the paint over your stencil.

Ideally, you only want one coat of paint. But due to my lack of experience, I think I applied too much pressure and didn't leave enough paint behind. So I went for a second coat.

Step 4: Dry and Remove Stencil

Allow the paint to dry a little. Then pull the stencil off and allow to dry completely. I used a blow dryer to quicken the process. They say good things come to those that wait.... But Lincoln said that the good things come, but only things left by those who hustle (who knows, maybe I'm just justifying my impatient tendencies at the time) :P

Contact paper is not the best solution for crisp clean edges. But it gives fair results as a cheap and quick method to make a design.
PetervG7 years ago
Where do I get this "Fabric Paint" I tried some iron on heat transfers, but they crack and look like poo after going through the wash.
jtobako PetervG7 years ago
wally world, or any craft store. usualy comes in a little bottle with a pointy tip so you can draw with it.
PetervG jtobako7 years ago
Does it crack?
trebuchet03 (author)  PetervG7 years ago
Mine cracked a little. I think that's from having a coat of paint that's too thick. It doesn't bother me too much though -- it's been through the wash 4 or 5 times already :)
ive used Acrylic to mixed results. it cracks, but stays forever
My best solution for stenciling with fabric paint is to use a foam brush to put it on. Just a thin layer will usually do the trick, and despite what others say of putting it on thick, that increases your chances of it cracking and flaking off. Nice thin layer, enough to be seen, will work into the fabric and be thin enough to move with the fabric instead of cracking. I have a few shirts I've stenciled and washed ~20 times and they still look good.
jtobako PetervG7 years ago
depends on how thick. very thin and worked into the fabric doesn't, thin on top of the fabric does crack, thick on top of the fabric doesn't. ymmv, my experience is with young children and the clothing going threw many wash cycles.
Depends on the paint and how thick you put it on. You can get fabric paint in squeeze bottles, but that's usually more for crafty needs, touching up a fabric with some color.

Fabric paint is what's used in silkscreens and has lots of flavors. My favorite resource, Dharma Trading, has a good page to check.
Oh trust me, I've tried EVERYTHING. This is the best one so far
Draconix126 years ago
ravenprints, I'm sorry, but why is it that you're on a website that promotes the free sharing of knowledge and yet you're encouraging people to buy your dvd? Why don't you make your own instructable instead?
ravenprints6 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
Hello Ravenprints. Been reading some of the dated postings you've done in the last year. See you sell DVD. Was wondering how to get one. Couldn't find a website or any numbers anywhere. So something on youtube. You were demonstrating a camcorder. I was wondering, my wife and I do a lot of hot split heat transfers. This can be done with your method also probably correct. Have you ever done that. Was also wondering about the oven. Do I need to buy one of these expensive roller ovens. Thanks. Looking forward to hearing from you. Scott
rebladkins6 years ago
You know this is all well and good. However, it is no cheaper, easier, or attainable, than actual screen printing. You can even get a cleaner image using crayola crayons if you really want that home made look, or they make crayons specifically for use on textiles. My father made iron on transfers for me all the time as a kid using crayons. Just color a picture, and use it as the iron-on transfer. Remember that you will get a mirror image, so all letters, etc..., must be colored backwards. Go here: < dharmatrading.com > for everything you need, products, DIY instructions, and knowledgable people. Ray
bcgm37 years ago
Used (Tulip Slick) fabric paint as suggested here, but with the screen method from here. Also borrowed the Storm Trooper helmet from here. Just wanted to reply to thank you for offering up the fabric paint alternative to pricier, harder-to-find Speedball type pigments (at least in my area). Here's how it looks:
stormtrooper-&-crossbones2.jpg
A white image will fade even more with time. Glad you at least used a screen to get a more even coverage print. Light inks on dark fabs have the disadvantage of pulling dye from the shirt and dulling your image. Worse with washing and time. Plus these inks are stiff if used heavier to make a brighter print. And then will crack. The best method(just for your understanding) is to use Plastisol 'heat cure' ink. One layer of ink gets printed. Then it is heated to form a skin cure(won't come up wet on your finger); then a second layer is printed and then the print is cured for about 30 secs(if using ahome oven and a 100% cotton tee). The particulars of this are on my DVD. I have NOT just told you all you need to know to cure tees! You have to use the correct element and distance. Anyway...the first half cured layer acts as a barrier so that the shirt dye cannot rise up through it to the second layer. So the print stays white. This is of course, even with Screen printing and right kind of ink, dependent on print skills and cure time. Screen printing is harder in ways...but in more ways it makes the work easier; faster and more quality by far. Which of you REALLY wants to get into tee decorating/printing??? Stencils can be fun for sure. I am glad people have this method too! Making tees is just FUN, as you know. But if you want to know a lot more, I can show you(my DVD)what options are open to you. I get better prints(single and multicolor)off my kitchen counter, than many shops can get! It is because of my experience and a component or two, I invented. Beyond that I enjoy showing people who mistakenly think SP is necessarily expensive, how INexpensive and yet right they CAN do it at home. Lots of(ebay etc.) people taking advantage of SP popularity to sell you something THEY can't get a good print off of! Few of them are printers; they just know they can make money off YOUR desire to print. Weird. I was a pro WAY before ebay(or they)were around. I have always looked for ways to make things easier and less expensive for ME...and so I offer it to others. I will be doing a demo vid/short(coming) for Ytube so check out 'ravenprints'if you want more of a clue as to what I do and offer. The DVD is the place to start if you have a greater interest??? Have fun however you make your tees! Again...you would be amazed at how much more you can do and better by adding even ONE screen/squeegee and right ink to your 'stencil' process(if you want to stay with stencils).
lawizeg7 years ago
maybe if you spray a hair spray , you know the ones they use for holding hair in place, itll stay longer
munkey_b0y7 years ago
Hey nice stencil!, I've been doing my own t-shirts for a while and I like your design. just a couple of things, is the stencil reuseable? as i like to make a few tshirts with the same design. A tip I learnt was you should cover in greaseproof paper and GENTLY iron the stencil after it is dry to help to 'melt' it into the fabric as far as possible (don't forget to put something on the back of your stencil to stop it bleeding through) this helps the longevity of the design as it makes it more resistant to washing.
oh.... ill try that. im doing this. so if i do that.... i can use regular paint? not fabric? Yay!
i've heard that this will 'set' regular acrylic paints, as well.
I used acrylic on my denim jacket, its been on there for a couple of months now and still doesn't show any sign of leaving,I'm fairly confident it could survive the washing machine although I haven't tried it yet i used a rough thin layer of white spray paint behind my red writing just give it a bit more to stand out from,
ahalbig7 years ago
I've tried to stencil on a black shirt with a hot pink paint (acrylic in a bottle from Michael's) and textile medium added. The pink was far too translucent over the black to get the effect I wanted. Does anyone know if there are more opaque textile paints out there? Perhaps I did it wrong? (roller over stencil) Any help is great thanks.
ahalbig ahalbig7 years ago
Sorry just read the post below this... Should help thanks! Whatta NOOB!
boomette7 years ago
RE: Paint cracking: WhatTangMu said in previous post about adding Textile Medium to acrylic paint should work. (haven't actually tried it yet, but read about it). There are also paints specially formulated for fabric. On the cheap side, there are Tulip paints - both soft and dimensional - available in craft stores - lotsa kicky colors. A company called Jacquard makes a line of really nice paints, including NeoPaque, which is supposed to not allow any show thru even on dark backgrounds. I have a few of their Lumiere metallics, and have only tried them on leather - really nice results! Try an art supply store; also found some at local JoAnn superstore.
psquires7 years ago
Interesting, if you put the contact paper on a screen, then do the cut-outs, you've invented screen printing. That's how we used do screen printing before we had all of the chemicals. If you want to do multiple colors, you can either open only parts of the stencil at a time and be careful with the paint or make multiple screens with different parts of the design.
ranex7 years ago
great intructable but i have one question,- do you have to put some cardboard or something in the shirt so it doesnt leak though to the other side because i remember having to do that in grade school for thos crapy fabric paints ( the ones that come in a squeeze bottle) or does it not really matter
trebuchet03 (author)  ranex7 years ago
Yes, I used a piece of plastic
TangMu7 years ago
Awesome instructable, never though of using contact paper before - cuts out the hassle of adding bridges all over the place. If you want to do multiple stencils on the cheap then i suggest laminating your design, then stencilling it. After a quick coat of spray mount or spray adhesive on the other side ye dont get it lifting off at bad times and the paint leaking. I forgot to put newspaper in the middle the first time i made t's and so had a lovely black splodge on the other side O_O Oooh as well as textile paint you can mix a 50:50 mix of textile medium and acrylic paint - means ye can mix up whatever colour you want although the whites aren't particularly bright.
HamO7 years ago
Well done, excellent photos. I have used the contact paper in an inkjet printer to get a design for a t-shirt. Was afraid to try it in my laser printer. This method works also with vinyl cut out from a vinyl sign shop for a one time stencil. They can made a very intricate stencil. Maybe not cheap tho.