Introduction: Stencil Painted Denim Jacket

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After coming up with the Rosie the Riveter combined with Medusa drawing idea, I immediately wanted to put it on the back of a jacket. I wanted to make sure the design I ended up with was very precise, so I didn't want to rely on hand drawing with paint since it is very hard to correct. This Instructable will show a method for creating fabric painting stencils so that ideas can be transferred from paper or a computer on to fabric in paint rather than using an iron on image.

Hope you enjoy!


- Denim jacket or material/garment of choice

- Stencil for design

- Paint (various colors, I used acrylic but it is a little stiff, fabric paint would be better)

- Freezer paper - paper with wax on one side, not both

- Craft knife

- Iron

- Pens for detail work (optional)

- Spray paint (optional)

Step 1: Stencil

First, pick out a stencil you want to copy onto your fabric.

For this step, I created a combined image from different black and white images. I did this editing in GIMP 2.0 by removing the background from each image and overlapping them. However, if you have a full image already, you will not need to do any image editing.

Print out a few copies of your stencil. You want to print out as many copies as there are large areas of similar color in your final design.

For example, I printed 2 copies for the hair; one for the snakes and one for the head scarf. I also printed two for the face/body; one for the face and arm and the other for the shirt.

Step 2: Cut Out Sencil & Iron on

Next, you need to take your craft knife and cut out the large areas of similar color from your freezer paper.

Make sure that the shiny side of the paper is facing down. This side has wax on it and will be ironed onto your fabric to create a crisp edge for your stencil.

Put your design near the middle of the paper so that you don't have to worry about paint getting beyond the stencil. It helps if you tape your stencil design to the freezer paper so that it doesn't move, just be sure to peel the tape off carefully when you're done so that it won't rip the paper or gum up your iron.

Don't worry about the small details yet, you want to get a base color of paint down, so mark off big areas for light colors that you will be able to paint over as you add details.

Iron on your stencil, making sure that you get the edges of the design attached thoroughly. You should not be able to move the paper without peeling it off. However, if you put it on the wrong place on your fabric, you can peel it off, move it to a new place, and iron it back on again.

Step 3: Paint!

I started with a base coat, in this case I used a fleshy-tone spray paint for the whole face, arm, and torso. It took a lot of coats, over a few days with drying time.

It would probably be best to prime the denim first with a white or other light colored acrylic or fabric paint so that it does not take so long and use so much paint. If you do this, you can cut out a single stencil with the full outline for the priming step, prime, let it dry, then put on your actual base coat over the top.

The nice thing about using the freezer paper is you don't have to worry about being careful with your paint, so you can use spray paint if you want to!

If you're using a fabric that is thinner than denim, you'll want to put cardboard or something under your fabric so that the paint doesn't bleed through to your work surface or another part of the fabric. Make sure your paint is fully dry before you peel the stencil off so that you don't accidentally mess up the edges.

Step 4: Details & Next Stencil

I decided to do the detail work on the face and body of my figure before I moved on to the hair, however these steps don't need to be done in any particular order. The details in the face were done by cutting out the eyes and mouth from the body stencil that I had used in the previous step.

For your smaller detail stencils, start with the largest one and work your way to the smaller ones. For example, I did the stencil of the full hair before I worried about separating out the scarf.

Here, I used the white paint to prime the denim, not worrying about details. After the general hair stencil was dry, I lined up the scarf stencil and put on the red paint.

Step 5: Final Details

For the snakes, I mostly decided to freehand draw them in. This was made easier because I had the stenciled outline to follow. However, I could have done this with even smaller detail stencils, it all depends on whether you feel more comfortable with freehand drawing or cutting out small details with a craft knife.

This is the point where I used my pens as well as cotton swabs with paint (because I didn't have small brushes) to do the detail work.

Just take your time and the result will be great!

Step 6: Done!

That's it! I let it dry fully for a day before wearing and get ready to bask in the compliments you will receive.

Let me know in the comments below if you used the ideas in this project or if you have any questions for me!

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