Unusual Nail Polish Uses : T-Shirt Printing

Introduction: Unusual Nail Polish Uses : T-Shirt Printing

About: I'm a pharmaceutical Research & Development Chemist that has a passion for all things artistic


(just kidding!- I guess you can get a little headache if you over do it!)

Ever wanted to DIY print a custom T-Shirt using standard methods like sublimation/screen print but mom said no or you live 'off the grid' where the necessary chemicals are not available? Well this project has you covered. Good old fashioned nail polish was used to do this project. Note this is NOT a replacement for screen printing/sublimation or any other methods which are currently in existence.

Quick Backstory


In 2017 i ordered some fabric markers from china(what could possibly go wrong? LOL) with a view to create a custom T-shirt. There were some delays in shipping and the fabric markers took some time before arriving so i was forced to improvise, i did some reconnaissance around the house and saw that i had tonnes of black nail polish just lying around. It was then that i had a eureka moment and decided to use nail polish for T-shirt printing.

Anyway, Without further ado - lets get to it.

Step 1: Assembling the Tools/Materials Required

* Plain White 100% cotton T-shirt

* Four vials of 20ml black nail polish

* 2 x A3 white paper

* reference image for the T-shirt design to be used

* non toxic water soluble glue stick

* HB pencil(optional)

* 1200W Hair Dryer

* Miscellaneous (rulers, protractors, compasses, face masks e.t.c)

Step 2: Creating, Cutting & Pasting Paper Template of Image on T-Shirt

The first step will be to print the desired image you want on an A3 paper (or any paper size of your choice). another way would be to trace the image straight from the computer screen. Then the next step will be to cut out the black parts of the image - i.e. the parts that will be painted onto the T-shirt. Next - align the image on to the front of the T-shirt exactly the way you would want it to appear after printing.then using the glue stick (make sure its water soluble) depending on the type of T-shirt, it might be necessary to wash it first before applying the design. For the design that i did i had a front design (face) and a design for the rear of the t-shirt (wording and numbering)

Step 3: Applying the Nailpolish to the T-Shirt & Creating the Design

At this stage you just have to work systematically and paint the areas outlined by the template to be the black areas. care has to be taken to make sure that none of the nail polish inadvertently goes where its not supposed to go as it is quite irremovable. Start working on the intricate parts of the design and then move on the coarser parts. at this stage wearing a face mask for protection is recommende4d as the nail polish emits a rather overpowering odor.

Step 4: Flowing With the Nail Polish and Completing the Design

By now its all a matter of building up the nail polish in the appropriate area. Keep on going. Piece by piece. Edge by edge. Don't worry if you lose track of what you're doing - in the end it will magically fit together. For the best aesthetics and durability i recommend that three coats of nail polish be applied on the t shirt design.

Step 5: The Role of the Hair Dryer / Heat Gun

The hair dryer / heat gun is there to help the nail polish dry quicker and help it evenly bond with the T-shirt fabric. ideally every few strokes of the nail polish on to the T-Shirt requires that you pause and heat the area just applied with nail polish using a heat gun for about a minute. Also after the entire design is complete, heat it again using the hair dryer for about 5 minutes, and move the hair dryer around so as to ensure even distribution of heat.

Step 6: Exeunt Omnes

After loads more nail polish applications, hair dryer use and improvising - all will be done. All whats left is to find a nice pair of jeans / shorts / a skirt to wear with your newly minted Nail polish T-shirt. congratulations - You've made it! i have washed my T-Shirt made using this method about 3 times and no peeling off or cracking or fading of the nail-polished design has occurred and the design still maintains its lustre. one drawback to this method is that it can get a bit time consuming and labor intensive because the area to be painted is large and the nail polish applicator is a very small tip that only allows a very small volume of nail polish to be used at a time. Your patience will be tested.

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