Custom T-shirt Painting





Introduction: Custom T-shirt Painting

About: I love making things and simple electronics!

I am going on the Disney Cruise this summer with my 6 person family, so my mom thought it would be neat if we made our own T-shirts for "pirate night."  Pirate Night is one night on the cruise when everybody dresses as a pirate, so we thought we would make our own costumes.  Because it is the Disney Cruise, we tried to find a design that incorporated Mickey and as you can see in the picture, we found the perfect design.  Painting on T-shirts by this method is easy and it requires no special skill.

The materials you will need are any color fabric paint, a plain T-shirt, Reynolds freezer paper, an iron, and a paint brush.  You basically have to print out the design of your choice onto the freezer paper and cut out the design so it is like a stencil (look at the second picture and you'll see what I mean).  Then you iron the paper onto the shirt and paint the design.  You may need to do multiple layers of paint for the best outcome.  To speed up the process of drying the paint, we used a hair dryer between coats which definitely saved time.

By using this painting method, you can make custom uniforms, shirts for a party, shirts for a 5k, and even shirts that are machine washable!  Plus, it is much more fun to paint your own shirts with your friends than pay much more money and wait for them to come in the mail.

Another reason these T-shirts are awesome is because you can select any color for both the tee and for the paint, making your imagination the limit for what you can design.  You can even make a shirt for your favorite sports team for a fraction of the price it would cost online or in a merchandise store.

Don't get stuck spending way more money than you should be on making custom shirts, and just do them this way!  I hope you liked my instructable, and if you have and questions or comments, please post them below.  Thanks!




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    15 Discussions

    Is there a preferred temperature for the iron? How long do you iron down the paper? Do you let it cool completely before painting? Will the paper just lift away or do you have to soak the shirt to get it off like you sometimes do with iron-on t-shirt transfers?



    5 replies

    The paper should come off easily, and put your iron on medium and just iron it until it sticks. (10-15 seconds) Let it cool for maybe a minute and then paint away! Please post some pictures of your finished shirts!


    Coming up. I've done the text (the initials of the name of our 'biker gang' - Ciclistas Urbanos), and once that is dry I'll add a bicycle graphic below it.

    I'm using the 12inx6in Cricut (the cheap one) to cut the stencil and it was very easy to set up.

    I did pull away the transfer too soon (ie while the text was still damp) and one edge was rough, but it was rough *inside* the outline so I was able to repair it with a fine-tipped paint brush. If I'd know that making a white on dark t-shirt was this easy I'd have done it years ago! These plain bulk 'woot!' t-shirts are really great for this. I have 14 more of them I can still experiment with :-)  They're mostly Jerzees and seem good quality material.


    Here it is! Minor blemishes you can only see if you look for them, due to not leaving a large enough margin around the image and being sloppy with the foam brush when I applied the paint. But overall pretty slick! Total cost, if I do all 15 shirts, under $2.50 per shirt.


    Wow, they look great! I hope your biking gang likes them!


    Anyone who has ever painted a house with latex or acrylic paints knows the spots on your clothes are permanent. You don't have to mix in anything. They can mix whatever colors you want at any hardware store.

    1 reply

    I think this is what he's referring to - Google for "fabric medium" or "textile medium". I saw it in Michaels today when picking up a set of coloured fabric pens. I agree with you about keeping some regular acrylic paint on hand, I picked up a few sample-sized cans at Lowes and they're worked just as well as artist's acrylic paints for most purposes. Get the basic colours and you can mix your own (though its hard at Lowes to work out what their underlying colours are - they'll only supply paint mixed to one of the pre-determined formula chosen from the colour cards).

    Well, I have all the parts now and am about to start. Just out oif interest, is the reason you use freezer paper because it will give a sharper edge than just say sticking down regular paper with something like Krylon Easy-Tack?

    1 reply

    Freezer paper sticks when ironed and comes off cleanly. Good Question!


    never heard of freezer paper (quick google later) but we have something similar. Never knew if you heated it up, that it would stick to fabric. Cool stuff. Must give it a try and find out. This way sure as hell beats my stencil way

    1 reply

    I'm not sure what the UK or Oz name would be but I do know it's neither greaseproof paper nor wax paper. The waxy surface of freezer paper is actually plastic unlike genuine wax paper.

    I'm not familiar with fabric paint - can you give a specific example of something you would recommend? I'm guessing this is something you'd have to go to a craft shop for like Michaels or Hobby Lobby? I have some regular acrylic paint from Lowes already but I'm guessing that wouldn't work?

    I have a dozens of cheap plain t-shirts from a deal at Woot which are too dark for transfers but which could look good with white paint as you've done here.

    2 replies

    Look for fabric paint in your local craft store. You can use acrylic paint, but you have to mix it with some stubstance (I forget what it's called) and then it will work as fabric paint. Personally, I would spend the few dollars and get the fabric paint because that is guarenteed to work.