Foam T-Shirt Stamp: for Simple Illustrations That Are Difficult to Stencil




About: "I'm not much but I'm all I think about." -my mom's friend

This is a method to transfer simple images (e.g. shapes, contour line drawings, typography, etc.) onto t-shirts. This method,- like stenciling, is cheaper and easier than screen-printing.

But unlike stenciling this method makes it much easier to deal with images that have closed, positive-space lines. Because if you stenciled such an image you would have to use multiple stencils or leave narrow negative-space bridges in your final print.

I guess this method is really just a type of stamp like a wood carved or linoleum carved stamp but I think that it is better suited for recreating line drawings than carved stamps. This is because of the construction of the stamp; instead of making your stamp by carving material off of a medium, you are building the stamp by adding material to the medium.

FYI: The image I used on my shirt is the logo for the fictional SEELE organization in Anno Hideaki's Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's supposed to represent the face of Lilith.


  1. One or two A4 sized sheets of 1/8" thick closed soft cell foam (They are sold at craft stores in the children's section and sometimes even CVS or Walgreens. They should not cost more than about eighty cents each.)
  2. Scissors or box cutter
  3. Straight edge or ruller
  4. Fabric paint
  5. Some sort of bonding contact adhesive (shoe glue, 3M "fast-tack" adhesive, etc.)
  6. Scrap paper
  7. Ruler

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Step 1: Cut Foam Into Strips

  1. Cut the foam into strips whose widths are equal to the linewidth you want to use in your design. Use a straight edge and a sharp box cutter. Remember that it is better to do multiples light passes with the box cutter than to power through one.

Step 2: Glue Foam Strips and Shapes to Foam Backing

  1. Cut the strips to the sizes that you need to make a line drawing of your illustration.
    1. NOTE: It's easiest to have a copy of your image or drawing present to size up the lengths of strips or copy shapes into foam. I just free handed my line drawing and had the image pulled up on my computer screen for reference.
  2. Use shoe cement or rubber cement to glue the pieces of foam onto the background foam sheet in a well ventilated area.
    1. To properly use contact glues you should apply multiple light coats of the glue to both surfaces being joined. Then wait a few minutes until the glue becomes tacky. Then finally join the pieces by firmly pressing them together.
  3. If there are circles in your design, then it might be easier to connect the strips with the glue before gluing them to the background.

NOTE: Notice How I forgot to reflect my design. At this point I decided I could live with printing a mirror image since they're weren't words on it. If your design has words or you are particularly picky then make sure you construct the mirror image of the final design you want to see.

Step 3: Apply Paint to Your Stamp

  1. Select the fabric paints you would like to use. I used "Slick Puffy Paint."
  2. Apply paint generously to the positive (buillt-up) areas of your stamp.
    1. Try using gradients.

Step 4: Even Paint Coverage on Stamp

  1. After you apply the paint to your stamp it is going to probably have too much paint on it or at least an uneven amount. Before you stamp the shirt you want to "stamp" some pieces of paper once or twice to even out the paint so that you'll get a clean impression on your shirt.
    1. This step/process also sort of doubles as a practice run so that if you messed up your stamp or your stencil, then you can start all over again before you waste a shirt.

Step 5: Stamp Your Shirt

  1. Once you think your paint is applied pretty evenly then stamp your shirt. Push firmly down on all areas of the stamp.
    1. If you're careful find the centerline of your shirt and stamp and match them up when you stamp it. Or if you're like me, just make a best guess and try to not make it too crooked.

Step 6: Wear It!

Wear your shirt! Gift your shirt. Or try again if it didn't turn out right!

FYI: The image I used on my shirt is the logo for the fictional SEELE organization in Anno Hideaki's Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's supposed to represent the face of Lilith.

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