How to Rock Your Old Jeans and Lifeless Plain Shirts




About: I love internet reading. I think I have acquired more knowledge from the internet than I have and probably ever will from a standard institution of learning.

I've always fancied the idea of making my own clothes and ever since my adolescence, I have been cutting off and painting some of my dad's shirt that he was keeping inside the closet praying his tees would fit him again (well too bad for him, and good for me). This then evolved to painting jeans when my brother, who loves anything about Japanese anime and games, asked me to make something cool for a comic convention. It was the time when airbrush painting went popular as a method of painting almost anything, from t-shirts-to-jeans-to-coffee mugs that I got the idea from since it was rather expensive for us to have our jeans, shirts painted by a professional.

Due to lack of materials, I was left with no other choice but to use the conventional method of paint brush. I got myself acrylic and textile paint which is usually used for silk screening but instead of making out a stencil, aside from being part of this art group in school who are into mural and canvas painting that time, I was able to practice my freehand drawing skill and decided to try freehand brush painting.

One good thing and I can say advantage the paint brush method has over the smooth airbrush painting is the brush strokes shown on the design. I find airbrush artworks flat and lack depth compared to the brush stroke you would be able to produce using this method.

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1) Jeans or t-shirts. I prefer cotton t-shirts.
2) Textile paint and acrylic for achieving varieties of colors. I just bought myself 5 textile colors namely: RED, BLUE, YELLOW, WHITE, BLACK; and a set of acrylic just for mixing to achieve more colors. Bear in mind that you should know how to mix paint and colors, just about the basics of color mixing. You can always use the trial and error method for color mixing until you achieve the desired shade or consult this website for more information.
3) Paint brush of various sizes (000, then 00, 0, 1, 2, and up) which will vary according to the measurement of your design. 
4) Mixing plate, containers, for mixing the paint.
5) Any measurement tool: T-square, Ruler, Tape Measure.
6) Pencil or tailors chalk for drawing the outline.
7) Any hard material that would fit inside the jeans and shirt like chopping board or thin drawing wood board.
8) Design pattern.
9) Freehand drawing skill.

Step 2: Prepare the T-shirt.

Find the place where the design should be applied. This is entirely up to you, but for the usual center-front design, finding the center is the same method as finding the center for a DIY silk screen. This might help you in preparing your shirt. Once you find the center, mark it with a pencil or tailor's chalk.

Step 3: Secure the Drawing Board Inside the Shirt.

Step 4: You May Proceed to Drawing the Outline With a Pencil or Tailor's Chalk or Directly Painting It Over.

For this particular design, what I did was I just drew an equal outline for spacing where each of my character will be painted on to.

However for other designs, what I usually do is I draw a grid on my pattern so that I have a guide to applying the design on to the t-shirt, like what was explained in this link.

You may draw the grid directly to the t-shirt to ensure that your proportions and layout in a drawing are correct. When drawing anime characters, I usually start with the eyes. You can check out this site for more information.

Step 5: Continue on Painting and Playing With the Colors.

The time of completing the whole design is really up to the complexity of it, and since mine was simple, I finished this design within the day. Just don't worry about the whole process, messing it up sometimes is part of the whole art experience.

The brush size varies on the thickness of the outlines and the fill in objects. For outlines, I usually use the thinnest brush available, for filling depends on how big the object I'm going to fill in with colors.

Step 6: Leave It to Dry.

Once done, all you need to do is leave it somewhere secure to dry. Don't hang it outside, just leave it in your room, in a room temperature for a day until it dries up then hand wash it to remove the pencil outlines and pop out the colors even more.

Step 7: Wear It Proudly!

Some of my works done on jeans and shirts...

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    31 Discussions


    4 years ago

    You should do this at anime conventions. I could see someone paying 80 bucks for some attack on titan pants ;)


    6 years ago

    Luv ya!!!!!!!(and Naruto)


    6 years ago

    Awesome! :)

    REALLY nice work. I definitely admire the work of a freehand artist like myself, we're a rare breed out chea.

    1 thing I'm puzzled about is why you haven't made the transition from freehand painting to stencil work. A friend of mines from Brazil designs alot of her t-shirts this way:

    and her mentor is just as talented:

    I thought your work was at least airbrushed until I got a closer look. Maybe you should experiment/upgrade to stencils and see what happens (for templates use transparencies--clear plastic of course. They work the best for projects like that).

    2 replies

    cool, cool.............:)

    if you aren't familiar with how to make stencils i know a tut that is AWESOME and the best I've used so far and always use:


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Have you ever tried to paint on spandex/lycra? I want to paint a green suit of mine to sort of look like Sgt. Frog (white front, yellow star) but I'm afraid it might turn out terribly. Maybe I'll do an instructable when I get around to it :P

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    No, I haven't tried painting on spandex/lycra yet, but I think you need to stretch it out to paint it over and the hardest part, in my opinion, is estimating the stretch to get the perspective correctly.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah I think I'll wear the suit and then paint it/have my sister help me paint it. Thanks for the reply!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Do you then have to handwash the clothing after that or can you throw it with the others in the machine?

    1 reply