Stencilling T-Shirts




About: I love to sew, as I'm sure you can see from my ibles ;) I also love lawn flamingos, going to the beach, dinosaurs, and doing random stuff.

I wanted to put things on my t-shirts but all the instructables that I could find were for stenciling with freezer paper and I can't find freezer paper anywhere. Especially in the one grocery store we have here. You'd think it would have some but of course it doesn't seem to have anything I need. Especially not freezer paper. At least they didn't when I looked. I found an instructable about making your own freezer paper and I was having a hard time figuring out what exactly I was supposed to do. So I did it this way.

I found that this way is very easy, and doesn't really take very long.

Step 1: Get Your Stuff

So for this you'll need some things I'm sure you'll be able to find around your house very easily.
  • Towels or ironing board. I found that towels work better and if you cut out your picture on it it'll be a lot easier to cut.
  • An iron. You're definetly going to need one of these.
  • A garbage bag. Don't throw it away after you've cut a rectangle out of it because if you want to put something on a different shirt you can just use more of the one you already used instead of cutting up a whole other one.
  • Paint. I use acrylic and it holds up very well. You could use other types too, like fabric paint which I'm sure would work best.
  • Your design. Have it be just black and white and to save ink use the quick print option because the colors don't have to look nice.
  • A pair of scissors. You'll need them to cut the garbage bag.
  • An x-acto knife. This will be much much easier if you use one.
  • A paintbrush. Sure, you could use your hands but that doesn't exactly work very well... The paint would end up uneven. The foam like brush I use works a lot better than regular paint brushes. Bumpus thinks so too.
  • Another towel or cardboard to put inside the shirt so the paint doesn't leak through onto the other side of the shirt. Don't use a good towel for this.
  • A shirt. Use a t-shirt that doesn't stretch much and that you have washed.

Step 2: And So the Story Goes....

Print out your picture in black an white, making sure it won't be too hard to cut out. You'll be cutting out the black parts and you will need to save any of the white parts (called islands) you cut out of the black parts. If you have a whole bunch of islands in your picture it'll be kind of hard geting the placement right and if they're too small they might get moved by the iron and messed up. You could also draw your picture.
Now cut out a piece of the garbage bag about the size of your piece of paper. Put it between two pieces of paper with the one with your design on it on top. Now you will iron it. Do not use one of the steam settings!! It will get everthing wet and mess it up. Use the dry setting and turn it up high enough to just melt together the paper and garbage bag.

Step 3: Don't Burn Yourself

Cut out the picture with your x-acto knife. X-acto knives are amazing for this.
Lay out your shirt and put a towel or cardboard inside of it (towels work best since you're going to be ironing it) and iron the area you're going to paint. This will help the stencil stick to the shirt better and the paint will end up looking better too. Peel off the bottom layer of paper and iron the other piece of paper with the garbage bag onto the shirt wherever you want it, plastic side down. Don't forget to iron down any of the islands. Once you unplug the iron don't touch it to see if it's cool, it hurts a lot if it isn't cooled down enough.

Step 4: Paint It

Pull out your paint and brush and start painting. Usually the paint doesn't really go under the stencil for me, but if you are painting really quickly you could end up pulling up part of the stencil and getting paint under it. That happened with my giraffe shirt and now it looks like it has a screwed up neck. I use a foamy sponge type brush for this, it works really quite well. I just pour the paint straight onto the shirt because it spreads easier and you won't have any left over that you can't put back in the bottle.
Once you've painted it completely let it dry for a while. I found that the acrylic paint I use dries pretty fast. After it's dry pull off the paper/garbage bag sheet. It's always nice to see that a shirt turned out well when I pull the stencil off.

Step 5: The End

When you wash one of these shirts just turn it inside out and wash it like you usually would unless the paint you use has other instructions on it.

If parts of the stencil (like parts of letters) didn't turn out well you might have to touch them up with a bit of paint similar to the color of the shirt.

Thanks for reading my instructable, if you do this it would be awesome if you posted pictures! Here are some more of the shirts I've done this way.



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    23 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I've had the pink biohazard shirt that I made for over a year and the paint has only faded a bit. :D It's probably one of my favorite t-shirts and I wear it quite a bit. It only cracks if the shirt is super stretchy, but then when you stop stretching the shirt it still looks normal.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    thanks now i have an idea how to print my plain shirts


    10 years ago on Introduction

    nice. The giraffe just looks like it has an adams apple. No biggie.

    Thank you :D Well you can always start out with a simpler stencil. Or just to make it so it doesn't take as long you could make a sheet of duct tape and cut out your design on it.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome! :D I'm rather fond(I wrote that backwards at first) of the name of the second step, and you made it all seem so simple :P You should totally wear that t-shirt to horse camp! :D

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice shirts and good ible., that flaming squirrel stencil is especially sweet, can you email me a copy (if you still have it) pleaseandthankyou

    2 replies

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Good job Sunny! You might want to point out its easiest to use a foam brush, other than a regular paint brush, foam brushes usually work better... You need to work on the platypus :P

    5 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Also, be sure to use a dabbing motion, straight up and down. That'll minimize on messing up the stencil and getting paint under it.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Ok I'll do that. Haha I need to get some shirts before I start the platypus, I've used all of mine XD


    10 years ago on Introduction

    These aren't bad at all. Some of them didn't quite turn out right, but overall, it looks like you did a good job with what you had. +1