Unorthodox T-shirt Printing: Stamping T-shirts




About: I'm a Mechanical Engineer who has been a part of this community for over 10 years! My interests have evolved over time, and now center around 3D printing.

Say NO to screen printing!

I don't like all the equipment involved in the screen printing process, so I am searching for a better way for the standard person to create small amounts of t-shirts cheaply with easily available materials.

In this Instructable I will show the process I used to make a rubber stamp, apply ink to it, and apply the design to a t-shirt.

*I apologize for the quality of some pictures, I only have the camera on my phone available, and I suffer from a work enviornment with poor lighting conditions. : (

I like comments! : )

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Step 1: Needed Materials

To make your own stamped t-shirt, you will need the following:

1.  A t-shirt.
              (Check your local craft store, or recycle an old one you have laying around)
2.  Red rubber packing sheet.
              (It's rubber sheet that comes in 6x6" squares at hardware stores.  It is used to make gaskets for plumbing and such.  They are sold in, I believe, 1/16" and roughly 1/8" thicknesses.  I am using the 1/16" thickness.)
3.  Plexiglass, wood, or other material to be used as the back of your stamp.
4.  A small dowel, or other material to be used as the handle for your stamp.
5.  Paint/ink
              (I am using "crafter's acrylic"; it costs 50 cents at my craft store and seems to work well.  Whatever you use, it must be water-based!)

Tools:  Hot glue gun, scissors, Sharpie marker, paintbrush

Step 2: Stamp Making Pt. 1

We will now begin to make the stamp for the t-shirt.  I am making a yin-yang design.

I drew a circle on the computer so it would be nice and symmetrical.  I printed it out and cut out the circle to use it as a tracer.

Trace the design onto your rubber sheet with sharpie and cut it out using scissors or a razor blade for more complicated stamps.

 I chose to cut the yin-yang in half, to hopefully make applying paint to the stamp easier.  My theory was that by separating the two halves slightly, the paint would be more likely to stay on the proper side.

In the next step we will make a backing for the stamp.

Step 3: Stamp Making Pt. 2

Now to make a backing for our stamp.

Mark and cut out a piece of plexiglass slightly bigger than the design you cut out of the rubber sheet.

Hot glue the rubber design onto the plexiglass piece.  Hot glue is not the sturdiest when gluing rubber, but it will suffice for this application.

Hot glue a small piece of dowel rod to the plexiglass piece on the side opposite the rubber design to make a handle.

In the next step we will apply paint to the stamp and apply it to the t-shirt.

Step 4: Stamping the Shirt

Now for the fun part, stamping the shirt.

Grab your shirt, paint brush, paints, and stamp.

Spread your t-shirt out on a smooth flat surface.  It is a good idea to put some newspaper inside the shirt to prevent any paint from accidently getting on the back of the shirt.

Apply paint liberally to the stamp in the areas where you want the color to be.  In my case, black went on one half, and on one small circle of the yin-yang.

Position your stamp and press firmly onto the shirt.  Lift up slowly, and see what the design looks like.  Multiple presses are often required to get a nice clear image, but feel free to leave it half-printed for a worn-out look.

If needed, touch up some areas with your paint brush, by applying paint to the brush, and stipple (use short up and down strokes, as if  you are making little dots) the areas that need some more paint.

If you are using multiple colors, rinse off your stamp and brush, then apply and stamp your next color.  For me, this was the white side of the yin-yang.

Step 5: Conclusion

Once you're satisfied with how your design looks, let it dry thoroughly.

I find that soaking the shirt for a few hours in water helps to make the design less stiff.

Then I iron over the paint, and wash it a few times, to try to get the newly-printedness out of it.

It should be washed cold, and inside out if you're really concerned.

Most all t-shirts lose their printing slowly, so don't be alarmed if yours begins to fade or flake slightly.

Thanks for reading, good luck! : )

I like comments! : )

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    10 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 5

    Firstly say YES to screen printing. For what it costs to buy a few hinge clamps and a couple of wooden screens you could have made this exact print look very professional.

    Secondly, why go to all the trouble of cutting out a rough stamp when you may as well have just painted the ying and yang on the shirt?

    Thanks for the time taken to post this but don't diss screen printing anf then post a very substandard methos just because you don't like using proper equipment.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    Hi there.

    Firstly, I do not know of a place near my house where I can cheaply purchase screens for screen printing.

    Secondly, the stamp is very useful for making the shirt. If I were to just paint the yin-yang on the shirt freehand, my lines would be much less sharp, and if my hand slipped slightly, I would need to toss out the shirt and start over. I don't have to worry about that with a stamp.

    I like this method, and have used it for making t-shirts since this Instructable was published, all of which have turned out well. It may not be the conventional method, but is allows me to easily make t-shirts for myself using easily available and inexpensive materials.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    If you mix your paint with "acrylic fabric medium" (from most craft shops or online) your paint will not be stiff and it will last much longer. It wont flake either! Great Instructable!

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the tip!! I had no idea there was such a thing, I'll be sure to look into it : )


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great Instructable! Thanks, this seems like a really great way to print shirts. What other kinds of paint works well?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! : ) I don't know what other kinds of paint work well, since I have only used the acrylic I use in the instructable based on online research. However, the key factor that I seemed to find everywhere was "water based'. If the paint is water-based, and you allow it to dry completely, I would tend to think it would work. Thanks for the comment again


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for posting this. I'm always looking for a way to print shirts, too. This is probably a good approach until the design gets complicated. I wanted to put my daughter's face on a shirt. That's probably beyond my ability with the rubber stamp method. Anyone who has ever painted a room knows that house paint works very well and is permanent. And it can be tinted to any color.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    No problem, thanks for the comment! : ) Designs can be made as complicated as you have the patience to cut. When compared to other methods of printing tshirts, isn't it alwasy easier with simpler designs? At least that's how I see it. As for your daughter's face, if it were me, I would go with the printable iron-on for that, just for the amount of detail and color availability.