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Monday, October 8, 2012

T-shirt Stenciling

One of my first T-shirt stencils, based on this amazing movie. You should watch it.
People love graphic t-shirts. T-shirts are comfortable, and there are a lot of wonderful sites out there that let designers make their shirts to sell. Sometimes though, you have an idea for a shirt - and it is actually really easy to make that happen.
I have never tried true screen-printing myself, but I do like to use this method of stenciling on a shirt to create designs. I’ve made several shirts this way and the designs have always held up very well.
You will need:
  • A plain t-shirt. Sometimes craft stores sell them for $2-3, and sometimes you can get them at Wal-Mart or even a thrift store.
  • Freezer paper. I found it at Wal-Mart in the aisle with all the zip-loc bags. It’s cheap for a roll and you can use it for a lot of projects, even making your own patterns.
  • Fabric paint. Wal-Mart and most craft stores carry this. There are a lot of different brands and I don’t favor one over another, but be sure it’s specifically meant for fabric or it will wash off.
  • Foam brush.
  • Either an x-acto knife or if you have one, a Cricut machine.
  • A piece of cardboard or styrofoam that will fit inside your shirt and is larger than your design.
This is a project that makes me absolutely adore my Cricut. You can certainly cut out any design you like with an x-acto, but I’m not very good with it and I make a lot of mistakes. I’ve found it much simpler to create the designs on my computer, and let my Cricut do all the work.
Along with my Cricut, I purchased Sure-Cuts-A-Lot. This software lets me use any font on my computer, or any image that has been converted into an SVG (scalable vector graphic) with my machine. It is about $75 to purchase, but it’s worth it! Cricut cartridges can run $65-75 easily, and only contain one font.
Regardless of how you get the design - whether you use a Cricut or use an x-acto, it’s important that you cut it into your freezer paper. When designing, be sure that the smooth side of the paper is face down, because you’ll be ironing it to your shirt. This is especially important if your design includes text.
If you are using a Cricut, be very careful when pulling up your paper. Unfortunately, it is likely going to try to roll up on you due to the sticky nature of the mat. Be gentle and pull slowly.
When you pull your design from the paper, you will need to lay it on your t-shirt, smooth side down. Since my design was essentially a thin line, I also ironed down the original sheet of paper so I could use it for a guide. The more intricate your design, the more difficult the next step will be.
You need to lay your design out exactly as you’d like to appear, and iron it down. The smooth side of the freezer paper will stick to your fabric once heat has been applied. My design was complicated by the thin strip of paper, so I had to unroll it piece by piece and iron it very slowly and carefully.
Once you have it completely ironed down, make sure everything is placed where you want it. You can peel it up and iron it back down if you make a mistake. This is the time to be picky, because once you start painting you can not undo it.
Once it’s all correct, I pulled off my outer sheet of paper, leaving only my thin white line.
Now you will need to get your cardboard or styrofoam. It doesn’t matter which one you use, the purpose is to keep the paint from bleeding through the shirt onto the back. I have a piece of styrofoam I keep in my closet for this purpose. Just make sure it is larger than your design, and put it inside your t-shirt underneath it.
Whenever I’m painting, I just use a piece of the freezer paper that’s left over to put my paint onto to try to keep the area clean. I only put out a little dab at a time to use as little paint as possible.
Now take a foam craft brush, and lightly paint in your design. Use as little paint as possible, and don’t over-saturate, or it will bleed under the freezer paper. For my design, I wanted it to look a little rough around the edges, so I purposely went over the edges of my paper. I also wanted a grunge look, so I just used my foam brush and dabbed at it, rather than using brush strokes. Fill in the design. If you are using multiple colors you must be extremely careful. You can always use wax paper to fill in spots to prevent accidental paint spots, but you’ll still need to go slow and try to stay inside the lines. Remember, you can’t undo the paint!
Once you have it painted the way you like it, you need to let it dry properly. Follow the directions on the paint you used to be most accurate. I almost always let mine sit overnight just to be sure. Be sure that you leave your cardboard or styrofoam in place while it dries, and keep the design flat.
After it is completely dry, you can peel off your freezer paper.
Before you wear it, wash it! The design should last permanently, as I’ve done a few that are now several years old, that are still as bright as when I first made them.

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea with the freezer paper. For more intricate designs, contact paper is great because it sticks down and can be manipulated pretty easily.