DIY Stenciled T-Shirts

Ever wanted a T-shirt to say the perfect phrase, but couldn’t find what you wanted?  Even online!?  Well now you can create your own!  It is pretty easy and long lasting.  I have so far made 3 different shirts for my daughter and they have lasted many wears and washes.  All the materials are cheap and easy to find, making this process much more economical than getting a shirt custom made somewhere.  This process would also work great with simple pictures or symbols.

Materials:

  • T-shirt (or really any piece of clothing)
  • Fabric paint
  • Brush or sponge brush
  • Butcher paper
  • Electronic cutter (optional)
  • Sharp scissors
  • Iron and Ironing board

Directions:

  1. Gather your materials.  I got the grey shirt at Target, the pink shirt at Carters and the blue romper I got as a hand-me-down, but label says Old Navy.  The paint, brush, and scissors I got at Michaels.  My electronic cutter is an eCraft I got for a birthday present a few years ago and the iron is probably older than I am.  The butcher paper is one sided wax paper (typically used by butchers, hence the name), and can be found at most craft stores and grocery stores.
  2. Decide what you want your shirt to say and then cut it out of butcher paper.  If you have intricate letters, an electronic cutter will make the process way more simplified.  I used my cutter for both the grey and pink shirts.  You can also use good old fashioned scissors too.  You can free hand your letters or use a stencil either purchased or printed offline.  This method was very successful for my blue romper.  The waxed side of the paper needs to be on the back side of your design.  There are two types of stencils you can make, paint in the letters or paint around the letters.  I did the “paint within” on the pink and blue outfits, while I did the “paint around” on the grey.  I like both depending on your final goal.
  3. Lay your shirt down on your ironing board and iron flat, focusing on where you want your design to be.  Slip something (cardboard, carstock) between the two layers of fabric so your paint does not seep through.
  4. Attach your stencil.  Place your stencil on your shirt where you want it to be.  Use your iron on medium heat and gently move the iron around on top of the stencil.  Keep doing this until the wax on the backside of the paper melts enough to create a seal.
  5. Paint your letters.  Using your brush, apply an even thin layer of paint in/around your letters (again, depending on final goal).  Wait for it to dry and then add a second coat.  You can add up to 4 coats until you get your desired color and thickness.  I found anything much thicker than 4 thin coats will start to crack after awhile.  If you are in a pinch, a blow dryer on low can help speed up the drying process between coats.  Tip:  If your shirt is dark or has an uneven pattern (like my blue romper), it may be helpful to do one or two coats of white below the coats of your color to help make an even backdrop for the paint.
  6. Let your shirt dry completely before removing your stencil.  Vary carefully lift your stencil up.  Occasionally my paint would want to lift with the stencil, so I found it was helpful to push down on the fabric/paint right around the edges to help keep the paint in place while lifting the stencil.
  7. Enjoy your new shirt!  I have washed my shirts in medium heat and tumble dried with no problems.  This is for sure something I will continue to play around with!  This process would work great for simple pictures or symbols too.  Even though I only used one color paint per shirt, you could easily use different colors on one piece.
stencil-shirts
Left: Father’s Day shirt “Who needs a prince when I have Daddy”, Center: 4th of July romper “USA”, Right: Mother’s Day shirt “I got it from my Mama.”
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You can see how well this shirt has held up.  I made it in June and this picture was taken in November after wearing and washing it at least a few dozen times. 
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