You no longer need to be intimidated by the prospect of designing and creating your very own customized T-shirt. Using just a few inexpensive supplies, you will be cranking out DIY high-quality slogan T-shirts in no time. Make these for student council elections, a small club at school or the next school play!
Design a professional-quality t-shirt
Makes one T-shirt
- Blank cotton T-shirt, available at most craft stores (wash before designing)
- Freezer paper, available at most discount stores in the paper goods/plastic wrap aisle
- Fabric paint
- Stiff-bristle paint brush
- Cardstock or cardboard, cut to the size of your design
- Steam iron (optional, depending upon paint used)
- Computer, word processing program, printer and copy paper
- Craft knife, masking tape, cutting mat and scissors
Create your design
Create your design with any font desired using a word processing program. Many free font choices are available online. Be sure to pick a thick/bulky font that will stand out on your shirt — this will also make it easier to create the stencil. To create the silhouette shapes, you can use either clip art or an actual photograph, cropped as close as possible to the outside of the shape. The shape does not need to be a silhouette, but it must have a clear outline that you can cut around when creating the stencil. Print out your design on regular 8 x 10-inch copy paper. Printing the visible grid is optional, but it helps to keep your design shape centered when creating the stencil.
Create the stencil
To create the stencil, first cut out a piece of freezer paper measuring approximately 10 x 12 inches. Next, attach your stencil to the matte side — not the shiny side — of the freezer paper, using the masking tape or staples, depending on preference. Center and secure on all four sides, ensuring that your top art doesn’t shift. Then use the craft knife and carefully cut along the lines of your design, making sure you are using enough pressure to cut through both the printed-out design and the freezer paper. When cutting out letters such as O or A, make sure to keep for later use the inner circle and/or triangles that are cut from the freezer paper. To create the silhouette shapes, simply cut around the outline of the shape, ignoring the background. Once everything is cut out, carefully remove the printout and discard.
Adhere stencil to shirt
To attach the stencil to the shirt, first iron the area of the shirt where you will be placing the stencil. Once that is flat, position your stencil shiny side down so that it is centered and level on the shirt — use a hot, dry iron and simply iron it onto the shirt. On its underside, the freezer paper has a thin plastic coating that will temporarily but firmly adhere to the shirt. Pass the iron over the stencil until you are satisfied that it is firmly in place, then very carefully place the insides of any letters or shapes and iron them into place. Slip a piece of cardstock or cardboard in between the front and back of the shirt to protect the area from paint bleeding through.
Once the stencil is applied and the shirt and stencil are cooled back to room temperature, it is time to apply the paint. Dip your dry stiff-bristle brush into the paint and, holding the brush straight and perpendicular to the shirt, dab the paint on, using care not to drag the paint over the stencil. Instead, use a dabbing motion to apply the paint. You may need to apply 2-3 coats using this method. Allow paint to dry in between applying coats. Once you have applied your last coat, allow the paint to dry for about an hour. Then carefully remove the stencil by simply peeling it off the shirt. If any little bits remain, you can use a craft knife to separate the paper from the shirt, taking care not to cut the fabric.
Heat-set the paint
Read the package of your fabric paint for specific instructions for heat-setting your paint. Most paints can be heat-set using the steam from an iron or the dryer. Once your paint is heat-set, your shirt is ready to wear!