I've been painting shirts ever since I was a little girl, and as fun as the process may be, unless you're a decent artist or talented crafter, it's difficult to paint a shirt that you can wear in public that looks cool and artsy -- or at least doesn't scream I'm Wearing This Because My Kid Painted It For Me. Iron-on transfers and silkscreen presses are probably the easiest ways to get close-to-commercial-quality results -- or so I thought.
I recently discovered the wonders of freezer paper stencils when researching ways to paint designs on a shirt for the Disney-themed party I was scheduled to host. I wanted to make cool, unique Mickey Mouse tshirts that guests could actually wear to a Disney themed park, without having to draw or paint the designs freehand. How could I have gone this far in life without realizing how useful freezer paper can be for tshirt painting? The results were fantastic, almost as good as a commercially silkscreened shirt. Even little kids can paint good looking shirts because the stencil does all the work!
Materials you'll need:
* Freezer paper. You can find this at the supermarket for about $8 for a giant roll. Don't substitute parchment paper or waxed paper!
* A tshirt
* Fabric paint. I prefer plain fabric paint, not glitter or glossy or puffy fabric paint.
* Foam brush. I prefer a foam brush over a regular paintbrush because the foam brush seems to spread paint more evenly (although you may want to have a fine tipped paintbrush for touchups!)
* A small dish to put the paint in.
* A pen, for tracing or drawing your design (or a printer, if you want to print out your design) on the freezer paper.
* A sharp blade like an exacto knife, for cutting out your design.
* Optional tools include a ruler (for making sure your design is straight and evenly spaced), a pair of scissors for cutting out large areas of your design), and a cutting mat or cutting board (to make sure you don't cut into a tabletop!).
Let's start! Measure out a sheet of freezer paper that's slightly bigger than your design. Draw your design on the dull side of the freezer paper. I used a Mickey Mouse cookie cutter to draw silhouettes of Mickey's head. You can also freehand draw your design, or even print a design out on the dull side of the freezer paper.
Cut out your design with a sharp blade like an exacto knife. My blade was a bit dull, so I used a sharp pair of scissors to cut out the wider parts of my design. Note, you may need to keep some parts that you cut out (for example, if I had wanted Mickey's eyes to show up as white on my white t-shirt).
Set your iron onto its high dry setting (no steam!). Place your freezer paper stencil onto your shirt, shiny side down. Iron the freezer paper stencil onto your shirt in quick, gentle pressing strokes. The heat for the iron will melt the wax? plastic? on the shiny side of the freezer paper and cause it to adhere to your shirt. Pay special attention to the intricate details in your design; you want to make sure that all the tiny edges and corners and curves have stuck to the shirt!
It's painting time! First, protect your shirt by sliding a piece of paper (newspaper, brown craft paper, a paper grocery bag, a square of cardboard all work), covered with a sheet of wax paper, inside your shirt. The wax paper keeps the paper from sticking to your shirt once the paint has driend. Once your shirt is protected, squeeze some fabric paint into a small dish, dip your foam brush into the paint, and dab some paint onto your freezer paper stencil. Since the freezer paper stencil is stuck onto your shirt, the paint won't bleed off the edges of your design onto your shirt. Make sure you cover your design evenly with paint, and apply at least 2 coats, leaving some drying time between coats.
Wait until the paint has dried completely before carefully peeling off the freezer paper stencil.
You might need to touch up the edges of your design with a fine tipped paintbrush. I am so pleased with how this shirt turned out!
Here's a tutorial video I made that goes through each step:
Have fun painting, and enjoy your finished product!