August 20, 2010

Freezer Paper Stencil Flower T-Shirt


This technique is called freezer paper stenciling or “poor man’s screen printing”.  It’s easy, cheap and, best of all, you can now put anything you want on a T-shirt (or bag or hoody or pillow).  You boyfriend needs promotional T’s for his band? Done. Your kid wants a robot on her lunch bag? Done.

You will need freezer paper.  Make sure it says freezer paper and not wax or parchment paper on the box.  You can find it at most grocery stores.  Freezer paper has a waxy side and a paper side. The wax sticks to your shirt, keeping paint from seeping under the stencil.

You will also need fabric paint or acrylic paint with textile medium to mix in and some small paint brushes.

First wash and dry your shirt without any fabric softener.  Slide a piece of cardboard inside the shirt that is big enough to cover the area you are going to paint. This will prevent adhesive or paint from bleeding through to the other side of the shirt.


Next, find and print a graphic that you like.  Trace it on to the freezer paper and cut it out.  Alternatively, you can use a Cricut, which is what I did. 

Lay the graphic out on the shirt, shiny side down. It might help to try the shirt on to see exactly where the shapes will lie, which is what I should have done.  Instead I eye-balled it and the graphic is too far towards the center of the shirt. Oh well.


Set your iron to medium-high heat and no steam.  Attach the graphics onto the shirt by pressing firmly with your iron for 15-30 seconds at a time until all of the edges are securely adhered.  Don’t go overboard and burn/melt your stencils.


While the graphics are cooling, prepare your paint.  I used acrylic craft paint mixed 2:1 with textile medium.  Make sure the cardboard insert is still under your graphics so that the paint doesn’t bleed through.  Carefully paint the graphics.  Make sure you don’t go over the edges because the paint is impossible to get out once it touches the fabric.


Let the paint dry and then put on another coat.  And another.  And another.  Because this shirt was dark, it took about 7 coats. On a light shirt you can get away with 1 or 2 coats. Once the paint is how you want it, let it dry and then carefully peel off the stencils.

Wait 24 hours.  I know, it’s hard.  Crank your iron back up, cover the graphics with a thin scrap of fabric and press to heat set your design.  Follow the directions on the paint you are using for exact times.


The graphics are permanent and can be washed and dried just like screen printing.

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