How to print your own tshirt {Tutorial}

April 11, 2014 at 8:38 am Leave a comment

print own tshirt


A t-shirt
An image you can turn into a stencil
Some stiffish flat plastic or card
A craft knife
Fabric paint
A brush or small piece of sponge
An iron
Some recycling paper to top paint soaking through onto the back of your t-shirt
and some tissues for clean up.

Last Christmas one of the kids asked for a brown t-shirt with a meerkat on it. Right, not specific or anything? That should be easy to find, surely?

Strangely it wasn’t. So I figured I’d try to make one myself.


The 5 of us zoomorphised into meerkats.

I used a sheet of ultrasound/X-ray negative, because it was what I had on hand. Any sort of plastic firm enough to stay flat, but thin enough to cut through would do the job. Or even card. Clear plastic would make the job easier though.

The trick is to use a design with minimal thin lines or ‘unattached inside parts’. I cheated. I printed out a photo of a family of meerkats and blu-tacked them to the window so I could trace around them, tinker with sizes and reorder the figures. Then I traced this onto the plastic sheet using a pointy pen to gently score the outline onto the plastic. (Another option if you are more sensible than me, is to use clear plastic and lay it on top of your image so you can trace directly onto it!)

Cut the inside out with a sharp craft knife. I used a Stanley knife, an Exacto would work well too. You now have your own handmade stencil. And permission to feel decidedly smug!


Test stencil placement prior to pinning.

Here is where your iron first comes in handy. (I seem to have lost ours. It should be a dream come true, but this happens to be one of the approximately 3 times a year when I dig the little blighter out, and can I find it? No. Maybe it’s paying me back for months of neglect.) Give your t-shirt a quick press so your printing area is nice and flat, then insert some newspaper, or in my case an empty box of tacos, inside the shirt so that the ink doesn’t seep through to the back.

I seem to have lost the iron. It should be a dream come true, but this happens to be one of the approximately 3 times a year when I dig the little blighter out, and can I find it? No. Maybe it’s paying me back for months of neglect.

Lay your stencil on top of your t-shirt and weigh of tape down so it doesn’t move around while you are putting the ink on. Because I had unattached shapes inside, I stuck things down with blu-tack (double sided tape would work too, or possibly porridge – that stuff sticks to everything!) I pinned the t-shirt to the carpet too, to minimise movement even further.

Dab your fabric paint into all the exposed areas, and wait until it’s dry before lifting. The white paint I used on the green top was a little too thin and soaked into the fabric, so I waited a little longer and gave it a second coat before removing the stencil.


While painting, be sure to stop the stencil moving around.

Once it’s dry, follow the setting instructs on your fabric paint, (here’s where the iron makes its reappearance) and admire your work. Or in my case, rue the compulsion that made you buy the cheapest fabric paint Spotlight had on offer that day, because it was so thin it took 5 coats before the colour was opaque, and it also bled. Oops.


Look for fabric paint that is not too runny!

As a side note, I got very excited after making the first two tops for the kids and thought I’d be very clever and make one for my husband with some text on it, using the kids set of alphabet stamps. Uh-uh, no go. The ink didn’t print clearly at all, and the letters managed to be blobby, fuzzy and faint all at the same time. I didn’t iron set it, and fortunately it mostly came out in the wash.

Next I might have a crack at making an alphabet stencil!



Entry filed under: Crafty Stuff. Tags: , , , , , .

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