DIY T Shirt Painting – Tips and Tricks

Stencilled T Shirt

DIY T-Shirt Painting – Tips and Tricks

Getting Ready to Paint A T Shirt

  • Wash your new plain t shirt before painting (unless it has a tag to say it has been prewashed). This takes the sizing out of the fabric and allows the paint to adhere better.

T Shirt Board or Plain Cardboard : Keep paint from seeping through to the back of the shirt

  • Place a T Shirt board inside the T Shirt if you have one handy.
  • If you do not have a T Shirt board, place a piece of plain cardboard inside the T Shirt. The cardboard should not be so big as to stretch the T Shirt fabric. Cut it to size.

Sandpaper : 400 grit

  • Buy a package of 400 grit Sandpaper Sheets from the hardware store if you do not have one. It should be ‘400’ grit.
  • Place it inside the T Shirt, rough side up, on top of the t-shirt board or plain cardboard as described above.
  • The sandpaper will keep your T Shirt in place while you paint.
  • Do not remove the sandpaper or t shirt board / cardboard while the paint is still wet. You don’t want to smudge your artwork.

How to Stencil a Design onto a T Shirt

  • Choose a Stencil Design you want to use.
  • Make sure that the Design isn’t too big or too small for the T Shirt.
  • Take some painting tape (not masking tape which leaves a sticky residue on your shirt). Cut small pieces of tape into 4 or 6 squares (big enough to hold the stencil down on the shirt).
  • Position the Stencil Design and secure it with the tape. Don’t use too much tape.
  • See that part of the design if it is large, isn’t going to be hidden under your arms.
  • To ensure that the design is in the correct place: Take the T Shirt with the taped stencil and hold it up against you (or if it is a large shirt) put it on and check in the mirror that the design is where you want it to be.
  • When painting the shirt: Once the paint is dry, carefully remove the tape and stencil.
  • If possible do not leave the tape adhered to the t-shirt or stencil overnight.

How to Iron a Transfer Design onto a T Shirt

  • If you choose to iron a transfer onto your t shirt ensure that you place a cloth inbetween the front and back of the t shirt. Otherwise, the heat of the iron may transfer the design straight through to the back.of the t shirt.
  • Position the Transfer Design and secure it using thin clean ‘dressmaker pins’ to pin the transfer to your t shirt. If the pins are too thick or are not clean, they could leave holes in your t shirt.
  • Pins should be placed on the edge of the transfer where there is no design and the iron won’t have contact with them.
  • Ensure that part of the design if it is large, isn’t going to be hidden under your arms.
  • To ensure that the design is in the correct place: Take the T Shirt with the pinned transfer on it and hold it up against you (or if it is a large shirt) put it on and check in the mirror that the design is where you want it to be.
  • Place a clean old plain handkerchief or cloth on top of the transfer design to prevent the design transferring to your iron as well.
  • The iron should be on cotton setting. It should be hot but not scorching.
  • Iron the transfer using a circular motion for about 60 seconds, depending on the size of the shirt. It is preferable not to hold the iron down in the same place for any length of time. You don’t want to burn the transfer and/or t shirt.
  • You can check whether it is time to stop ironing by carefully removing a corner pin, lifting the edge slightly and taking a peek. Put the pin back and try another corner and so on.
  • If the design is not defined enough for you to paint, iron in a circular motion once again for a few more seconds.
  • Do not remove all pins, lift the transfer to check and try to put it back in place. It doesn’t work.
  • If you do this and the transfer doesn’t go back in the same place you will have double lines and more work to do trying to fix the problem when painting.

After Painting the T Shirt

Remove Sandpaper and/or Cardboard Carefully

  • When you have finished painting the t shirt, wait until the paint is dry enough (not before) and carefully remove the sandpaper and/or plain cardboard.
  • Use a piece of paper towel to blot any wet paint on the t shirt board / cardboard and allow paint on the sandpaper to dry before using it again.

Heat-Setting Paint

  • Some fabric paints need heat-setting. Follow the instructions on the paint bottle. To be safe, there is no harm in heat-setting the fabric paint anyway.
  • Always place a cloth or handkerchief over the painted item before heat-setting it.
  • Also, place a piece of cloth inside the t shirt.
  • It is advisable to wait at least 24 hours, after heat-setting, before washing a painted t shirt. It can be worn after heat-setting but washed 24 hours later.
  • Always wash painted clothing inside out.

DIY T-Shirt Painting is fun for kids and adults.

Alternatively, you may want to Trace a design and transfer it onto your t-shirt or other fabric project or even easier, use an iron-on badge or other iron on design.

Tracing Pads

If you’d like to trace your own design from a magazine or book and transfer it to a T-Shirt or other project, take a look at our Craft Store. At the end of our Tips and Tricks blog, there is a YouTube video with instructions for tracing. We also have lots of craft accessories for other projects you may like to try. Take a look at our other interesting Blogs for YouTube instructions on how to trace a design and transfer it to a fabric project, as well as ideas on other projects you may like to try.

Iron Ons

If you’d like to use an iron-on badge or other iron-on design to decorate a T-Shirt, Pencil Case or other fabric project, take a look at our Craft Store Accessories.

Don’t want to paint your own t-shirt? The Craft Corner has a selection of hand painted t shirts for kids and adults and crafts kits for kids available. We also have stencils and paints available for DIY craft projects.


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