How to Design Your T-Shirts with Fabric Paint

T-Shirt with Free-hand Paint Design

Free-hand Painting

When it comes to t-shirt design it’s difficult to beat the simplicity of fabric paint.  Since fabric paint comes in such a wide variety of finishes finding the finish to fit your creative mood is easy!

Fabric Considerations

When painting on fabric one of your considerations should be the fabric’s texture. If the fabric is loosely woven or has a yarn count of less than 100 yards per inch, then it’s easy for the paint to permeate the fabric. Often this results in the paint having low color concentration.

In contrast, a tightly woven fabric does not allow as much paint to leak through the surface and as a result this type of fabric is better for painting finely detailed designs.

Types of Fabric Paint

There are many textures of paint available for fabrics such as matte, metallic, glitter, pearl, dimensional (a.k.a. puff paint), slick, spray paint, and paint markers.  Although there are also a number of ways to apply the paint, the most common are brushes, sponges, and rollers.  Additionally, many products can be applied directly from the bottle.  For free-form creativity you can use your hands or even interestingly shaped household items (like alphabet blocks).

Creative Methods

T-Shirt Stencil Design

T-Shirt Stencil Design

For those of us that are creatively challenged, such as myself, stencils are a great way to transfer beautiful designs onto your t-shirts. You can purchase them at your local craft store or you can print the designs and transfer them to a thicker paper, such as a paper plate, file folder, or water color paper.

When applying stencil design, you need to make sure that paint doesn’t get beneath the stencil’s edges.  You can do this by using tape or a non-permanent spray adhesive to secure the stencil to your painting surface.

Here is a quick how-to for painting:

1. Pre-wash the fabric before painting to prevent shrinkage. Do not use fabric softener.
2. Shake your paint bottle well.
3. Insert a shirt board or cardboard between the top and bottom fabric layers.
4. Apply one to two coats of paint and allow the piece to dry between coats.
5. Lay the fabric on a flat surface and allow it to air dry for 4 hours.
6. Wait 72 hours before washing. Wash it in warm water, gentle cycle with mild soap; and line dry. Do not dry clean.

When using fabric paint you are only limited by your imagination and ability. We hope that you find these tips helpful and wish you happy painting!

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Filed under Crafts/Projects, t-shirt craft, t-shirts

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