Painting T-shirts {diy}

There are any number of ways you can decorate a t-shirt: fabric paint, fabric markers, printable transfers, iron on transfers.  All excellent options and all can be a little pricey.  And you might not have them on hand or want to purchase them for a one-time project

Use acrylic paint!  Chances are you have some of that lying around if you like to craft.  Even if you don't have very much (or any) on hand, it is inexpensive and versatile.  Fabric paint and markers might not be ideal for a bevy of projects, but acrylic paint can be used for lots of things!

I've used acrylics to make a few t-shirts for Ophelia, particularly for Western Day at her little school.  If you are an artistic whiz and can easily freehand drawings and decorations, you're golden.  If, like me, your drawing ability is limited to stick people and ducks, here are some tips for painting t-shirts (or other fabric for that matter).

-Wash the t-shirt before painting
-Lay it flat and put some newspaper or cardboard inside the shirt
  • doesn't have to be thick
  • something sturdy works better than newspaper if you're going to paint a large area
-Foam stamps work very well for getting a general outline and base layer of paint
  • foam stamps have a nice flat area and you can easily apply paint to them
  • foam stamps aren’t as detailed as ink stamps
-Thin, stubby, stiff bristled paint brushes work best
  • soft, thick brushes will smear paint outside your boundaries
  • tiny brushes will be better able to handle details
  • it’s easy to switch colors with thin brushes; they don’t hold a lot of water after rinsing

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, you’re all set to create your t-shirt masterpiece.
  1. Prepare your t-shirt
  2. Squirt your paint out onto a paper plate or flat piece of cardboard
  3. Paint a thin layer of paint on your foam stamp
  4. Decide on a position and stamp your t-shirt.  Don’t wiggle the stamp and be sure to pick it straight up off the shirt.
  5. Go back with a paint brush and fill in the color in the area you stamped.  This may take 2 or 3 coats depending on the color you’re using and the look you want to achieve.
  6. Once your base design dries a little, you can go back and add details or embellishments
  7. Allow your t-shirt to dry completely
  8. Heat set your painting by throwing the t-shirt in the dryer, by itself, for 30 minutes on regular heat.  (you can do multiple painted t-shirts at once, just don’t put the painted shirts in with other laundry)
The heat set is the most important step when using acrylics.

Now, the paint, after a few washings, may crack a little bit and get little wear lines.  I didn’t have a problem with that.  Ophelia’s t-shirts were obviously homemade and I was fine with the look.  Plus, she plays hard anyway so her shirts are bound to be stained.  A little crackly paint just adds character to the stains and spots!

Enjoy your t-shirt creations!

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