THE STENCIL STUDIO GUIDE TO...
How to Stencil A T-Shirt
You Will Need
- A plain cotton T-Shirt
- A thick piece of card
- A Stencil of your choice
- Fabric Paints
- Stencil Brushes or Rollers
- Start by laying the t-shirt on a flat surface then slide the piece of card in between the back & front of the t-shirt.
- Apply spraymount to the stencil, this will help keep the stencil in place and give a nice sharp finish to your work. Follow the manufacturers instructions for the spraymount, don't use too much though and wait a few minutes before using the stencil to be sure the glue is dry, it should feel tacky but not wet.
- Carefully position the stencil onto the t-shirt, use a measure to check the design is central. Use tape to mask off parts of the stencil you don't want to paint (ie if you want to use a second/third etc colour later). Make sure all parts of the stencil are stuck to the t-shirt.
- Get your paint/s and brush/es or roller/s ready, see below for help with choosing paints. You will need one brush/roller per colour paint. You can use any type of brush although flat or dome ended stencil brushes work best. Make sure your brushes are totally dry before adding paint to them (moisture in the brush can make the paint too runny).
- Starting with the lightest of your chosen colours dip the brush into the paint, use a plate or piece of card to remove excess paint from the brush before dabbing or stippling the brush onto the fabric through the cut out parts of the stencil. If using rollers load with paint and roll back and forth to evenly distribute the paint.
- Keep adding more paint to the brush when required and gradually paint the whole of the design. Try to keep the brush at a 90 degree angle to the stencil, this will help to keep the paint from bleeding beneath the stencil, above all DO NOT add too much paint to the brush. If using a roller press and roll firmly over the stencil until completely painted. It's always best to add another thin layer of paint if the colour is not solid enough, wait for the first coat to dry before adding more.
- When you are happy that all parts of the stencil have been painted remove the stencil, there's no need to wait until the paint is dry, just take extra care not to smudge the wet paint. It's probably best to leave the card in place until the paint is dry.
- When the paint is completely dry you may have to heat set it to keep the paint from washing off during laundering, paints vary so follow the manufacturers instructions for this. Heat setting usually means applying a hot iron to the painted area (turn steam setting off) for a minute or so, use a piece of heatproof paper or thin cloth between paint and iron. Once heat set your t-shirt can be washed at 40 degrees. The design should stay put although a lot depends on fabric, paint quality and washing frequency.
A variety of paints are available for fabric painting including fabric spray paints, you can even make your own! In fact if you already have a collection of artists quality acrylic paints you simply have to add fabric medium and you have instant fabric paints, again, follow manufacturers instructions for the correct ratio of paint to medium. We have used Jo Sonjas Fabric Medium and found it works really well. There are also some great silk screen printing inks out there too, the best we have used is a brand called Permaset, these take a little longer to dry than normal acrylics although a hairdryer will speed up the process.
Stencils can be made from any type of paper, card, acetate or thin plastic. Paper and card stencils have a limited life. Our stencils are cut from 125micron polyester material called Mylar, it's a bit like acetate only stronger, we find this great for t-shirts, it won't absorb moisture and warp like paper or card. Keep your stencil clean and free from excessive paint build-up and you'll find it can be used literally hundreds of times. Always store your stencils flat.