*Sponge brushes (they're super cheap and regular paint brushes leave streaks and causes bleeding)
*Something to put paint into, I used a paper plate.
*Something to separate the layers of your shirt (like thin cardboard)
*Something to cut your design out of so you don't damage your table/desk (that same thin cardboard will work but a cutting mat makes things smoother)
Step 1: Get your design onto the freezer paper. If you're a super awesome artist that just means grabbing a pencil and sketch it out on the non shiny side of the paper. If you're not an awesome artist (because I'm sure not) then you can cut a piece of freezer paper down to the size of printer paper and just print your design out onto the non shiny side. Most printers handle freezer paper fine but if yours doesn't you can print your design onto regular paper and then trace it onto the freezer paper.
Step 2: Use your x-acto knife to cut out your design. For basic one color designs you throw away the black parts and keep the white parts. Depending on your design you'll need to decide if you want your finished creation to be a silhouette, or if it will be made with islands or bridges (see FAQs below if that didn't make sense).
Step 3: Place your cut out piece(s) of freezer paper onto your fabric with the shiny side down and go over it with an iron set on high/cotton/whatever setting matches with your fabric.
If your design has islands that are large and simple you can line it all up and iron it at once, more detailed & complicated designs usually need to be pieced together just a few pieces at a time.
Here is the whole design ironed onto the shirt and ready to be painted-
Step 4: Place something (a towel, an empty cereal box, whatever) inside your shirt to separate the two layers of shirt so the paint doesn't get on the back of it. Squeeze out some paint onto your bowl/plate/paint palette and get to work. Use your sponge brush in a stabbing/poking motion, not a sweeping/brushing motion (this keeps your design from having streaking marks and keeps the paint from bleeding). If you're using a light color or painting on a dark shirt you may need to do multiple coats of paint. If so let it dry (you can hit it with a blow dryer to speed things up) and just go over it again. Another trick for using colored paints on black shirts is to do a coat of white first and after that dries do a coat of colored paint on top.
Step 5: Once you're done painting it's time to pull all that freezer paper off your shirt. If your paint is still wet make sure you don't touch the wet part of the stencil onto your shirt as you pull it off and that you don't touch the wet paint and then touch your shirt.
Don't forget to remove any islands. If they're small or suborn you can use your x-acto knife to carefully poke up the edges and if they're super small and you don't have nails you can use tweezers to pull them off of the shirt. Just make sure you don't go overboard and cut your shirt.
Step 6: Once your shirt has all of the freezer paper removed and is completely dry you need to heat set it. This helps keep the paint from fading or cracking. You can either throw it in the dryer or hit it with the iron on high for a couple minutes with a thin piece of cloth on top of your shirt or with your shirt inside out.
Done! I'm wearing it here with a detachable collar I made out of an old Metamorphose shirt, now I can spruce up my homemade cutsews a bit. :)
Other designs ready to be cut out:
Photos of multiple color design:
I made separate stencils for each color.
Last bit of freezer paper is on and ready for a coat of black.
The only problem w/multicolor stencils that overlap is the freezer paper won't stick to the painted parts as well which leaves a bit of bleeding/not as professional looking lines. :/
Simple silhouettes are really quick and easy.
No need to worry about being neat around the edges, the freezer paper blocks all the extra and leaves you with nice clean lines once you're done.
Tote bags work but they don't look as tidy.
This one has bridges/white space between the lines to keep it as one solid piece.
This one was made for a craft swap to match this design- http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=3274212227
I understand what a silhouette is but islands and bridges sound more like a vacation that a craft project, huh!?
The unicorn above is a silhouette, the candy tote bag was done with bridges and the strawberry & white rabbit were done with islands. A bridge is where you decide to not cut out every part of your stencil, leaving small "bridges" to connect the different parts so that when you're done cutting it out you still have one big piece. With this method you can leave your finished design w/these bridges/blank spaces throughout it to give it that clearly stenciled look or you can use a think paint brush to hand paint them in. Islands are when you cut out every piece of your design and save the white pieces to iron on like a giant puzzle at the end, like 'islands' in the sea of your stencil.
Can I use any kind of paint?
Fabric paint, screen printing ink and textile color are all good. The puff paint style fabric paint will work but it makes very thick designs, the more liquid stuff works better. Don't use straight acrylic paint because it will make your fabric stiff. Although you can buy "fabric medium" to turn your acrylics into fabric paint but at that point why not just buy fabric paint?
What the heck is freezer paper and where do I buy it?
Don't bother looking in your craft store. You can usually find freezer paper in the grocery store, in the isle with ziplock bags and wax paper. Freezer paper is actually made to wrap up meat before putting it in the freezer, it's waxy on one side and like regular paper on the other. Don't accidentally buy wax paper, you need the non waxy side to be able to iron it.
Can I paint on things other than tshirts?
Yep, almost any fabric works but some better than others. Tote bags for example have a noticeable amount of bleeding (when the paint runs under your stencil and make it looks sloppy) because there is so much texture in the fabric and space in between the threads.
Let me know if you have any questions. It might sound a bit complicated but it's actually really easy, try it! :) As always, I'd love for people to share what they made if they try it out.