Make your own T-shirt design!

So a few weeks back, I was getting desperate. Christmas was coming fast, and shopping was becoming unavoidable. It’s not that I don’t like to give people cool stuff. It’s just that the stores during the end of the year are… scary. Anyway, I found some new blank T-shirts laying around the house and saw an exit. Why not make some cool custom T-shirts, and save myself a painful trip to the mall? Sounds like win/win to me.

Of course I don’t have any silk-screening equiptment, so I had to get creative.


This is roughly the steps I took:

1. Create a derivative, knock off design in Illustrator. (because that is easier and quicker than coming up with something wholly original)

2. Print an outline of the design on heavy 8.5×11 card stock.

3. Cut out the design with an x-acto knife. (save all the pieces)

4. Tape the card stock to the shirt to create a stencil where you want the design.

5. Dab on a couple coats of acrylic paint with the end of a paint brush. (don’t water the paint down too much to minimize bleeding under the edge of the stencil)

6. Remove the card stock stencil, and think, “Dang, that looks pretty amateurish. How do I make this suck less?”

7. After the paint has dried, tack all the little pieces down over the design so you are covering everything you just painted in step 5.

8. Paint a freeform texture with a complimentary color around your initial design. (Hint, you can also touch up any edges that may have bled under the frist stencil)

9. Remove all the little pieces of this reverse stencil, and think, “Well, it is either give someone this gem, or head to Kohls.”

10. Wrap your unique, hand-crafted T-shirt and drop it under the tree. Shopping averted. It’s just that easy!

…and here is a closer look at what I came up with:

The About Face


Mountain No Where

Of course, you could do two minutes of research and come up with a better technique. Ironing on freezer paper seems like it would work better. You could also use spray paint, or fabric paints instead of regular acrylics. But then I would have had to leave the house…

If you decide to try this, be sure to let me see what you come up with!

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