Saturday, March 20, 2010

T-shirt design with freezer paper

Happy first day of Spring!You can never trust spring weather in Chicago. See the little bird on the driveway? Poor thing looks lost. I guess the trellis project is on hold, too. Oh, weekend I bet it'll be 80!

Because it's almost t-shirt weather, I thought I'd share my freezer paper stencil tutorial. I was skeptical about this technique at first, but it really works! It's not easy to find freezer paper these took me two trips...but it must be freezer paper (not waxed paper, not parchment paper).

Besides freezer paper, you need a t-shirt, fabric paint and brush, an iron, an image to trace, a pencil, and an X-acto knife or small scissors. Wash and dry your t-shirt first, but DO NOT use fabric softener. Most fabric paints will adhere to fabric that's a 50/50 blend, but some require 100% cotton, so check the bottle. I used Plaid Folk Art Fabric Paint. It dries soft and flexible, and is very durable. After 6 months this t-shirt has one small crack in the paint.

For this stencil, I chose an image from a CD of one of my daughter's favorite bands, Superchick (site plays music, FYI). I enlarged it in Photoshop and printed out a copy. If your image has strong, dark lines, you might be able to place it under the freezer paper and trace. Mine was too light, so I covered the back of the copy with pencil. Then I placed it on top of the freezer paper and traced over the image. You can freehand a drawing if you're talented. :) BTW, you want to draw your image on the paper side, not the plastic side.

Start cutting out your image using an X-acto blade or very sharp, small scissors. Remember you are creating a stencil, so you need to have the outside of the image in one piece. Don't panic if you make a mistake; I cut through the bottom of the stencil by accident, but I just ironed it down and it worked fine. Place the freezer paper, plastic side down, on your t-shirt. Heat your iron on a cotton/no steam setting. Holding the paper steady, place the iron on top of the paper for a few seconds. Lift the iron and place it back down in another spot instead of running it back and forth like you were ironing a shirt. When you think you're done, check all of your edges and make sure they're securely against the fabric.

Use a t-shirt painting board or layer some newspapers inside the t-shirt so the paint won't bleed through to the back of the shirt. I like using a painting board or piece of cardboard because I only have one dining table and I can move the board without messing up the paint. In the past I have painted on fabric using regular acrylic paint and textile medium. It dries quite stiff on top of the fabric and is prone to peeling and cracking, so I recommend a fabric paint. I used a foam brush to dab paint inside the stencil. I dabbed and brushed, then moved to the next area and dabbed/brushed. Now let your paint dry, following the instructions on the bottle. Mine said to air dry for 24 hours, but I peeled off the stencil after about 6 hours. Start at one corner and peel gently, especially when you get to the painted area.

Look at the detail! Nothing leaked under the paper. Some paints need to be heat set...I waited the required 24 hours, then placed a piece of freezer paper over the design and ironed using the cotton setting. I moved the iron around quite a bit so it didn't really stick to the fabric. Using freezer paper supposedly helps set the paint better.

And here's the final product. Be sure to follow the washing instructions for your brand of paint. (Mine says wait at least 72 hours, turn garment inside out, and wash on gentle in cool water.)

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