The Guide to T-Shirt Printing with Stencils

This tutorial deals with printing up low cost t-shirts with your existing stencils using paint. There are many ways to print stencils up on shirts, silk screens etc, but this is the cheapest and easiest and only way that we have explored so far.

The Stencil

Pretty much any type of stencil material will do for the printing. We have found acetate to work the best, as it adheres to the fabric and prevents bleeding. However we have also printed shirts using laminated stencils or just ordinary stationary paper for the budget conscious (NOTE: paper bows due to the moisture in the paint, therefore paint fast).

The Shirt

It’s harder then you think to find a decent quality blank shirt at a low cost for printing stencils on, but we’ve found that the thicker the shirt, the better. Just make sure that you wash the shirt first to allow for shrinkage.

The Stain

It’s up to you what you use for the actual printing. There are a few products on the market for adhering paint to fabric. We use a textile medium which can be mixed 50/50 with normal acrylic paint, ask your friendly assistant at your local craft or hobby store about them. The medium helps to stain the fabric with whatever color acrylic paint that you mix in. We’ve found that approximately 5ml of paint and 5ml of textile medium should roughly cover a A4 sized stencil when applied liberally.

The good thing about using this medium is you can create any colour using your acrylic paints. The only thing about using a medium like this is the print will fade after time if washed in warm water on a ‘normal’ cycle, so hand washing or using a ‘gentle’ cold cycle on your washing machine will help maintain the stain, but I like the prints when they begin to fade anyway.

If you’re after something more permanent other options include using screen printers ink or Bleach.

Ready to Roll

After your shirt is washed and dried, lay it over a book or hard board larger then the area you are going to stencil. Tape your stencil down using medical tape and mask around the edges to stop any unwanted marks.

Mix up your paint and medium together really well. You’ll need a sponge roller about 50mm in width to roll on the paint. Work the roller with paint until its has a generous coverage, make sure your roller is covered evenly by rolling it on a flat surface, like a dinner plate. When rolling the paint onto the stencil, try to work with the direction of the cuts from the outside towards the middle. The paint will help stick the acetate down, but don’t push down too hard or apply too much paint at once. We got this tip from our friends who provide sign letters and do custom sign work. Take your time to get a feel for the rolling, after a few shirts its surprising how assertive you can be with the rolling.

Now just peel the stencil off carefully and be totally amazed at what a fantastic job you have just done, don’t leave it too long though, as the textile medium begins to dry fast and becomes sticky.

When the paint is totally dry you need to color-fast the print by placing a clean piece of cloth over the stenciled area and ironing over it. Repeat this a few times to really set the print into the fabric. I tend to always hand wash my shirts in cold water the first few washes.

Now wear your shirt with pride for a better quality of life and remember, fuck grace and fuck modesty, accept all compliments with arrogance for you are now better than everyone.

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