We are still in the full swing of winter here in Lexington, Kentucky, but as I do each year, I am already gathering ideas for spring/summer shirts for the three boys running around my house. Since my oldest (who is almost 9) was a little tyke, I have been designing his tee shirts. I save the shirts in a box and when I look through those old shirts they read almost like a scrapbook, reminding me of what interests/hobbies they had at the time. Sometimes I embroider on them and add vintage fabric touches but the best way, by far, to get the detailed look I am going for is with freezer paper stencils.
This technique isn't new and I certainly can't stake claim to it, but I can say that I have nearly a decade of practice. So I am declaring myself a freezer paper stencil expert!
I'm sharing with you my process and a few of the tips and tricks I have learned over the years. I get lots of inspiration here and I find the best plain tee shirts (for boys) at Old Navy and Target.
Freezer Paper Stencil Tutorial
What You'll Need:
* Something to stencil on. The sky's the limit here.
* Freezer Paper (you can find that near the plastic wrap at the grocery store)
* X-Aacto Knife
* Small craft cutting mat or a kitchen cutting board
* Piece of Cardboard
* Paint (fabric paint is great but I have had good success with cheap craft paint too)
* An Iron and Ironing Board
1. Prewash your material. Whether a canvas tote, a pillowcase or a tee shirt, you want to make sure its a freshly laundered surface to work with and that any shrinking that will happen on its first wash is already out of its system.
2. Cut a piece of freezer paper slightly larger than the area that you plan to cover on the shirt (or bag...I'll keep saying shirt for the purpose of the tutorial but just fill in the blank with whatever you are making).
3. Draw a design or print off an image online and trace it onto the paper side (not the slick side) of the freezer paper. Pencil or pen. Doesn't matter. Feel free to get detailed. But remember, each detail will need to be cut out...so only bite off what you are willing to chew.
4. After coming up with a fun image use the X-Aacto knife to carefully cut out all the pieces. I usually start with the smallest details first and put them into a ziplock bag to keep a handle on them. Then I work my way outward to the largest piece. You can use both the inner and outer pieces to make a regular and a reverse image (2 shirts out of one design essentially), so cut carefully!
5. Now that everything is cut out, take your biggest piece first and lay it, waxy side down, on the shirt exactly where you want it. Have your iron heated to medium (no steam) and press the stencil onto the shirt all the way around, making sure every design edge is fully pressed to the shirt. Continue to add in the smaller elements of the design and heat press them into place until the design is fully stuck to the shirt in the way you want it. The beauty of freezer paper is you do have the opportunity to move it once its been heat pressed but I wouldn't make a habit of it. Don't stress if you need to move it once (maybe twice). It will still work.
6. Once the shirt cools, get out those paints and get to work. I like to use a 1/4 flat artist paint brush for this but sometimes if I am trying to cover a really large surface area with paint I will use a wide foam brush. Use the cardboard piece to sandwich inside the shirt to protect the paint from bleeding onto the back of your shirt.
7. When painting, work in layers. Don't glob a bunch of paint on your shirt the first run through. Just get enough going to put a thin layer on the fabric. Start from the freezer paper and work towards the fabric. This helps keep the paint from bleeding under the freezer paper. Once you have a good layer on, set it aside to dry completely. When dry, do a second coat.
I don't do a third coat. I think it starts getting a little thick and could crack overtime. So I keep it at 2 layers always, and have had great success.
8. Now for the fun part. After it is completely dry, start peeling off the paper. You can't reuse it (unfortunately) so don't worry about being super careful. Sometimes with the pesky detailed pieces of freezer paper that are completely covered in paint I use the tip of the X-Acto knife to snag up the edge of the paper and take it off.
9. Once all the freezer paper is off you can heat set it with a low iron. I usually take a towel and sandwich it between the shirt and iron or I turn the shirt inside out. I'm not keen on getting the iron in direct contact with the fresh paint.
10. Voila!! Onto the next one....its kind of addicting.