Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Freezer Paper Stencil Tutorial

I have written about using freezer paper stencils before when I posted about my Star Wars Birthday T-shirts or any of my fabric paint projects so far, but now I am back with a written and picture filled tutorial.

First, you need to find an image or create your own image that you want to turn into a stencil.  My youngest son just loves trains - Thomas the Train, diesel trains, electric trains, steam trains, any type of train, really, so I tried my hand at drawing a train.

Now, I do not claim any kind of great artistic skill when it comes to drawing, but I figured I could pull something off if I stuck to shapes, which I am not too terrible at drawing.

This is what I came up with.
Hand Drawn Train Image 1
Hand Drawn Train Image 2

You are more than welcome to use them, but please give credit where credit is due, by referencing my site and this post please.  Please refer to my Website Policies if you have any questions.

But first let's get the materials together.
  • Freezer paper
  • Exacto knife
  • Self healing cutting mat
  • Images to cut out
  • Fabric paint (I use Tulip brand both painted on with a brush and spray paint)
  • Iron (no steam)
  • T-shirt or other fabric
Step 1
Cut out your stencil.  I am able to place 2 sheets of freezer paper under my image on top of my cutting map and still get 2 really good positive image stencils and 2 negative image stencils.

Step 2
Find your t-shirt or other fabric.  I had a sleep outfit with a plain top (stripes don't count) and a clearance t-shirt that I had bought just for this type of project.

Step 3
Place your stencil.  Here are the 2 positive images of my train that I cut out.  I was very pleased that the caboose fit perfectly on that little pocket on the t-shirt and that the train fit just right within the stripes of the sleep shirt.

Step 4
Iron on your stencil.  The waxy side needs to be face down so that it can seal with the fabric.  Make sure that the steam is OFF and to press down hard.  It is important to make sure that the stencil bonds well with fabric to prevent the paint from bleeding beyond the edges of your stencil.

If you are wondering where the windows are, they are coming.  I always place the main stencil on my fabric first and iron it down.  THEN, I add the small bits - as I like to think of them.  You can add them all at once or one at a time - whatever makes you most comfortable.  Depending on how the small bits are behaving themselves, I use both methods.

Here are my train windows.

Step 5
Now that the stencil is firmly affixed to fabric, you need to put some kind of protective material underneath the fabric you intend to stencil.  A paper bag will do or a t-shirt form.  I have some rolled paper from a old painting project that I use.  I just fold it to the necessary size.

If you are painting on a t-shirt, you need to put it inside the t-shirt to protect the back of the shirt from the paint bleeding through.

Step 6
Now that you are protecting yourself from unwanted paint transfer, let's paint.

I usually place my paint in a paper plate or disposable bowl.  Recently, I have been using my old detergent scoops instead of just pitching.

You don't just have to settle for the color in the bottle either.  Get adventurous and mix some other colors.  The blue is a mix (a little white and glitter), and the red is purely from the bottle.

If you want to add another coat of color, wait for the first to dry.

Step 7
When the paint has dried completely, remove the stencil carefully.  You don't want to take some of the paint with you after all that work.

Step 8
Use a crumby towel or a cast off t-shirt and place it over your new paint job and place a hot iron on it.  This is supposed to set the paint.

Step 9
Wait the appropriate time listed on your chosen fabric paint (Tulip's - 72 hours) before washing your new piece of art inside out.

Step 10
Step back and enjoy your work.


That's my boy!

Let me know if you have questions.   I won't claim to be an expert, but I have made quite a few t-shirts.  :)


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  1. I can't wait to give this a try. I love how your design turned out. Pinning!

    1. Thanks, Mary Beth! I sure had fun making it, and it is doubly great because my son loves it too.

  2. Thanks for such an easy-to-follow tutorial. I have always wanted to try it! My son was SO into Thomas, too. Now he's into Space, and I must say, I like that much better!

    1. I know all about Thomas. I will likely remember all the names when I am a grandmother! But there are worse things than Thomas out there, so I won't complain too much.

      I can think of so many easy ways to make a space T-shirt with fabric paint. Take an old shirt and experiment on it before moving on to one you paid for or one that is in good condition. That is how I cut my teeth.

    2. Just hearing the name Thomas in any context bring the theme song to my mind! I make a lot of applique shirts, but at 6, I'm sure the days when DS appreciate those will be coming to an end sooner rather than later. I think the stencils will have more staying power. I love stocking up on the tees at Joann when they are on sale for $2. Then I don't feel too bad if I make a mistake!! (By the way, do you have a Silhouette? I'm thinking I could use that cut out the freezer paper...)

    3. I do not have a Silhouette, but I know that you can use it to cut freezer paper. Lots of crafters who do the freezer paper stenciling use their Silhouette to cut out images. I am still drooling over it. Sadly, dropping that kind of cash on a single product just for crafting is not possible for me at the moment.