How to Stencil a T Shirt

Ordering custom t-shirts can be an expensive option and usually requires a large order and advance notice. With these instructions, you can make your own for next-to-nothing and have the t-shirts looking exactly the way you want.


  1. Image titled Stencil a T Shirt Step 1
    Print out the design you desire to stencil in black and white only (not grayscale).
  2. Image titled Stencil a T Shirt Step 2
    Staple the piece of paper with the design to the back of a piece of contact paper (clear book covering), so that the design is visible through the contact paper. Make sure the contact paper side is up (as opposed to the peel-off backing).
  3. Image titled Stencil a T Shirt Step 3
    Cut out the black areas of the design on the contact paper with an exacto knife, in the same way you would if you were tracing something.
  4. Image titled Stencil a T Shirt Step 4
    Peel the backing off of the contact paper, and stick the stencil firmly to the surface to be painted.
  5. Image titled Stencil a T Shirt Step 5
    Place something between the front and back of the shirt, so that no paint bleeds through to the other side.
  6. Image titled Stencil a T Shirt Step 6
    With a sponge brush, cover the cut-out areas with fabric paint using an up-and-down motion. For better results, do not use dimensional fabric paint.
  7. Image titled Stencil a T Shirt Step 7
    Wait until the paint dries, and then peel the stencil off.


  • See if you can get a hold of Stencil Adhesive, which is basically spray on sticky stuff from the back of Sticky Notes. This will prevent paint from going under the paper and making a mess of the details.
  • Apply paint with finger tips when possible, especially first coat. This creates a seal that prevents paint from leaking under and also strengthens the stencil as you paint later on.
  • To avoid ripping the stencil, use the contact paper as was previously mentioned, or a cheaper method is using packaging tape and layer it over the entire stencil before cutting it out.
  • To create a stencil from a photograph, open the photo in Photoshop or other picture editing program, and adjust it, so that it is only black and white. This can be done in Photoshop by going to the Image menu and selecting Adjustments, then Threshold. High contrast photos work best.
  • When making shirts of multiple colour prints, always 'fix' the paint of the last print before doing the next (the instructions will tell you how to do this, it usually involves ironing it).
  • Make sure you save any islands (white parts of the stencil that aren't attached to the rest of the stencil) so that you can stick them on separately.
  • Put a piece of cloth over the stenciled part of the fabric and iron over the cloth so that the stencil won't come off.


  • Make sure the stencil's bump is stuck firmly to the t-shirt, or the paint will bleed.

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Categories: Fabric and Clothing Decoration | Stamping and Stencils