Stencil Art…Printing T-shirts

By Melissa Evans

Printing Your Own Custom T-shirts At Home Has Never Been Easier

What follows is not the only the way of printing art on to t-shirts, this is just the best way I have found. And by the best, I mean, the easiest, the fastest and the cheapest with amazing results. Of course you don’t have to just print on t-shirts, for example tote bags look fantastic with prints.

In the first part of my Stencil Art tutorial series, I examined some methods of Making Stencils with Photoshop. You can use your newly created stencils here or click on one of the thumbnails below and then right-click and choose “Save Image As…” to save a stencil to your computer.

Heart Blade Stencil

I recommend this stencil to try out first due to it’s simplicity.
It will take around 5 minutes to cut out.

Blondie Stencil

Definitely a little more difficult.
Don’t scale it down too small or it will become a nightmare.

Ben Harper Stencil

This stencil is trickier.
This one took me just under an hour to cut out.

Lion Stencil

I recommend this stencil those who have made several stencils already. Don’t attempt this as your first stencil! It’s tricky (it took me around 2 hours to cut out..seriously!) but the results are well worth it. Check out the final product HERE.

For those who don’t have any image-editing software programmes such as Photoshop, you can always use your print preview screen to see how large the stencil is going to print out on A4. You can then scale the stencil art on the Print Preview Window to the size you need.

STEP 1. Cutting the Stencil

I like to print my stencil designs on to a piece of A4 photo paper. It makes a nice firm base to place the acetate (transparency film) on. A4 photo paper is available at most supermarkets now for a reasonable price.

If you don’t have a printer, you’ll have to go down to the local print shop. Get them to print it on to some thick card. Also, you can buy transparency film for ink jet printers, so just print directly onto it and then cut.

What You Need for Stencil Cutting…

  • - Self-heal cutting mat or a sheet of glass to protect the table you are cutting on.
  • - A blade to cut with. I highly recommend an EXACTO KNIFE.
  • - Thin acetate. The thick stuff is too hard to cut. (Transparency Film)
  • - Sticky tape.

You can buy single sheets of acetate from stationary and craft shops (also known as transparency film). Acetate works really well because to lies flat on the fabric once you apply ink. If you make your stencil out of paper it’s only going to get damaged and start buckling when you start to apply the ink…NOT GOOD!

Firmly tape the acetate on top of your printed image and cut out the unwanted areas.

Start from the middle and work outwards. The stencil is going to become weaker the more areas that you remove, so you need to work smartly and start with the small areas first.

If you make a mistake and accidently cut an area you can use sticky tape over the area to repair it.

Take your time cutting out your stencil. It’s time well invested because you can use the same stencil over and over and over.

Once you have cut out the acetate stencil you can throw away the original stencil design that you printed. The boring stuff is done now. It’s time to start printing!