Tutorial – Freezer Paper Stencils

Several people have expressed interest in know more about how I do my shirts, so I thought it would be fun to do a How-To post.


Several people have expressed interest in know more about how I do my shirts, so I thought it would be fun to do a How-To post.

But, before we begin, I have to throw in a little disclaimer – this particular design is rather more complicated than my normal ones, so it really isn’t the best example to use with this post… but I was just so excited to show off this one, you’ll have to bear with me. I mean, the steps are basically the same, just that this one was bigger and a little more elaborate than my typical designs.

Anyway, so basically what I do is stenciling with freezer paper. Here’s a general overview of the process:

Decide what you want to print on:

This can be done on canvas bags, pillows, pants, shirts.. basically, any fabric that you want. I recommend cotton, it absorbs better.

Typically I use 100% cotton, baby onesies or toddler t-shirts. However, this time around, my littlest brother was coming up on his 15th birthday and had asked me to make him a shirt. So, I decided to get brave and do my print on a button up (90% cotton, 10% spandex) long-sleeved, adult sized shirt.

Draw up a design:

Since this was for a teenage boy, I decided that my typical cutesy designs weren’t going to cut it.  After some thought, I decided to go with an arctic night scene splashed with the northern lights.

I sketch out my ideas with pencil and then, once it’s satisfactory, I’ll color the parts to be cut out in black pen or marker. It’s important to remember that you’re going to have to cut out the design, so simple shapes are better. Once you’re pleased with the design, you’re ready to move onto the next step.

Measure out some freezer paper:

I use scissors to cut out a square or rectangular piece big enough to hold the entire design.

Draw out design onto freezer paper:

Draw the design on the non-waxy side of the paper.

With the smaller articles of clothing, I actually will just trace my original design onto the freezer paper. However, since this project was larger, I had to scale it up, free hand.

Cut out design:

I use an exacto knife for all the intricate cutting. Also, using a cutting board underneath will keep your tables looking better longer.

Iron design onto shirt:

The beauty of freezer paper, and what makes this all possible, is that one side has a light layer wax, while the other side is of sturdy paper. So, when you iron the pattern onto fabric, it creates a seal that protects the uncut areas from exposure to paint.

Turn the waxy side to the fabric and, with a hot iron, press firmly on the paper to affix the pattern. Use pressing motions, don’t rub.

Paint and voilà!

Once the pattern is attached, be sure to put some paper in between the fabric layers to protect the back side of the shirt. And finally, decide what colors you want to use and then it’s time to lay down some paint! Apply the paint using a brush or a sponge.

Let the paint dry completely (about 4 hours) before gently peeling off the stencil. If you’re careful when peeling, most stencils can be reused several times.

On this particular project, I went another step further and embellished the fabric paint with a fine-tip black sharpie and a silver paint pen. I also used fabric spray paints, but I don’t recommend those for this type of project.

Author: momo211

I've been active in the arts pretty much my entire life. Growing up, my home was filled with creativity; my dad's an accomplished painter and my mom has always harbored a great love for music and art and they passed it on down to their kids. When I was a little, my parents saw my avid interest (and inclination to draw on any available space - including school tests and myself) and they gave me a sketch book for my birthday and things have just blossomed from there. Officially, my main focus of study has been music, but my true love has always been art. I've been commissioned as an illustrator for kids books, a portrait painter, creator of center pieces for private parties and, most recently, a designer of kids clothes. My aim is for the designs to express a whimsical and playful feel to reflect the essence of childhood. However, I also strive to branch out from the generic "pink princess" and "sports fan" designs that are so prevalent out there. Every kid has their own personality, why not express it?

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