How-To: Make Street Art Style T-Shirts Part 1

As promised, I snapped to it and got to work on my husband’s stenciled t-shirts.  This is a time-consuming process, but I really enjoy the quality of the finished product as well as the high level of customization that’s possible.  (I’ll never see another person wearing a t-shirt like one of these.)  A Blank Canvas Tee cut from a soft plain knit would showcase this technique well or use your favorite tried and true pattern.

For images, I used to “borrow” stencils from other people.  This is the internet, right?  I’m not making a profit, am I?  I’m just spreading another artist’s work around.  Now I tend to make my own stencils.  You can try working from a photo, I suggest monkeying (heh) with the contrast and black/white settings to see what you get.  It’s addictive once you start.

I thought the best way to show you how to do this would be to literally show you, so I had Stephen film the spraying.  It’s a bit scary working with a new design, I have no idea if this will look great or rather silly.  I mean, it is a baby monkey cuddling with a pigeon, after all.

I have to let it dry before I peel off the stencil.  Over night is best.  Tomorrow I’ll pull the stencil off, finish the shirt and take a few photos!



I am completely blown away by the incredibly candid and insightful comments on yesterday’s post.  You’re all so intelligent and thoughtful, I feel like I have a LOT to chew on and feel like we must be sitting on a comprehensive definition of “taste.”  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me on that subject.

Do you like the slight facelift on the website?  I thought the walls looked a little too gray, so I freshened it with a paler green.  Does it hurt anyone’s retinas?


  1. I am interested to see how your lastest work of art turns out Steph. Is there a particular spray that you use for stenciling? I had a student use some a few years ago on his wearable art project but I can’t remember what brand it was. If I can buy it locally I would love to know – my younger boys may have great fun with this as they seem to be into their own logos and graphics, and keen to put them on textile articles. (BTW – thanks for giving me something to read).

    • Well, the freezer paper stencil sticks to the fabric with the application of heat and peels off clean. No residue. I used an ordinary flat enamel spray paint from the hardware store for the decal. I’ll press it thoroughly tomorrow, I can’t remember if I did that before the “set” the paint- I think I did- but it can’t hurt. (no problem! Feel better soon!)

      • That’s interesting – flat emamel from the hardware store – this could be decidely more economical and convenient and provide a better range of colours. Sounds much better than using the printable t-shirt transfers which always leave a white outline at the very least.

  2. You know, my project for the year is fabric embellishment/painting/printing etc., but you beat me to it! I’ve stencilled before with poor results due to the paint coming off in the wash. I used fabric paint and set with an iron. Maybe I didn’t apply enough? Anyway, with fabric paint prices being quite high, I love your tip of using regular enamel paint. You’ve done this before I assume? Does the paint last? Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. Oh, one more thing: I haven’t used freezer paper before (hard to get in Germany), but I may try to find some. Is it reusable or do you need a new sheet for every shirt?

    • Quilting and some craft shops here carry freezer paper and sell it by the meter. That’s how I buy it, and I know people who bring it back with them from the US. I’m not sure if there’s an online source, but I’ll have a look around.

    • I use Freezer paper when I do applique work, it makes ironing around the shapes easier. And I know how awful it is when you like something you can only get from abroad. My husbands aunt is from Munich, and left her Manhattan nail polish here ( I fell in love with the first stroke) but we cannot get it in the states, and nothing compares. So that being said, I can send out freezer paper, to Germany if you would like Uta, just drop me a note with your address and I get it in the mail. I should ask if it’s ok with you Steph, I don’t want to be stepping on toes or anything.

      The stenciling sounds interesting, something I would love to try. I’m equating what you are doing with the wax paper and fabric, with wax painting eggs, where you place wax on the egg in your design, dye the egg, then melt the wax off to reveal the pattern, but backwards. right. I hope I’m not confusing you. my only question would be how do you create shades? I have to toy with that one in my mind on how to make different colors.

      Thank You for the tutorial; You know how to do so many neat things with clothes.

      • Aw thanks! I really love what I do, and sharing it makes it better…

        Why would I mind if you’re helping someone find a difficult item?? No- please do! I’ll let Uta know. That’s so lovely of you!

  4. The pale green looks brighter. I love

    This is what is actually on my project list for this weekend. I just bought the new new Silhouette Cameo machine, and was planning to sttencil some bags and onesies. How nice that we are thinking on the same wave length. Freezer paper is quite scarce here in the UK, but I managed to find some last year at Hobbycraft. It was far expensive than they sell them in the US mind you.

    Dianne, you could use Tulip spray paint, or Simply Spray. Simply spray actually has stencil spray, which is supposed to be better when stenciling on fabric.

    Uta, if you want the same design for the freezer paper stencil, you will have to layer two or more sheets of the paper and cut it at the same time. Saves you time. I dont think it can be used again. IF you want to make a stencil that can be reusable, try Mylar paper. That one does not have adhesive in the back, so you will have to use spray mount.

  5. Loving the pale green, much friendlier somehow. I seem to remember seeing someone use a ‘paste’ on the front of a design printed on paper, then transfering it onto a T-shirt, must do some research and see if I can find it. Having said that I have some gold spray paint in the back of the cupboard, and a plain cream knit fabric gypsy top, hmmmmm……… X

    • Thanks! I won’t tell you how long I spent nudging around colors looking for “friendly” pale green, so I’m glad I hit it. :)

      Neat. I read about spraypaint on street-art style websites, and it seems to work for those people pretty well… I do worry someone might get a decal that washes out but so far that hasn’t happened to me.

  6. Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve stencilled a couple of cheap shirts for the kids, only using normal paper, and am finding I do get bleeding around the edges sometimes. Must find some of this freezer paper!

  7. Obviously its easier to do this before you make up the t-shirt, but if you had an already made one, you would need to put paper or cardboard or something between the two layers of t-shirt to avoid bleed-through, yes? I know we did when we had to do screen printing at school, but I’m not sure how much the spray paint seeps through?

    • Yes, I might go back and edit to make that clearer. I used an artboard thing that I need to drop in the mail. It didn’t get paint on it, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

  8. Ah, an American-Australian accent to match my Australian-American one! ;)

    Great vid – love this idea! And now I want fabric with monkeys holding pigeons on it. (spoonflower? you know you want to!)

    p.s. the pale green is a winner!

    • Mmmmm, it could make a cute spoonflower print. I have TOO many spoonflower ideas.. The problem is it’s a long process to proof the fabric (at least a month at a time) and costs $$ and I don’t have any of that right now! But it could be cute… As an all-over print…

    • What will you stencil?

      Ugh this heat is killing me. I try not to think about it, I just don’t go out much during the day and work quietly.. If it’s too hot for that, I take a nap. Not too bad on the whole.

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  10. Thank you for your comment, Steph! That would be great if you offered the stencil pic to your readers, and I could put a link in my next post. (I’m not decided on my motif yet. I love monkeys, but DH is a drummer, so I may look into that first.)

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