DIY Fashion: How to Spray Paint a T-Shirt
This tutorial will show you how to do a one-color print. It's the best way to start out if you're a beginner!
If you're looking to do a multi-color shirt, that's fine too. You can still follow the steps of this tutorial, but you'll need to create an extra stencil for each color you use. Let each color totally dry before adding another!
Benefits of Making Your Own Shirts
Making your own shirts is so much cheaper than buying them from a printing company. Companies are already trying to make a profit - so their prices are pretty high. If you're looking to make a profit as well, you'll have to jack up the prices even higher. Pretty soon, people end up spending $25 on a simple t-shirt.
If you're into saving money like I am, you'll be a big fan of making your own shirts. You can purchase two packs of five shirts from WalMart for $20. A can of spray paint is $6, and double-sided tape will run you about $4. That means that your overhead for the first batch of shirts will be $30 - and there will be more than enough tape and paint to last you for several more batches.
I've been making shirts for my radio show. I charge $5 a shirt, and $10 if the buyer wants it bedazzled. This guarantees me at least $20 in profit for the first ten shirts. For my next ten, the overhead will only be $20 (since I'll have paint and tape leftover) - yielding $30 in profit. If I get a few bedazzled orders, I make a little more money.
Cost of Home-made vs. Ordered T-shirts
You'll need a few things to get started, but it shouldn't cost too much!
- a piece of thin cardboard, like the kind shoeboxes are made out of. This is for making your stencil, so make sure it's big enough to fit your design.
- a box cutter for cutting your design out.
- t-shirts for spraying! I suggest going simple - black paint on a white shirt, for the most contrast. I always buy plain cotton shirts in packs of 4 or 5.
- Montana Colors Alien spray paint is imperative. I know it's a pain going out and finding specific stuff, but you don't want to screw up a shirt like I did by buying cheap spray paint. Initially, I picked some cheap paint up from WalMart. When I tried to make my shirt, it was so watery that it bled through and ruined the whole thing. I consulted an arty friend, who led me to this Montana Colors Alien stuff. It's $6 a can, which isn't so bad. You can find it on Amazon or search in your local art stores. If they don't have it, just ask the people working for a good spray paint that will work on a t-shirt!
- double sided tape is needed for adhering the stencil to the shirt. You need clean lines!
- newspaper for stuffing inside the shirt, and protecting the areas that you don't want painted.
Making a Stencil
I free handed my stencil onto the back of a flattened mozzarella sticks box. I made my stencil to utilize positive space, meaning that the spray paint will fill the positive space of the letters I've cut out.
Another method of stenciling utilizes the negative space. This is created by spray painting around the silhouette of something - this is what I did with the Star Trek shirt.
If you're not the best at freehanding, you could print out the logo or design you're trying to replicate, and tape it to the cardboard. Then, just use your boxcutter and cut out the design - like carving a pumpkin!
Keep in mind - any letters that close (A, B, D, O, P, Q, R, a, b, d, e, g, o, p, q) need to still be connected to the stencil somehow. As in, the negative space on the inside of an "O" needs to be connected to the negative space on the outside - or else you'll just have a giant, filled in circle when you go to spray paint. You can do two different things in this case: 1) cut out a middle piece for the "O" and place it on the shirt when you lay down the stencil, or 2) leave the middle piece connected to the stencil by a thin line of cardboard.
Getting Ready to Spray
Once your stencil is ready, gather your other materials - newspaper, double stick tape, your t-shirt, and spray paint. Go outside to spray, so you don't suffocate and die.
Take a relatively thick bit of newspaper and lay it flat inside of the t-shirt, under the area where your design will go. This will prevent the design from bleeding through to the other side of the shirt.
Lay your stencil down. Use double stick tape to secure it to the shirt. Additionally, you'll want to apply the tape in places where the stencil may not lay flat. My Vinyl Countdown stencil has lots of detail, so I used a bit of tape between some of the letters to make sure that the design would come out sharp. The better contact between the stencil and shirt, the sharper the image will be.
Once your stencil is taped down, use the rest of your newspaper and cover up the exposed parts of the t-shirt.
Getting Ready With a Negative Space Stencil
Like I said before, there are two different types of stencils. The negative space stencil requires a different preparation process.
You'll still have to stuff the shirt with a newspaper, but other than that, you don't need it. Throw the stencil on the shirt, tape it down with your double stick, and you're ready to spray.
Once you've double-checked the stencil and made sure no other parts of the shirt are exposed, it's time to spray! Shake up the can for about 30 seconds to a minute. Then, using long, sweeping motions, spray over the design. Keep the can about 10 inches away from the shirt. If you spray too close, you run the risk of the paint bleeding.
After you've gone over the design once, give it a minute or so before doing another coat. If you're cautious, do 15 minutes. I'm impatient, and I usually can't go thirty seconds before I do my second coat. So far, it's turned out fine!
When you're done spraying, let it sit. You don't want to risk smudging the paint on anything. Come back to it in 10-15 minutes, and remove all of the newspapers. Be careful not to get any paint on your hands. Carefully remove the stencil, and set it somewhere that it can dry.
If you've done all of these steps correctly, you should have a nice, crisp image!
Spraying With a Negative Space Stencil
For this kind of stencil, I tend to spray further away - about 15 inches from the shirt. I sprayed more heavily around the stencil, and sprayed more lightly as I got further from the stencil.
When you're done spraying, let it sit for a few minutes and then remove the stencil.
You have to do a few things before you're done! Once your shirt has sufficiently dried, roll it up so that the spray painted portion is facing outward. The painted parts should not be touching any other part of the shirt. Use a few rubber bands or string to keep your shirt rolled up. Throw it in the drier on high heat for at least 15 minutes. This will help to set the color in!
You'll probably want to do one shirt at a time. If you do more, then the paint from one could stick to the fabric of another, and leave stains on it.
If you happen to get paint somewhere it doesn't belong, don't fret! Grab a clean razor and shave that junk off.
Congrats, You're Done!
Now that you've finished, you can sell them, give them away as gifts, or hoard them all to yourself.