Forget Silk Screening!

Hi Everyone!

So today I made my first shirt ever!! And when I say “made” I mean designed. I have sewn a lot of shirts and various other garments in my day, but today I played with paints! πŸ™‚

My brothers birthday is coming up on August 2nd and I really wanted to make him something that he would think is cool. But what do you make a 17yr boy? And it came to me in something that I pinned on pinterest. It was a T-shirt design.


My only problem is I couldn’t figure out where to buy it because the pin ended up leading me somewhere else entirely! (Don’t you hate that!) Plus with his birthday is days away, and I couldn’t wait for shipping. So… what else was there to do except say… “I could make that!” So I surveyed my craft box and grabbed my car keys and headed out. There were a couple of things that I needed that I didn’t have.

First things first… you will need:

A T-shirt to paint on (I found mine at The Super Store for $8- I know that Michaels also sells shirts for about the same price)

An fabric medium for acrylic paint (I used GAC900 by Golden- I found it at an artist store)

A very fine paint brush, along with some cheap dollar store brushes in various shapes

Some acrylic paint in whatever shades you want (I got mine for $1 a bottle at the dollar store)

Some dishes to mix the paint in

A pencil

And some scrap cardboard


Step 1: It is VERY important to wash your shirt first in very hot water. This will get rid of any starches or additives it has in it when it left the factory, and to preshrink it so your design won’t look funny after. Make sure to dry it on the highest setting afterwards as well. Once you have done that you are going to need to iron it to get our all the wrinkles (if there are any.) Trust me… you don’t want to try and paint over wrinkles- Nightmare!


Step 2: If you are going to be putting words on your shirt you need to figure out what font and size will look right for your project. Print it out on some paper and slip it under your shirt in the location that you want it at. You should also at this time place the scrap cardboard in-between your shirt at this time. This will help give you a hard surface to write on, and later when you paint, will stop paint from seeping through to the back of your shirt. (You can see the cardboard in the shirt in the picture)


Step 3: Trace your words on to the T-shirt lightly in pencil (if you are using a coloured T-shirt this might be difficult.)


Step 4: Prepare your paint! Using your dish and acrylic paint, blend the fabric medium in with your colour at a 1:1 ratio. The GAC900 was about $14 for the bottle and I didn’t need to use very much, which is a bonus because now I can make tons of other things with it! I think it will be one of my craft box staples from now on.



Step 5: This isn’t really a step but I was a little leery about the consistently of the mixture and was worried about it bleeding, so I tested it first on a piece of scrap fabric I had laying around. Turns out it didn’t bleed and was the perfect consistently! This was also good practice for me in how the brush would react with less or more paint. I would advise testing your designs first as well.


Step 6: Begin to carefully fill in your designs! You will notice I said CAREFULLY because I wasn’t. Being the innate klutz I am, I had barely started when the brush slipped out of my hand when I when to reload it, and of course landed on my shirt. CRAP! I tried to use a pin I had found a while ago on how to get acrylic paint out of clothing by using rubbing alcohol. (Thats what the wet spot is around it) No luck… I think because it has a fabric additive; it did what the product claimed and stuck to the fabric. Well… being an artist… I’ll just blend that in later. I would maybe recommend laying paper over top of your shirt while you paint in the areas where you DONT want paint… just in case. Make sure to watch your hands to so that they don’t get paint on them and accidentally transfer to your shirt later.


Step 7: For the blood design I needed it to look realistic so I mixed up 3 different shades of red, ranging from a burgundy to a slightly less bright red, to blend together. I then used a combination of brushes and in the end -my fingers to get the look I wanted. (I found the brush strokes to precise) At this point I used some of the red paint to cover up the black splotch I had made earlier from my slip. Oops! Oh well… it all worked out in the end. Sorry I didn’t take a pic at this point as my fingers were all mucky.

Also as a side note.. I find it really difficult to remember to stop and take picture of what I’m doing because I am one of those people who just looses themselves in a project, and is so focused that if a bomb went off beside me I probably wouldn’t even blink.

Step 8: I used a straw to help me create some realistic splatters along the edges of my design. I did this by sucking up one of the 3 colours -one at a time (just a little bit… you don’t want to drink it, or flood your T-shirt.) and then carefully blowing it onto the T-shirt. I would suggest that if you have writing on your shirt that you don’t want to get paint on that you cover it with some paper or something. Also make sure your cardboard is in place! I used a lot of paint in this area and it did happen to bleed through.


Step 9: Lay it flat somewhere to dry. I put mine in the sun so it would dry faster. A piece of wax paper wouldn’t be a bad idea either on top of your cardboard in your shirt. Because there was so much paint, it seeped through my shirt and when it dried the cardboard had stuck to it. Luckily for me though the scrap cardboard I used was an old frozen pizza box and the inside of it was waxed to keep the food fresh I guess.


Step 10: Iron, Iron, Iron! I guess depending on what type of additive to your paint you use it might have different instruction. The GAC900 said to iron over your design for 3-5mins on a high temperature.


Additional Step 11: I decide to wash my shirt again after I had ironed it because I had used so much paint in the one area It had gotten a little stiff. Also this is a good way to test if your shirt is going to bleed and a good way to prevent it! I used 1/2c of salt and 1/2c of white vinegar in a pot of water that I had simmering on low. (Just so that little bubbles form on the walls of the pot but not enough to boil.) I then chucked my shirt it and stirred occasionally for 30mins. After that I dumped it all into the sink and washed in regular detergent (just to get rid of the vinegar smell) and dried it.



Voila! A shirt that cost less to make that to buy! And if I do say so myself, I think looks just as good as the original! So forget expensive screen printing! All you need is a little GAC, some paint, and a little bit of a “can do” attitude!


Let me know what you thought down below, and if you are a teenage boy if you would wear something like this. (I explained in my brothers bday card that I thought he needed something that he didn’t have to worry about getting dirty, and that let everyone know how awesome he is. Haha… He is always pulling stunts that leave him in the hospital.) And if you have any ideas on what fabric I should paint next send me a comment and I’ll make a post about it!



5 thoughts on “Forget Silk Screening!

  1. awesome! really thank you for posting this. i try once with the acrilyc paint only but i think i will need the medium cuz when i finish the paint wast too hard in the fabric….anyways love your idea

  2. if u still get to read this, can u tell me if the paint held ok n all? i’m looking to make sth similar for my bf, but have no experience with painting on fabric n wouldn’t want all my effort being f-ed up with the first washing, u know. thnx!
    and btw – i love the t-shirt u made! πŸ™‚

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