Making your own stencils is a fun way to create totally customised t-shirts, whether you want to make just one t-shirt or a few. The best thing about making quality stencils is that you can use them again and again.
So, how do you make your own stencils for t-shirt printing? We’re about to take you through the simple process that will have you making your own t-shirts in no time!
First things first: you’ve got to choose the image you want. You might want something you found on Google Images or something you drew yourself, on paper or on the computer. If you do want to make a stencil out of a photograph, try and get it in as high resolution as you possibly – this will make the next couple of steps a lot easier for you.
If it’s your first time of making your own stencils, it’s a good idea to stick to just black and white, so either choose a plain black and white image, or edit it to be black and white using a computer programme like Photoshop.
Not sure how to do this? Fear not. Simply choose the main subject of your image, and use the eraser and magic wand tool to isolate the subject, putting it on a plain background. Try choosing a bright colour for the background here because the contrast can help you.
You then want to make the image pure black and white – this means you are ‘cartoonising’ the image so that it is just black and white, with no grey or coloured bits to be seen. You do this by adjusting the balance of the image and playing around with the image’s blur.
Using the paintbrush tool, make sure that there are no blobs of black standing alone by connecting them to the larger black outline of the edited image. By drawing in any necessary connectors, you avoid losing any pieces or details when you cut out the stencil.
Cut it out
Once you’ve sorted the basics to your stencil design, you need to cut it out. You can either print the stencil out from your computer using a thick, high quality paper, or print it to then copy it onto a plastic stencil, like a laminator sheet for example.
To cut the stencil out, you will want to make sure it’s properly secure so that it doesn’t move around when you’re cutting it. You can do this using masking tape. Plus, don’t feel you need to rush it – take it slow. Remember, this is something you can use again and again to make unique t-shirts, so it’s worth taking your time.
When it comes to printing your stencil onto a t-shirt, you want to have chosen a quality top that is plain. That could be white or another bright colour which would work well for contrast. The thicker the t-shirt, the better it will look and the longer it will last.
It’s up to you what ink you use – you can do some research into what will work best for your design. Permaset inks are particularly good when it comes to fabric or screen printing, with a number of benefits.
Place your stencil on the fabric where you want it, and tape down the sides of it using masking tape. This will help to avoid it moving around. It’s a good idea to cover any uncovered fabric with newspaper, just to make sure there are no unintentional splatters or stains. Don’t forget to put some old cardboard inside to stop the paint from soaking through the fabric.
Mix up your ink, and make sure you mix a lot too. If you’re rolling on the paint, the roller will use a lot of the ink, and you may want to do a couple of layers for a deeper, bolder colour. We recommend testing out your stencil on a sheet of paper first so you can get a feel of how to do it.
When you think you’re ready for the real thing, fill the roller with ink and apply to the top of your stencil.
After you’ve printed
Next up, you have to remove the stencil, tape and newspaper – but slowly does it! Carefully peel it back and reveal your artwork. Wait until the ink has dried properly too, otherwise you risk smudging.
Once the ink is fully dry, you can heat-set your newly designed t-shirt. Do this by placing a piece of parchment, wax paper or even a tea towel over your t-shirt, and iron over it using an iron on a high, dry setting.
When it comes to washing your t-shirt, you should hand wash it yourself and leave to dry naturally or on a low setting in the dryer.