DIY How to Paint T-shirts




About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

Painting your own t-shirts is a great way to have some fun and make a bold, personal statement. There are lots of different ways to paint your shirt, so I wanted to go over a couple of ideas of how to do it.

I was curious if regular paint would work well on t-shirts so I tried a lot of different kinds - oil paint, latex paint, fabric paint, permanent markers. After my test, I washed the shirt with all the different paints on. All the paints turned out good, however the oil paint produced a very smooth and nice feel so that's what I decided to use.


Step 1: What You'll Need

Materials Needed:

  • White t-shirts, sweaters or other type of clothing
  • Paint (I used oil paint, both spray paint and regular paint, however you could obviously also use fabric paint if you prefer)
  • Brushes
  • Mineral spirit (to clean off the oil paint with)
  • Foam board
  • Painter's tape
  • Paper (to tape down to prevent any drips or splashes)
  • Hard stock & exacto knife (if you're making stencils)

Step 2: Preparation

To prevent the paint from bleeding out to the other side, you need something to put inside of it. I had some foam board around, however you could also use cardboard, thin plywood or whatever else you have on hand.


Roughly measure out the size of your shirt and cut up the foam board to fit inside with an exacto knife. Put the foam board inside the t-shirt.

Step 3: Design 1: Tracing

One great way to paint a shirt is to print out a design on paper first, and then put it inside the shirt. That way you can trace the outline and it will be easy to follow. You can either do this with a logo (I made a youtube logo), however you can also draw a design or a word on paper first, and then trace it to get the design the same.

To prevent any splashes or mistakes, it can be a good idea to tape down some paper around your design on your shirt, that way you won't have any accidental drips where you don't want any!

Simply dip the brush in paint and start tracing!

Step 4: Design 2: Free Hand

Of course - half the fun with painting your own shirts is the idea of going freehand. You could always sketch out a design lightly with a pencil first, or you can go freely. Simply dip your brush in some paint and start writing out a message or a design!

Step 5: Design 3: Stenciling

In order to get a crisp design, or to be able to make repeatable shirts, making a stencil is a very good idea. First print out what message you want your shirt to say on hard stock paper. It could be anything - your logo, a joke, a sentence.

Take out your exacto knife and carefully start cutting out parts of the letter. Remember, you can't cut out the full letter for the most part, you need to leave little "holders" behind, otherwise some letters will end up looking very weird.

Once the design is ready, tape it down on your shirt, and also make sure to tape down some paper surrounding the design so you don't accidentally get drips or splashes.

Now you have two choices: you can either use a can of spray paint and lightly spray over the design, or you can use regular paint and apply with a sponge. Try not to over-apply, or else it will bleed through.

Once you're done, carefully remove the paper and the stencil.

Step 6: Conclusion - Watch the Video

For more information, please check out the video!



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9 Discussions


Question 2 months ago on Step 1

Did the oil paint eventually eat through the shirt? When painting with oils on canvas, gesso is applied first to protect the canvas. I would imagine t-shirts would have the same problem.


2 years ago

I heard that it's good also to turn it over on top of some pieces of paper on an ironing board, and then reach inside and iron it to bond the paint with the fabric?


2 years ago

great instructions. I use acrylic paint mixed with some medium ratio is roughly 3 parts acrylic to 1 part medium


2 years ago

Putting the cutout UNDER the shirt is actually a much better idea than what i have been doing... putting it on top of the shirt...

João VictorA

3 years ago

Are you sure that oil paint is the best?


4 years ago on Introduction

i have always wondered which paints would be best to use.. allso if you spray hair spray on the tshirt then add your stencil this should stop any bleeding


4 years ago on Introduction

i used this method back in the day to make "I Survived Y2K" t-shirts :D


4 years ago on Introduction

Very cool instructable. I always wondered how to paint a shirt. Thanks.


4 years ago on Introduction

Great tips!

I seem to "paint" all of my t-shirts, but it's rarely intentional! ;)