Rydia's T-Shirt Making Tutorial
Rydia Highwind's T-Shirt Making Tutorial!!!!!

Okay, sure, there are like a million t-shirt making tutorials out there, but none are as great as this one because none of them were made by me!!! Since I am an incredibly awesome and amazing individual, and since I was bored when I was making this, I have compiled an awesome and amazing tutorial on how to make simple designs on t-shirts without buying expensive iron-on transfer paper!

This is actually really simple process, and you do not have to possess any special artistic knowledge to do this, just time and a bit of patience. For this tutorial, I made a Nepeta Leijon shirt.

Please Note: This tutorial will not work on any design that is too complex or that involves more than one color of paint. This is great for Homestuck troll t-shirts, but not so great on the Homestuck kid t-shirts.

First things first! These are the supplies we'll be using to make the shirt.
  1. T-shirt. Duh. You can get these at any craft store, generally. Make sure it fits first, and it's a good idea to throw it into the wash beforehand.
  2. Freezer Paper. At your local grocery store. You won't need much, so get the smallest pack available.
  3. Fabric Paint. At the craft store, again! I use the Tulip brand and have read that this is the best brand readily available, so I strongly recommend that.
  4. Paintbrush. Gotta get that paint onto the shirt somehow.
  5. Plastic Cutting Board. I used the one out of the kitchen we use to chop up vegetables and the like. You can use an artist cutting mat too.
  6. Print out of your design. Or you could draw it, if you're neat enough. (I will gladly make you a PDF template of any Homestuck design for easy printing, if you just ask.)
  7. X-acto Knife. Extra blades may be important too.
  8. Iron. Nothing special here.
  9. Ironing Board. I know mine is pathetic and tiny but I LIVE IN AN APARTMENT OK.
  10. Piece of Cardboard or Plastic. Not pictured. This just has to be at least as big as your design, but not too big to fit inside your shirt. I used a paper bag from Staples with some paper inside.
  11. Scotch tape. Not pictured. Just, whatever tape you have on hand that you'll be able to get off of again.
  12. Pins. Not pictured. Just your average sewing pins You really only need two.
All right, so the first thing we want to do is measure out a piece of freezer paper about the size of the paper with your design on it. A little bigger is fine too, just give yourself plenty of room to work.

With the shiny/waxy side of the freezer paper facing down, tape the print out to the freezer paper. In other words, the paper should be on top of the matte side of the freezer paper. No tape hits the shiny side. If you're doing a symmetrical design, this isn't as important, but it's going to be a whole lot harder to tape on the other side anyway.

Put it on your cutting board/mat and get out your blade! You're going to cut out the design with your blade very, very carefully. For straight lines, having a straight edge like a ruler will probably be very helpful. You'll want to make sure you're cutting through both the computer paper and the freezer paper.

The goal here is to make yourself a stencil. With that in mind, remember that it's the outside of the design that's important to keep neat. The middle part that you're cutting out of the middle is the excess. You want to end up with a piece of paper with a nicely shaped hole in the middle of it.

If you have a design that has a circle in it, like mine, or if you're doing letters that have any sort of loop inside of them, make absolutely certain you don't cut it out all the way! If you look at mine, I left a small bit of paper connecting the middle of the circle to the rest of the paper. Remember, it's a stencil! I want to free-hand as little as humanly possible.

Then it's time to get rid of the computer paper part, so you just have your freezer paper stencil. Now, get out your t-shirt!

Fold your shirt in half as perfectly as possible and use the pins to mark where the center fold is. You can iron a crease at the halfway point if that's easier.

This is going to make it hells of easier for you to line up your design. You want to do this by putting your freezer paper stencil down on the shirt with the shiny side touching the t-shirt. It will not work if you don't do it this way! If you want, you can fold the design down the middle and line it up with the pins. Once you have the design where you want it, you can take the pins out and use them to pin the freezer paper directly to your shirt.

Now for the fun part, ironing the freezer paper onto the shirt!

Okay, every single iron in the world is a little bit different. My iron has three settings, and I need it on at least the second setting or it doesn't get hot enough to adhere the paper to the shirt. However, one thing is universal--do NOT use steam! The steam settings squirt out water onto your clothing which then is converted to steam when the hot iron goes over it, which is great for wrinkles, but not so great when you are ironing paper.

You are going to want to be very careful and very thorough when you iron the paper down. I tend to use small circular motions in short strokes to make sure the tip of the iron doesn't catch on any of the edges of the paper. Make sure all the edges are adhered to the shirt. You can even tug on the paper a little bit to make sure it doesn't come loose. Every single edge needs to be as flat and glued down as possible. Once you think you have it good enough, go over it again, just to make sure! Any edges that stick up are going to add imperfections to your design.

As you can see here, the edges of the paper itself aren't terribly important. It's just around the design you need to get as flat as possible.

Once that is down, you get to start painting! Just kidding--there's one more step in here, one that I forgot to take a picture of. Remember that piece of cardboard or plastic that I mentioned in the list of stuff you need? It's time to slide that up into the inside of your shirt, underneath where the design is going to be. This is to keep the paint from seeping through to the back of your shirt. Like I said, I just used a paper bag I got copies in at Staples. As long as it's flat and wide enough to cover the entire design, you should be fine.

Okay, now it's time to paint!

It's also a good idea, before this point, to make sure your paint is the right color. Otherwise you might end up with a Nepeta shirt in Kanaya green.

Any time you are putting a light color over top of a dark color, you are going to use more paint to cover it. For darker colors on lighter material, theory holds you wouldn't need as much, though as far as I can recall, every single shirt I have ever made has been a lighter color on a darker shirt.

For this shirt, I ended up putting two layers of paint on before I could see absolutely no black material through the paint. I didn't set it to dry first or anything, though I painted beige on a yellow shirt once and I had to let that one dry before the second coat.

The quality of the painting should look something like this when you are done:

Then it's time to let this dry. I generally set it out overnight, though it may be different for different brands of paint. Some people recommend taking the freezer paper off before it's fully dry, but I've never had a problem getting it off before, so I'm not sure of the reasoning behind that.

The paint will stick a bit when you pull the paper off. I'm guessing this is what other tutorial people were trying to avoid, but I've never had any issue with it, so long as I am careful.

After you pull off the freezer paper, you can do any freehand touch up work you need to do. For example, I had to fill in that tiny bit where I left the piece in to attach the inner circle.

Looks pretty good, huh?

If you have any mistakes and you are working on a black shirt, I have heard that using a black sharpie can fix some of them, but I've never tried to myself, so don't take it from me! :(

Note that I have left the bag inside the t-shirt even while I did the touch up work. Why is it so important that you have that cardboard in there? Well, here is what mine looked like when I took it out later:

That would have all been on the back of my shirt if I hadn't put that bag in there. Please note too that this paint makes it stick a little bit to the shirt, so use some care in pulling this out too.

That's it! You're done! RARRRRRR! (Yes, I know this is not exactly a excellent picture of the shirt or cosplay in general. I am not done with it yet, okay!!! Gosh, you are a HARSH CRITIC, jeez. Calm down.)

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