Freezer Paper Stencils For Painting Fabric

A friend recently showed me how to make stencils out of freezer paper for painting personalized T-shirts. We made a variety of T-shirts both freehand and using computer graphics or text as a template. Later, I used the same technique to paint a girly skull and crossbones for use in a pirate costume.



  • freezer paper
  • iron

  • X-Acto knife or small scissors
  • fabric paint and brushes*

*I have used Tulip brand slick fabric paint in various colors. The project below used a gold metallic spray paint, which was really easy, but also a bit more expensive. Both appear to wash and wear well.


  1. First, draw your design on a piece of freezer paper, Shiny side down. If you are using a computer print, you can place it underneath and trace the design. I used pencil so that I could make corrections easily
  2. Next, cut out the design. I found that an X-Acto knife was the best tool for this job but some people were able to use scissors for their less complicated designs. Be sure to cut out and save any inside pieces so you can place them correctly before painting.
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  4. Once your design is cut out, you need to iron it onto your fabric, SHINY side down. Take a warm iron and press the edges down. The wax on the back side will warm up and attach to the fabric. Be careful not to get the iron too hot or the wax will melt too much and bleed through the fabric. This will mostly wash out but might leave a dark halo around the image, as you can see in the final picture. This has mostly washed out over time but it is something to consider.
  5. You are now ready to paint. If you are painting a T-shirt or something that has fabric on two sides, you will want to add something in the middle to prevent the paint from bleeding through. An extra piece of freezer paper works really well.

    If you are using spray paint, you will probably only need one coat. If you are using paint, you may need two or three, especially if you are using light paint on a dark background. We used both sponge brushes and regular paint brushes. A dabbing technique created a different texture than brushstrokes, but both made a nice final project. Be careful of any edges that didn't get stuck down well, as this can cause the paint to bleed past the stencil edge, as can using too much paint on any given coat.

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  7. After your paint has dried (30 minutes or so), you can carefully remove the freezer paper. It should peel up easily, leaving the paint behind. If you wait too long, the paper can start to peel up the paint as well, especially if you have fine lines or details. Fonts can be especially tricky here.

    One shirt was left to dry overnight and it was quite difficult to remove the stencil. I used an X-Acto to cut the paint away from the paper. I placed a clean sheet of freezer paper (shiny side down) and some heavy books to weight it down. As the paint was still a bit tacky, this allowed it to adhere to the fabric and I had no further problems.

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  9. Allow your shirt to fully dry before washing. The paint bottle recommends waiting 72 hours. If you used many layers of paint, the shirt might be rather stiff but should loosen up over repeated washings. I washed mine after only 24 hours with no problems.

This is a great project to do with kids or any club or group. They are a bit time consuming if you have a complicated pattern, but can look very professional if due care is taken with the cutting and painting. Have fun and be creative!

Source: Thanks to Tia for showing me this easy technique.

By Jess (TF Editor)

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September 22, 20170 found this helpful

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