DIY Custom T-Shirts

I made some custom designed t-shirts for my family to wear on our vacation. They turned out better than I expected, so I wanted to share my process with you!



  1. Stencil paper. I used “Martha Stewart Crafts Adhesive Stencil Film.”
  2. Cutting mat.
  3. X-acto knife.
  4. Sharpie.
  5. Foam brush.
  6. At least 1 color of soft-dry fabric paint.
  7. Some soft t-shirts.

Step 1.
Practice drawing your design on regular paper. You will have to draw it nicely on the stencil paper, so make sure you know how you want it to look. Keep in mind that you are making a stencil, so all of the pieces of the design have to be touching so that the stencil stays together (that is why I wrote my letters in cursive).

Step 2.
Use a sharpie to draw your design on the stencil paper.


Step 3.

Tape the stencil paper to the cutting mat and use an X-acto knife to cut out your design.

Step 4.

Remove your beautiful stencil from the cutting mat and tape it face-up onto a t-shirt. (Note: if you buy adhesive stencil film, you could just remove the backing and stick it to a t-shirt. Since my design was so complex, I just taped my stencil around the edges to each t-shirt, one by one. I never removed the backing. It’s easier to do multiple shirts this way.)

Step 5.

Use the fabric paint and foam brush to paint your t-shirt. The trick is to DAB the paint-filled brush onto the t-shirt. Try not to use side-to-side/up-and-down strokes. DAB IT. You can use two different colors to create an ombre effect.


Step 6.

Carefully peel off the stencil immediately after painting it (don’t wait for it to dry). Don’t worry if there are little splatters or inconsistencies; that’s what makes each shirt unique!

Step 7.

Tape the same stencil down on another t-shirt and repeat the painting process. I did 8 t-shirts with one stencil.

Step 8.

Let the t-shirts dry overnight.


Now you can vacation in style with your awesome (and cost-effective) attire. I will also mention that I bought the t-shirts used from Goodwill. Even more savings that way!