Freezer-Paper Stencils: With Kids!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Super awesome Tee-Shirt made by my very talented 13 year-old!

Freezer-Paper Stenciling is a very easy way to decorate clothing, or even give new life to any old t-shirt, bag, pants, or any fabric item! My boys love, really love, wearing clothes with pictures that they like on them. I find it difficult to find these items that still meet my aesthetic (meaning I don't generally like to buy kids for my clothes that are busy with logo's or statements; I also like to dress them in 100% cotton as much as possible). A solution I found is to buy plain t-shirts, or when those older tee's start getting faded and worn, we can breathe new life with Freezer-Paper stenciling.

Did I mention how easy this?!

What you need:

T-shirt (or other cotton fabric item)
Freezer-Paper (it's with the foil and plastic bags at your local grocery store.)
Acrylic Paint or Fabric Paint
Paint brush
X-acto knife (for adult use only! or with supervision for the older child)
Iron (make sure the steam is off!)
Piece of cardboard, clean cutting board or self-healing mat

This is a great project to do in the evening because the shirt will need to be left alone for about 12 hours, and if your children are like mine, it's just easier to let that time pass while they are sleeping. Plus when they wake up they can wear their new shirt right away!

First Step (adult and kids): You will need to make a stencil. You can draw this yourself  or a trick I do, is look on line for "silhouettes," print it out and then trace over on the rough side of the Freezer-Paper (the shiny side will be ironed down onto the tee shirt).

Tip: As long as you are using this for yourself with no intention to sell, this is a-okay. I use true silhouettes, especially with children, one large blank space where the paint will goo on. For older crafters you can get a little more creative and intricate. For example search "Dinosaur silhouette." Also make sure your stencil is inside a large piece of paper so that when you child(ren) paint you don't have to worry about the paint getting on the parts of the shirt it doesn't belong. No stress, no mess...okay, less mess.

Step Two (for adult): Cut out the shape using an x-acto knife.  Cut on your peice of cardboard or self-healing mat. Carefully remove the center of the picture and discard.

Tip: when I did this for the first time I drove myself crazy trying to get it exactly right, which I didn't of course, but it still turned out great. And kids, well they will be more concerned with the image itself than any imperfections with it!

Step Three (for adult): Iron the stencil (shiny side down) onto your t-shirt. It only takes about 10 seconds 

Tip: Do make sure all of the smaller sections around the image is nice and secure, because if they are not they can flip up when you or your child are painting.

Step Four (for kids!):  Start painting the inside of your stencil. This will be a generous amount, which is great because kids are pretty generous with their paint : ) The shirt will absorb a lot, but you will want to make sure that there are not excess, no globs.

Tip: Place a piece of Freezer-Paper, magazine, cardboard or anything inbetween your fabrics to prevent the paint leaking onto the other side of the fabric.

Step Five (adult and kids): Allow the shirt to dry overnight.

Tip: When I do this with my kids I check on the shirt before I go to bed and apply any touch-ups that may be needed if, as it dries, you see some paint-free spaces. This is pretty common, so it's nice to get it done so the shirt will be ready by morning for the tots.

Step Six (for kids): Remove the stencil, just peel it off and away.

Tip: If you think you want to re-use it, which is possible, I've re-used mine more than once. Peel carefully as not to rip it.

Step Seven: Heat-Set the stencil on your shirt. I usually will just place a piece of paper over the painted on stencil and go back over it with the iron for about 30-45 seconds. You can also throw it in the dryer for 15 minutes.

Tip: When I made these on onsies and my babies were real little I always washed them before they were allow to wear them. Now, not so much, however they should be washed first in cold water and alone or with wash you are okay risking getting some bleeding from the paint. I have never had an issue with bleeding in the wash myself. But after that first wash you can safely wash them as you would anything else.

A very proud boy!

Paint will fade over time and with additional washings. Finally, while there are several steps involved this is extraordinarily easy, fun, inexpensive and has a gratifying result! Enjoy!!!

Here are a couple "mom" made Freezer Stencil Projects:
Dressing up Zip up Hoodies

This photo is what our sweatshirt stencil looks like after a year of washing and wearing.

PS Sorry for the terrible phone pics!


  1. is a custom t-shirt website that specializes in photo t-shirts and more specifically r.i.p shirts. The site allows users the option of designing their own shirt or has the company design the shirt for them. The company was started in 2000 by Todd Smedley in Dayton, Ohio. He owned another company and started making t-shirts for his first business.


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