Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tribal Pattern Stencil: a tutorial

Let me start off by saying thank you so much for all of your support in response to my confession. I am overwhelmed by the amazing support and advice that has come my way. I didn't realize how many people had been through, or are still going through, the same dilemma. I am still working on responding to emails so please don't feel like I don't appreciate your advice if I haven't gotten back to you yet. I really do, more than you can know. Just to let you know I'm not dropping out anytime soon, although I sure feel like it sometimes. The plan is to still finish out my degree and then hopefully explore other interests. It's always good to have a back up, right? I'm also hoping to find more time to explore my creative interests this summer when I have a little more free time. 


Pattern (Tribal 1 and Tribal 2)
Acrylic Paint
Textile Medium
Shirt, Tote, Etc.
Foam Brush or Sponge


This tutorial uses freezer paper as a stencil. Freezer paper is a two-sided roll that you can find at most grocery stores by the foil and cling wrap. One side feels just like regular paper and the other has a sort of plastic coating. Using your iron, you can adhere the shiny, plastic side to fabric. It serves as a great barrier to paints when stenciling. If you'd like to learn more about freezer paper stenciling check out this tutorial or this one. They explain it far better than I could! 

I started by cutting two 8.5" x 11" pieces of freezer paper to run through the printer. For my printer, if I load the paper shiny side up it will print the pattern on the paper side. Although, you'll want to test this on your own printer first. 

Print out the pattern pieces. The links are available above ^.  Make sure to set the printer settings to landscape when printing!

If you're nervous about running the freezer paper through your printer, you can just trace the pattern onto the freezer paper yourself. You'll probably want a ruler or straight-edge of some sort to help with this.

Normally I would use my exacto knife, cutting mat, and ruler to cut out the pattern but I was home for Spring break and didn't have my normal supplies. Snipping a whole in the center and cutting from the inside out works just as well. Do this for all 5 pattern pieces. 

With a hot iron, adhere the stencil to your shirt. Make sure that the edges of the stencil are "well-stuck". 

Now for the paint! You can use fabric paint for this step but I find that the color selection is very limited  and often the dried design looks too shiny.

Another option is to use acrylic paint and mix it with a textile medium solution. Acrylic paint alone would be very stiff and prone to cracking. Adding the medium solves that problem and leaves you with a flexible design (closer to what you see on store bought tees). All these supplies are found at Hobby Lobby, by the way. 

Mix one part medium to one part paint (or follow the directions on your particular medium's bottle). 

Carefully sponge the paint on, taking care to stay inside the stencil. Notice that you can use a little extra freezer paper on the sides to help with this.

Here's how mine looked after just one coat. I waited for it to dry and added two more coats for a deeper color. 

When the design is dry to the touch, carefully remove the paper. 

Complete the design with its corresponding triangles.

You can tape paper over the middle design to protect it from the other colors of paint. 

Again wait for the paint to dry and then peel the paper stencil off. Per the directions on my bottle of textile medium, I used my iron and a cloth in between to set the design. 

Feel free to use the design on more than just shirts! It looks super cute on this tote bag too! I didn't have to bother with the textile medium for the tote since it's a thick canvas material. 

Now show off that hard work!

Whew it's windy here in Texas!

Hope you enjoy (;

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