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 (;



Crafty Texan said...

Such a rockin' shirt! See tribal all over Hawaii, so I'm gonna make one of these soon. Thanks for the tutorial!

Girl With A Pearl Earring said...

I love anything tribal so I'll definitely be making this soon! Thanks for the great tutorial! :D

Happy in red said...

Thanx for sharing! Great to hear that you're not dropping out anytime soon. I can tell you from experience: it's hard to make a living from a creative profession. I still am not able to quit my day job just yet. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't follow your dream, you definately have a talent. But being able to pay your rent and your groceries... well, it counts for something, right? ;-) Summer holidays really ask for exploring, so good luck with that!!

Adele said...

So glad that you feel supported by the blogging world after your last post. Thanks for your lovely e-mail!

In other news, I LOVE THIS SHIRT. I may have to try this out when assessments are out of the way. I also really love your sandals, can I ask where you got them? So cute!

Belinda | Myurbey said...

brilliant !!!!! i love the tote bag :)
i will try this at home



Rebecca @ My Girlish Whims said...

So fun! Always love all your ideas :)

chels said...

This is totally awesome! I've heard about freezer paper many times and it's nice to see how easy it is to use. I think I will have to try this one out! Thanks!

Hannah from FlyChicks said...

super cute, katy! love it on the canvas bag!

Unknown said...

Love, love, love this! Thank you so much for sharing! I am for sure going to try this out!!


Taylor said...

Turned out great! I've been wanting to make a skirt with a tribal pattern. I ususally work with fabric paint- never the textile medium. Does it water down the paint? I noticed your colors weren't as strong on the tee, but I'm assuming its more from the base color being darker than the paint thinning out. I love the color scheme you picked for the tee, but I like how the colors are so much brighter on the tote. Do you think using actual fabric paint instead of acrylic/medium could solve that? Or maybe just a coat of white before either method?

Thanks for the great tips!! :)


Anonymous said...

What a great tutorial! Love the design and can't wait to try it for myself (in fact I just pinned it so I won't forget).
Thanks so much for sharing!

Katie said...

Lovely lovely! And thanks for making such a straight-forward tutorial!

Unknown said...

Love it!

Ashley said...

Super awesome!! I am definitely going to have to try this!


Marite said...

Amazing- this shirt is so gorgeous :)
and thank you so much for such a great tutorial :) ^^


5Lips said...

My daughter and I love reading your blog. You have such a talent. I'm so glad you have felt supported and encouraged by your readers. I'm happy to see that you plan to finish your degree first then see what happens. I'm definitely proud of my A&M degree! :) Best of luck to you and keep posting!

Stephanie said...

This is so cute!!! You might want to add a disclaimer to make sure to use only an inkjet printer. When I was growing up, I used my dad's expensive laser printer (it runs with heat and toner) for something like this, the paper melted inside and destroyed the printer. I learned a valuable lesson. I have been enjoying your blog!

SV said...

So great to hear you're finishing up your degree AND you're still going to pursue your creative side. You can make it work!!!!

Great tutorial to boot :-)


SV said...

So great to hear you're finishing up your degree AND you're still going to pursue your creative side. You can make it work!!!!

Great tutorial to boot :-)


ChicPoint said...

it looks amazing! I'll try it, for sure!! :D xoxo

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy I found this blog. I think you are really talented and I would never imagine making my own designs on shirts :) I'll definitely try this with my friends in the summer :) Thanks for stealing 5 minutes from my life, it was worth it :)

Mary said...

Awesome blog. Greetings from Germany :)

Chantelle said...

So, I LOVE this shirt design, but I also love the t-shirt!! Where did you get it/ what brand is it?

Also, I discovered your blog through pinterest... and I'm hooked. I love your tutorials! I'm gonna try and convince my mom and sister to join me in starting a tri-authored craft blog... we'll see how that works out. :) Thanks again for sharing your creativity!

Laure Coulombel said...

I love that!! I m going to make that for sure!!!

j.thrift said...

You're clearly very creative and talented, but I have to let you know that this is culturally appropriative to Native people, and I find it to be offensive and in poor taste. Trendy "tribal" is, at best, woefully ignorant. I hope you can reconsider your desire to appropriate real people's cultures and histories, especially considering how shitty white people have treated them over the last 600 years.

TechNubie said...

Thank you j.thrift for saying that! I was rolling my eyes at this post. You said it more succinctly than I could have at this moment.

Katy said...

I apologize for any offense that you or anyone else may have taken from this post. I certainly never intended for, or even imagined such a reaction. I'm actually part Native American myself, which is where I get my naturally dark skin and dark, thick eyebrows. I would never mean to disrespect their culture or any other.

It's simply a little craft project that I thought people would enjoy. Yes, inspiration has been drawn from a tribal culture but I don't believe that I've misrepresented anyone's culture or history. Again, sorry for any misunderstanding.

Note* This post has not been edited since original publishing.

Rachel {polkadots and puppies} said...

Aww, I want one! I love this tee. And could you BE any cuter, Katy? I think not. ;)
-Love and sparkles

Unknown said...

Yes, thank you j.thrift and TechNubie for your over-zealous concern for a culture you know nothing about. Just a heads up though, next time think before you voice your white naivete. Because you look more ignorant than the girl who comes up with a simple shirt design and refers to it as "tribal." So why don't you stop "enlightening" people, get off your pedestal and join the rest of the world who doesn't see race like you.

Wei-Yann said...

i love this, and of course it looks great on you! thanks so much for sharing this with us :) gah you are so cute!! keep on keeping on with school and your creative pursuits katy :)

Michelle said...

So cute! Just made one. I think I slopped on my paint, so it bled through! Disclaimer: Put some newspaper or something inside the shirt! I noticed it before the paint dried and got most of it out with a sponge and water.

The Guy its Hard to Stay Mad At said...

I'm afraid your post is as "woefully ignorant" as you claim this design to be. Cultural appropriation is merely the adaption of one culture by another. While it can be, in some instances, negative in satire, this isn't a case of cultural appropriation. This is an original pattern by the creator under the influence of Southwestern design. Not once in her post does she describe it to be Native American, Indian, red skin, or brave. To take something as minute as this symbol and lump it into such vast and diverse cultures is, as you say, "woefully ignorant." If I applied the same overly sensitive politically correct logic you hold so dear to say, a shirt with horizontal stripes, we could all get offended at how it mocks the overpopulation of prisons in America. Your sensitivty seems to be directed at the word "tribal." The term itself simply means to to be similar to being of a tribe. While "tribe" has been used to describe Native American groups, it is not exclusive. It can be applied to any community i.e. a high fashion community. i.e. a community of people speaking out of turn for something they know nothing about, etc. If you maintain such a hyper-sensitized view towards every single thing, you will only become a bitter person. Think before you hop on your computer and type a short ill conceived diatribe. I imagine this post will offend you and you will do some research, find an anecdote, and form what you think is a well written rebuttal. That's fine. Do what you need to do.

Jessi at Nine to Phive said...

This pattern is too perfect. It puts all of the tribal print tees from Anthropologie, TopShop, and Forever 21 to shame--and it's free!

Kelli said...

Ah, Katy. Who knew you'd start such a discussion in your comments with a simple t-shirt, huh? I love it and think you are so cute. Keep doing what you're doing, girl and keep inspiring us to create. There will always be haters, but hopefully, the world will always have more of us who work to encourage and support each other instead. :)

Taylor said...

Hey girl- finally got around to trying it out!! (not xactly the tribal, but the method) I'm going to a show to see SBTRKT (check him out- great music :)) and decided to make a shirt with one of his masks he wears- its kind of an African tribal- and I looove how it turned out!

take a look :)!/photo.php?fbid=10100314319074097&set=a.765780138547.2349649.24614202&type=1&theater

Konstanz Silverbow said...

I love this! And I want to say THANK YOU! I found your blog while trying to figure out how to Batik shirts and a flag for Girls camp! Your posts have been so helpful and taken away a lot of my stress now that I have wonderful tutorials and I have no need to worry about doing these projects! I hope you have a wonderful week!

Konstanz Silverbow

Beth said...

Great design! I've been doing some fabric painting recently too. It's so much fun!

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this. I regularly follow your blog and find it inspiring, so I'm passing along the Sunshine Award to you today for all of your creativity and inspiration! Come on over to to check it all out~

Casey Somerville said...

Such a great tutorial! I love the idea of having something no one else does, and that you can customize. Thanks for giving us all a template!

a collaged life:

Unknown said...

Hi! I just wanted to let you know that a Spanish speaking (I think she lives in Mexico) Youtuber is stealing off your design/idea, and used it as her own. I felt angry that she gave no credit, so just letting you know. Check out minute 6:42.

Unknown said...

I love all your tutorials... Such sad, that I cannot buy a freezer paper (in Slovakia they don´t know such a thing. :( )

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