Updated on August 28, 2022 by Sarina
I have always maintained that a T-shirt is an affordable and very utilitarian canvas for designing and creating artworks for people like me who like art but are not artists. And there are limitless possibilities and directions that you can go about decorating your t-shirts. Here are a select few that I regularly use or rather, want to use.
Simple T-shirt decorating methods
1 T-shirt printing
T-shirt printing is, of course, the number one method of decorating a t-shirt. But to do it on your own, you need special ink and printer – i.e if you want the print to last. The easy option is to give it out to be printed.
Specialized printing shops will print individual t-shirts for comparatively inexpensive rates if you give them your preferred picture in a digital format and your blank t-shirt. Like your favourite Tom Cruise ( Or whoever and whatever is your favourite) picture or wordings on your t-shirt
2. Stitch sequins on t-shirts
When you think of embellishing a t-shirt, especially women’s and little kids, sequins are never far behind. Simple and complicated designs are embellished with sequins.
If you have a pre-printed t-shirt with letters printed on it, just add some sequins on the top for some bling and extra embellishment
You can sprinkle sequins on the design like this here
Or make a motif ( heart is a very common sequins motif) full of sequins alone. Use invisible nylon thread to make them seem floating.
You can learn some simple ways to stitch sequins here
3. Fabric flower decorating
This flower that I am using is the favourite of the Internet Flowerland – so many different versions of this beautiful and very very easy to make flower is seen all over the internet – made with satin, silk, organza, tulle, velvet, burlap – all the fabric you know have been made into this flower.
To make this flower is so easy you may do it all day long once you know how to – just cut out circles from fabric (no problem with wavy edges, just cut some sort of circles- so even if you cannot cut straight for the life of you, you can make this) and layer them and stitch in place with some french knots or beads in the center and you have this uber modern and cute little flower.
If you do not like this flower, do not worry – go on and make other kinds of fabric flowers to decorate your t-shirt. Check out these posts on making ribbon roses, making ribbon flowers, making fabric flowers
4. T-shirt embroidery
This embellishment is as old as Tshirts themselves – using embroidery to decorate t-shirts. Even if the t-shirt you have is printed already, you can use embroidery to enhance the prints.
Just fill in some portions with colourful thread and simple stitches.
T-shirt embroidery in the form of letters is another favourite decorating option. Monograms can be embroidered easily for a classy touch. You can learn more about T-shirt embroidery here.
When you do embroidery on t-shirts you may need to keep thin interfacing on the back, especially if you are doing heavy embroidery. Use thin needles which would not leave holes on the thin t-shirt fabric
Use simple hand embroidery stitches to create beautiful decorations for your t-shirts.
5. T-shirt fabric painting
You can use simple fabric paints to make any kind of painting on t-shirts. If you are skilled enough you can make it look as good as printing.
Check out this post on T-shirt painting for more details on 5 techniques you can use.
As t-shirts are made of thin knit fabrics you will have to take extra precautions when painting on them. Keep a piece of paper/cardboard/plastic on the inside to prevent water/paint from seeping to the back
Stamping is another way to do fabric painting on your t-shirts. You can make some very easy stamps with household things and stamp on your t-shirts to decorate them and customise them to your choice. Check out this post on making stamps yourself using the things lying in your home. You can make simple potato stamps with potato pieces following the tutorial and stamp your t-shirts.
6. Decorate with beads
Seed beads are small circular shaped beads. You can add these beads to already printed t-shirts to enhance the design.
Or make your own small motifs with the beads
You can combine fabric painting with beads for a nice touch.
7 T-shirt decorating ideas with ribbon
8. Flower Applique on t-shirts
Applique is often seen on kids’ t-shirts. Flower appliques are very popular; so are felt appliques.
9. Add Lace or another fabric
Lace trims can be added to the neckline or the hem or even sleeve hems for adding a charm to plain t-shirts. You can use fake leather to finish the edges of pockets or even hems.
10. Decorating tshirts with Patches
Felt is a fabric which does not fray and is available in vivid colours. The ordinary craft felt can be cut up into many shapes and made into clothing patches and simply stitched on to the t-shirts for a nice easily added decoration. Other options are to make embroidered patches. Check out these posts on making clothing patches and the different methods you can use to stitch the patches on your t-shirts
11. Cut out t-shirts
Cut up t-shirts are always in fashion one way or the other – it just means that the t-shirt is cut in different places in designs – the positions and style may vary with different fashion changes and seasons. You can look at this post on different ways to cut out t-shirts and change their looks
And some more ideas for DIY t-shirt refashion ideas here
12 Bleaching t-shirts to decorate
Bleach leaves faded marks on coloured fabric – this faded discoloured distressed effect can look good, depending on your preference.
Bleach literally takes away colour from your t-shirt fabric. So spraying bleach on selected places, or applying bleach specifically in patterns after masking the areas you do not want discolouration, can produce some startling and pleasing distressed looks .
13. Flat backed beads/stone decorating on a t-shirt
Any flat backed beads including rhinestones can be glued on to your t-shirts in a random fashion or in the shape of motifs. Use fabric glue for this, not craft glue.
14. Stenciled designs
Stenciling involves using a premade design to draw, paint or decorate anything. This is the easiest method to make multiple designs in the same shape and size. You get nice symmetrical designs easily which can be traced on to fabric.
Here I have tried to make a butterfly design using a simple homemade stencil and glued on rhinestones inside the design.
First draw your design on a piece of FOLDED paper (for symmetry). You can also print out the design
Cut it out.Mark the design on the fabric.
Start gluing the rhinestones inside the design.You can alternatively decorate with paints.
Use beads or sequins the same way using stencils
15. Tie-dye/Batik/Dip-dye T-shirts
Apart from the attractiveness of the model, I think the t-shirt looks pretty good too. You can make attractive markings on your t-shirt this way with some dye and a little effort.
If you want to, add some more embellishments on top of the designs like sequins here