Simple T-shirt decorating – 15 easy ideas to make your own custom t-shirt

Create your own customized tshirts with simple methods - Easy DIY t-shirt decorating

I have always maintained that a T-shirt is an affordable and very utilitarian canvas for designing and creating artwork 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.

Related posts : 15 different types of T-shirts; 12 different ways to print on tshirts

Simple T-shirt decorating methods

1 T-shirt printing

tshirts printed with various graphic designs

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.

Related posts :  12 different methods of t-shirt printing available ; How to transfer photos on to fabric

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.

Sequins attached to tshirts - stitched

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.

Sequins attached to printed tshirts

Or make a motif ( heart is a very common sequins motif) full of sequins alone. Use invisible nylon thread to make them seem floating.

MOtifs decorated with sequins

You can learn some simple ways to stitch sequins here

3. Fabric flower decorating

decorate a t-shirt with fabric flowers made with satin

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.

cut out satin circles

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.

Stack the satin circles and sew beads in the middle

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 

decorate a tshirt with flower 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.

embroider on printed tshirts        

Just fill in some portions with colourful thread and simple stitches.

partial embroidery on printed tshirt

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.

monnograms letters embroidered on tshirts

Check out this post on embroidering letters, embroidering monograms for some ideas. Letters on t-shirts with couching stitches are also a nice touch

mark designs on thsirt with chalk

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.

make floral embroidery stitches on tshirt above pocket

Use simple hand embroidery stitches to create beautiful decorations for your t-shirts.

flowers embroidered above pocket

5. T-shirt fabric painting

tshirt painted with fabric print

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.

tshirt painting with fabric paint

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

add bead embrioidery on tshirts

Seed beads are small circular shaped beads. You can add these beads to already printed t-shirts to enhance the design.

make bead embroidery stitches on already printed tshirts

Or make your own small motifs with the beads.

make small motifs on the tshirt surface

Easy bead embroidery flower motifs are great when done on t-shirts. Use basic beading stitches for simple stitching.

You can combine fabric painting with beads for a nice touch.

bead embroidery motif in a circle shape

7 T-shirt decorating ideas with ribbon

Ribbon embroidery is an easy way to embellish t-shirts. Check out this post on the basic ribbon embroidery stitches or some easy ways to stitch ribbon embroidery flowers.

You can alternatively add simple ribbon bows or ribbon trims. Check out the posts on making ribbon bows here and for making ribbon trims here.

8. Flower Applique on t-shirts

Applique is often seen on kids’ t-shirts. Flower appliques are very popular; so are felt appliques.

applique stitches made on tshirts to attach patches

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

Attach ready made 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.

cut out tshirt at places to give a different vibe

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

attach flat back beads with glue on tshirts

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.

cute tshirt ideas with flat back beads

14. Stenciled designs

Stenciled rhinestone designs on tshirts

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

Make design cut out from paper /cardboard

Cut it out.Mark the design on the fabric.

Place the stencil on fabric

Start gluing the rhinestones inside the design.You can alternatively decorate with paints.

Start gluing the rhinestones in this design

Use beads or sequins the same way using stencils.

attach flat back rhinestones in shape of letters

15. Tie-dye/Batik/Dip-dye T-shirts

Tie dye design on tshirts

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.

Check out these posts for more details on tie-dyeing : How to tie dye ; 10 easy to make Tie Dye designs

tie dyed tshirts

If you want to, add some more embellishments on top of the designs like sequins here.

sequins attached over tie dyed designs

Related posts : 50 ways to make fabric with texture and patterns ; How to make stencils ; Easy to do Tie dye on tshirtsHow to dye clothes ; Fabric painting basics

Subscribe to get weekly notifications of posts in your email

Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Simple T-shirt decorating – 15 easy ideas to make your own custom t-shirt”

  1. It’s great that this article explains how you can randomly glue rhinestones to a t-shirt to add some glitz or put them in a specific shape. When planning this, it might help to ensure you know what you want to create so you can get the right number of rhinestones for your design. This could also help you with determining what colors, size, and other specifications to purchase for the t-shirt you want to create

Your opinion is important. Leave a comment