T-shirt Painting – 5 easy techniques

Guidance on how to paint and decorate your T-shirts using five simple and straightforward techniques and create unique and visually appealing designs on T-shirts.
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Wearable Art! sounds so lofty, but what if I tell you that you can easily do it yourself – through Tshirt painting? A T-shirt is your blank canvas, and with some fabric paint, brushes, and a plain Tshirt, you can go berserk and be the artist and then wear it yourself.

When it comes to Tshirt painting it might seem as if there is nothing new you can do – the designers seem to have invented all the t-shirt designs in the world in all the different permutations and combinations. But still, the creative energy and experiences in each individual are different and this can still be converted into more innovative designs. Anyway, inspirations are all around you. Find your design and get started.

If you are new to fabric painting check out this post on “Learning how to paint on fabric” for more details like what paint to use, how to prepare the fabric for painting, how to treat the fabric after the painting is done etc. And the one which explains the 10 fabric painting techniques you can do easily.

t shirt painting

1.Painting on colored Tshirts

painting done on colored tshirts

When you are painting on a colored fabric, the one thing you need is a base for the paint for it to look vivid. For that, we will first paint a base layer of white color fabric paint on the design and then after it is dry, paint the design with other color layers and details and then do the outline

draw the design on tshirts
make a white base with fabric paint on the design for fabric painting
paint the design on the tshirt with a brush
finish the tshirt painting by giving layers

Why is the cat looking at me instead of the cupcake? 

2. Floral painting 

floral design painted on tshirts

On white Tshirts also I make the white base layer but it is not absolutely necessary. Check out the post on how to draw and paint a rose if you are interested in learning how to do this easily. This is a very interesting finger-painting, finished with an outline in glitter outliner

paint a base layer of white on the tshirt before doing detailed painting
rose flower designs done on tshirt for painting

3. Marker painting on tshirts

draw designs with permanent marker to do fabric painting on tshirts

The permanent markers that we use on paper can be used to draw outlines and even make drawings such as these. They are very easy to draw with and do not go off when washed. But experienced people say that the drawings fade after a number of washes. I suppose, for that, you stop washing Tshirts.

outline painting on t shirts

Add rhinestones, beads, sequins, glitter glue etc on your drawing to enhance it

4 Negative Painting.

dot painting made on tshirts


This is a kind of stenciling – just on the reverse. To do this you will be making a design on a paper, draw the outline of it on the fabric and the paint outside. Here I have simply dipped the back of a brush with paint and applied it. You can brush it on in a box for a more solid look.

cut out stencils to do tshirt painting
draw the design for tshirt painting
draw outline for painting on t shirts
dot painting made on tshirts

5. Writing letters on Tshirts

You can use simple stencils to write the letters on your t-shirts or write freehand like I did. You will have to measure the width and length of each of the letter for it to look uniform.

Related post: Design letters in free Inkscape program.; Design and do letter embroidery on tshirts

tshirt paintined with fabric paint

I do not think this Tshirt will be used much – my daughter asked: “Who wears Tshirts with Beauty printed on it?” True. I should have written, “You can’t sit with us ” or something equally rude.

Add paint on fabric with rhinestones

Basic Tenets of Tshirt painting

There are some must-dos in Tshirt painting. If you get all these right you will be on your way to super Tshirtdom. 

Do read the label in your paint before proceeding. There are glitter paints, metallic paints, puffy paint and many different ways to apply them. 

Do cover the area of painting with paper or plastic.

Do insert a thick cardboard or plastic sheet inside the t-shirt to prevent paint from seeping into the back of the t-shirt

Do test the paint before applying – especially the outliner because the first air pressure may cause the paint to come out faulty, ruining the whole t-shirt. Also you have to know if the paint you have mixed will bleed. Smudged paint does not look good 

Do prewash the t-shirt and completely dry it before painting on it. The sizing in new fabric will prevent paint from covering the fabric fully.

Do Iron all the wrinkles out for a smooth painting

Do paint on a flat surface.

Do leave the painted T-shirt undisturbed for at least 24 hours. And wash it only after a week.

And finally, Do not lose heart if you make a mistake. You can always paint over it.

Everyone must have one or two cheap plain t-shirt in their wardrobe which needs a little paint on it for some pizzazz. If you do not go and get some. There is nothing more fun than turning around a plain t-shirt

Related posts : Popular T-shirt printing methods; How to re-fashion plain black t-shirts .

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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.

3 thoughts on “T-shirt Painting – 5 easy techniques”

  1. Good info. just what I needed to know to get good results on my t-shirts as I do have a few good ones to practice on. Thank you!

  2. I always check out Sew Guide when I get an email from you! You always have fun and interesting things to check out, and I get a kick out of your sense of humor. Thank you!


    • Hi Olivia
      Thanks for the comment and for the appreciative words. My kids call me too cheesy (read lame) for anyone to like the humour ; )

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