Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A Guide to Half-Assed T-Shirt Making

I love making t-shirts.  Even when I was a kid I would often have slogans written down for potential shirts.  I especially loved coming up with my own No Fear shirts, which I assure you was super cool circa 1995 or so.

These days I've branched out from No Fear (although with everything 90s being cool again, maybe there will be a resurgence?) and enjoy making a variety of shirts.  I thought I would throw together a handy little guide in case anyone else wanted to try making their own half-assed shirts.

There are several ways to make your own shirts - first up, the trusty Sharpie method.



The pros?  It's super cheap and easy.  I have a package of those Sharpie Stained markers that are made especially for writing on fabric, but I'm not a huge fan of them.  The points are very fine and almost paint brush like, which makes it difficult for writing.  It would probably be easier if you were trying to draw a more intricate design.  

The cons?  It looks super cheap and easy.  I kind of dug it on my strike shirts though - really added to the whole "Hey look at me, I'm super broke and on strike!" look.  It's also difficult to keep fabric taught - I like putting the lid of a shoebox inside of the shirt and pulling the excess back with binder clips to try and keep it steady.


The newest method I've tried is Hand Painting.  I picked up this fabric spray paint from Walmart but just took the lid off and used small square paint brush.  The paint was about $10 and will last until the end of time at this rate.  I'm not sure how it would work as an actual spray paint since it seems pretty thick and I would think would end up globby.  Who knows.


The pros?  It works well on dark coloured shirts, and I was really happy with the results.  The cons?  It's time consuming.  I did two coats on this shirt, and it really could have used a third.  It also took quite a long time to dry, so keep that in mind.  I just freehanded the letters with this one, but it could work well with a stencil if your hand isn't super steady.


I have ventured away from the DIY methods for the Professional Route.  This dress was printed at T-Shirt Time in White Oaks Mall.  The results are great - it's nice and clear and centered - all things that are a struggle for me.  The cons?  It's pricey.  I bought the dress, and then it cost me another $20 to get the lettering done.  It should have been $25, but they gave me a bit of a deal because they thought what I was getting done was funny.  So it's nice for a one-time thing, but if you like to make as many shirts as I do, it's not the best.



The classic option is the Iron-On Letters.  I love those fuzzy letters.  The pros?  It's pretty quick and easy, as long as you have an iron.  The results are nice and clear and it's pretty easy to get things lined up nice and straight before you start.  The cons?  It's expensive too - most packages of letters seem to be around $8 each, and usually only come with two of each letter, at best.  If you're doing a longer phrase or just like to make shirts frequently, it can start to add up.  You could use those 40% coupons that Michaels always has, but it's still kind of a pain to buy packages one at a time.  Also, I find the letters really start to peel after washing and I usually end up touching things up with glue anyway.


One of my favourite options is the Iron-On Transfer.  You can get sheets of these pretty much anywhere that there are office supplies and print out whatever you want.  The colours end up nice and sharp and you can print pretty well whatever you can imagine.  The pros are that it's easy, relatively cheap, and gives you a lot of flexibility.  The cons is that the sheets basically only work with an inkjet printer.  Laser printers get too hot and melt the sheets.  I've looked online, and apparently there are some laser sheets in existence, but they're hard to come by.  I have a laser printer at home, which is a necessity given how much I print, but I've seriously considered buying a cheap inkjet printer just for t-shirt purposes.


Finally, a more punk rock version is Bleach.  Who hasn't accidentally ruined a shirt by splashing bleach on it?  I used the same idea to make a couple of strike shirts and I actually really dig the way they turned out.  The pros are that it's basically the cheapest option ever.  Just a little bit of bleach and a paint brush and you're ready to go.  The cons are that you have to be really careful not to spill since there's no turning back once you get that bleach on there.  It also doesn't look professional at all, but it all depends on what you're looking for.  In this one the top part looks all messed up because I initially tried metallic Sharpies, but they didn't work well on the black fabric.


That's all the options I've got, guys!  I would love to try some real screenprinting sometime, but for now I keep it quick and dirty.  (That's what she said.)

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