Freezer paper 101

A lot of you have asked me about a freezer paper tutorial, so here it is.  Using freezer paper to paint images on clothing is an easy, inexpensive way to spice up a plain shirt.

You’ll need:

Freezer paper (also known as butcher’s paper – it has a waxy feel to one side)
X-Acto knife + cutting mat
Fabric Paint + brush
Painter’s Tape (optional)

Images I used: T-Rex and Triceratops, Dala Horse, ladybug – hand drawn

First you’ll need to decide on an image.  You can draw one free hand or just copy one.  If you’re copying one, simply place the freezer paper over your image and trace with a pen or pencil.

Freezer paper 101

Next tape your freezer paper down onto the cutting mat (so it doesn’t move) and cut out your image carefully.

Freezer paper 101

Iron the freezer paper on your shirt (waxy side down).

Freezer paper 101

Next we paint!

There are a few different ways you can do this.  Each yields different results.  The first is to simply paint with a paintbrush covering the open space.  Don’t worry if you get paint on the freezer paper, it won’t go through.

Freezer paper 101

Let it dry.  (Do another coat if it needs it).  Once dry simply peel off the paper.

Freezer paper 101

Heat setting your image (when completely dry – I like to wait at least a day).  With your iron on the hottest setting your fabric can take, simply iron the painted section until the paint feels smooth (usually 10 seconds or so).  You can actually feel the difference in texture with your fingers.

Freezer paper 101Freezer paper 101

To get a more faded/washed out look, simply use a paint roller and paint to your desired look.

Freezer paper 101
Freezer paper 101

Adding washable fabric glitter: First paint a single coat of paint on.  Once dry (and before you’ve removed the freezer paper), you can apply some fabric glue and then the glitter.  Once the glue has dried, remove the freezer paper.

Freezer paper 101

You can also you use the positive part of the image (and paint around it leaving the shirt unpainted where your image is).  I used a roller and some metallic paint and painted with a very small amount of paint around the freezer paper.

Freezer paper 101Freezer paper 101

For a cracked aged look:  Simply paint with a brush as explained above.  Two to three coats works well here.

Freezer paper 101

Don’t heat set it.  Wait 36 hrs (or whatever time your paint needs to be washable – per the instructions on the bottle), then start washing the shirt.  You’ll need to wash it at least a dozen times (or more) depending on how aged you want it.  Once it’s cracked the way you like it, heat treat it (as explained above).

Freezer paper 101

I added sleeves to this shirt using this tutorial.  A friend saw my son’s version and wanted an adult size for himself.


Let me know if you have any questions.  Happy painting!


9 Comments on Freezer Paper 101

  1. Awesome tutorial and explanation… I have tried these two things with my freezer paper shirts and they worked great…

    1. For a faded/aged look use acrylic paint, it’s permanent and works great!

    2. You can print directly onto your freezer paper (non-plastic coated side), by cutting your freezer paper to the right size and putting it through your printer… this saved a TON of time!

  2. I have to ask…I have done many of these and have tried many different heat setting to iron the paper on the fabric, but sadly most of the time I get color bleeding under the paper leaving not so perfect lines. I have tried a paintbrush, the sponge, doing very thin layers to avoid soaking it with too much paint at once, etc. Any ideas would be amazing as it frustrates me to no end!

  3. Liz – I usually use a cotton heat setting when I iron down my freezer paper. I’ve also found if I move remove the freezer paper and iron it down again it doesn’t give me nice edges so leave it down once down. Also you need to make sure the paint is dry before you remove the freezer paper – otherwise you can get some bleeding on the edges as you lift the paper. My other suggestion is that they’re may be too much paint or you are lifting the paper with your brush near the edges while painting. When painting the edges use strokes that go from the outside-in (so from on the freezer paper to where you want the paint). That way you won’t lift it at the edges. Hope these suggestions help!

  4. I usually just use plain acrylic paint when I stencil on clothing. Is there a specific reason you use fabric paint? I want to do one with the cracked, aged look you did at the bottom and am wondering if acrylic will work just as well. I usually just one of those blotter sponges to paint with vs a brush. Will that work out the same?

    • I used fabric paint because the end result is a bit softer and that’s my preference — Acrylic can be used, it’s just stiffer – especially if you do a few layers. I would try it. I think the blotter sponges tend to leave less paint on your surface but they should work too.

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