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Printmaking

How to Make Freezer Paper Stencils

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Sometimes, no matter how hard you look, you just can't find what you're looking for. It might be a motif in a particular colour, a particular word on a particular item, or maybe you just have a better idea for a T-shirt that you haven't seen yet. Enter freezer paper. With it, you're able to create any word/shape/picture you desire (and are willing to cut out with a scalpel!) which allows you to transform simple library bags, kids T-shirts, all those plain-coloured napkins, pillowcases and cushions with paint and patience. And not even that much patience - it doesn't take too long at all. Here's how to DIY.


Supplies

  • Fabric of your choice - a tote bag, T-shirt, cushion cover, curtain, tea towel or just simple fabric you can transform into an item later.
  • Freezer paper (in Australia, you can buy this by the metre or by the box from Spotlight).
  • A cutting mat or chopping board.
  • Ruler.
  • Scalpel.
  • Pencil.
  • Paintbrush.
  • Fabric paint.
  • Optional: a printout of an image you wish to use as a stencil. Or you can create your own.

Step 1: Prepare and Cut Your Stencil

Create your own stencil or print something out from online. Either way, simple shapes are best - you need to cut it out perfectly with a scalpel so unless you're great at cutting tricky shapes, stick to something simple and minimal. We created simple arrows for this design.

Place your cutting mat on a flat surface with the stencil on top and a piece of freezer paper over the top of that. The freezer paper should be placed with the shiny side facing down and the matte side facing up - this is how the pattern will look on your fabric. You should be able to see the pattern through the freezer paper.


Step 2: Get Cutting

Cut through the two layers, using the stencil as a guide until you've cut out your shape. Don't discard any "inside" bits from letters (such as the holes in a "B" or "D" - you will still need them. Trim roughly around the outside of the shape in a big circle or at least a couple of centimetres away from the stencil. This makes it more manageable when you're ironing.


Step 3: Iron on the Stencil

Iron your fabric so it is smooth. Now line up your stencil in place on the fabric with the shiny side down and iron into place. The iron will melt the shiny side gently, turning it into an adhesive which will stick to the fabric, sealing the edges and allowing you to paint the stencil on the fabric without bleeding underneath it. Press firmly and hold for a few seconds until the paper is stuck to the fabric. Ensure all edges of the stencil are stuck in place.


Step 4: Paint on Your Pattern

Place a piece of cardboard underneath your stencil so the paint doesn't go through the fabric. If you're painting a bag or a T-shirt, place the cardboard inside so it doesn't go through to the other side. Start at the edge of the stencil and brush into the stencil. Continue until your image is painted and you're happy with the colour and coverage. Leave to dry.


Step 5: The Big Reveal

Gently peel back the stencil to reveal your painted pattern. Follow the fabric paint instructions in regards to washing and/or setting the paint.

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