Tuesday, 7 May 2013

How to Make Vintage Tees

Shopping in a second-hand store for vintage tee shirts leaves your options up to fate and shirts from boutiques come with high prices. Creating your own vintage-style tee lets you choose the exact color and image you want without spending a lot of money. A new shirt may also handle normal wear-and-tear better than one with some miles on it. Does this Spark an idea?


Wash the shirt. Do not use fabric softener; it prevents the ink from adhering to the fabric.

Find a vintage image online, upload one from a digital camera, or scan one onto your computer. Old signs, newspaper or magazine pages, celebrity portraits (including mugshots) and movie stills make eye-catching designs. You can also download a free vintage-looking font and use it with word-processing software to type old quotes or catchphrases.

Increase the contrast or color saturation with imaging software. Bold, simple graphics work best on tees. If your software has a half-tone contrast filter, experiment with it to create a fuzzy, dotted image reminiscent of old newspaper prints.

Enlarge the image to 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches. If you can separate the design into two or more parts, you can use multiple transfer pages, therefore creating a larger image on the tee.

Print the image onto the transfer paper according to the package directions. If you print on transfer paper meant for light-colored fabrics, you need to reverse the image before you print. Transfer paper meant for dark fabrics usually does not require reversal.

Cut out the image and lay it face-down on the shirt. Set the iron on the highest setting.

Run the iron over the paper, pressing firmly. Work in small areas at a time, starting at one of the corners. Refer to transfer package directions to determine how long to hold the iron in one place.

Let the paper cool. Peel off a tiny corner of the backing paper to check the transfer. Slowly remove the rest of the paper.


Wash the shirt without fabric softener.

Refer to the second step of Section 1 to create a vintage image. For a stencil the image needs to be the highest contrast possible. The image is easier to cut if you break down the image into simple shapes.

Print the image onto the transparency sheet. Let the paper dry completely before removing it from the printer.

Outline the stencil shapes with a permanent marker.

Use the craft knife to cut the shapes from the transparency sheet.

Lay the tee on a flat surface and slide a piece of cardboard inside. Position the transparency and tape it in place.

Dab a small amount of paint on your sponge and test it on a paper towel before applying. Gently sponge the paint over the stencil; this keeps the edges from smudging or creeping underneath the stencil. To create darker or more intense colors, paint the stencils in layers instead of putting more paint on at once. Let the entire design dry completely.

Remove the masking tape and slowly peel off the stencil. Check again to make sure the paint is dry. If not, let it sit for a few more hours. If it is, it's ready to wear!


- Transfer paper meant for light-colored fabrics provide the most vintage-like images and can also used on medium-colored fabric as long as the image is high-contrast.

- Turn the iron-on tee shirt inside out before washing. Use cold water.

- If the iron-on image starts to peel a little it adds to the vintage look.

- Use only one or two colors when stenciling. This makes the design bolder.


- Do not keep unused transfer paper for more than six months. Keep it in a plastic bag and store it away from places that are too dry or humid.