Proper product selection, heat-setting, and care ensure long garment life.
To prevent paint from bleeding through a shirt to the back, it is helpful to create a t-shirt painting board. To begin, tape a piece of plastic, such as a garbage bag, to a backing board (a flat piece of cardboard) with masking tape. This helps the fabric from sticking to the cardboard after paint has been applied to the fabric.
Place the backing board between the layers of fabric to prevent paint from bleeding through the layers.
Slightly stretch the fabric around the backing board to remove wrinkles from the fabric and hold in place with masking tape. The fabric is now ready to be painted on.
Filling in large areas with thick paint will produce a very stiff, uncomfortable garment. Blend with our product GA-Screen Fabric Gel to reduce the stiffness of the acrylic paint. If painting in a thick manner, short strokes of paint will hold better than long lines. The longer the line, the greater the chance of cracking when washed. A washing machine's agitator may stretch the garment beyond its limit and thus cause cracking.
Test materials thoroughly before large production runs or when using a unique fabric. The looser the weave of the fabric (cotton/poly blends), the better the penetration and hold the paint will have on the material. Thicker fabrics (sweatshirt-type weaves) should be slightly stretched with a backer-board to allow for better penetration of the paint into the material. To increase the adhesion onto any fabric a very light misting of water (e.g.-with a plant-mister) will increase the penetration into the material. Care should be taken with this technique, as over applying the water could result in bleeding of the color.
Craft stores sell T-shirts in many fashionable colors, and the fabric is usually a good quality, opaque, preshrunk cotton. You want a preshrunk T-shirt so that your painting will not shrink with the shirt or warp out of shape when you launder the finished product. Stores like Walmart or Target or Kmart that sell men's white T-shirts in packs of three or more (Hanes is an excellent brand) will give you the most reasonable deal if you plan to paint them in bulk. The only thing you usually sacrifice is color. Just keep in mind that one colored T-shirt from a craft shop costs the same as three white T-shirts at Walmart, and that you can also tie-dye the white shirts using Rit or any other commercial, permanent fabric color. Get the most bang for your buck.
At most craft stores, you can also find T-shirt boards made of cardboard that you can insert into the shirt. These pull the fabric taut and flat, which makes it easier to draw or transfer your sketch onto it. The benefit to using a T-shirt board is the lack of seepage; your paint will not soak through from the front of the shirt to the back in splotches, or onto your tabletop.
At the craft store or a fabric store, you can purchase a large embroidery hoop. This is a nice alternative to the T-shirt board if you are just going to do something simple like stamping or a stencil. If you are going to draw the design onto the T-shirt by hand, however, your best bet is the board. It will allow you to press down firmly with your pencil when you make your sketch. Use soft lead or charcoal pencils if you are going to draw freehand.
Prewashing a T-shirt is essential if you are buying a shirt that is not preshrunk. You have to remove the sizing (starch that the manufacturer used to make the garment hang nicely from the hanger or hold its shape when folded and wrapped) before you paint. The sizing may also cause your paint to resist (i.e., prevent it from soaking into the fabric; it will sit on the surface and flake off when dry). Iron the T-shirt on high to remove the wrinkles (since it is cotton).
Insert your T-shirt board, or clamp the embroidery hoop to the front of the shirt, making sure that the inner hoop is inside the shirt, and the outer hoop is outside.
You are now ready to prepare your picture and your paints.
If you are using a stencil, pin it to the shirt (inside the boundary of the hoop if you use one). If you are using sponges or stamps, make sure you have your water, test paper, and a cloth for daubing off the excess nearby. For pictures that you plan to draw freehand, it is a good idea to blow it up (if it is small) so you have a better look at the amount of detail. A quick way to transfer a picture that you have already drawn (or a photograph) is to turn it over, and scrub the back of it with vine charcoal or soft lead pencil, covering the entire surface. Then, lay it scrubbed-side-down against the T-shirt, and trace outline of each shape firmly with a ball-point pen. This will press a faint outline of your picture onto the fabric. (For the record, this method of transferring a drawing also works for linoleum used in relief prints).
For your freehand sketch, make sure to press down firmly with the pencil. Make the sketch a bit bigger than you actually want it to be in the finished product, since even preshrunk shirts still shrink a bit after repeated washings.
Consult the customer service reps at the fabric or craft store for brushes that are best to use with acrylic or fabric paints. You want soft and flexible bristles, made of either natural or synthetic fiber. Avoid the brushes with hard plastic bristles that come in children's painting kits. These are harsh, they don't spread paint color well across your surface, and they make scratchy lines.
Dip your brush generously, and tap the excess back into the palette. Press the brush firmly with each stroke. You will be able to tell if the paint is penetrating the surface of the fabric. You should still be able to see the texture of the fabric under the color. If not, you may have used too much. If you can still see the color of the T-shirt from under your paint, you may want to apply a second coat, making sure to press firmly so it will soak into the fabric more adequately. White paint on dark fabric will usually take a second coat. Some of the lighter shades of yellow will cause the same problem.
Make sure you have a test piece of paper to see how your stamp will look when applied to the shirt. Stamp a few impressions on the paper, and check to see if the paint is globbing up on the stamp in any of those prints. If so, you will need to shake off the excess.
You can make a simple stamp print on a T-shirt with everyday objects like sea shells, maple leaves, ivy leaves, a whole fish from the butcher department (you would roll one side of the fish in paint and simply press it against the shirt), a potato half with shapes carved into it, or half of an apple.
Fabrics treated with READY SET GLO'S Silk-Screen Fabric Gel-modified paints must be heat set if maximum launderability is necessary. . The polymer must first air dry to the touch to form the initial bond with the fabric, followed by one of the heat-set methods listed below:
Ironing -Remove the board or hoop and then lay the shirt flat on your ironing board. Cover it with a paper towel or paper bag. Iron it on medium iron for 3-5 minutes with a medium-hot iron on the reverse side (side opposite of the application). On delicate fabrics where lower heat levels must be used, a longer ironing time will be necessary.
Professional Oven Cure - for 1-2 minutes at 3000F; 4 minutes at 2500F.
Clothes dryer - Commercial: medium-high temperature for 20-40 minutes. Household: high temperature for 40-50 minutes.
Let paint dry thoroughly (at least 4 days) before washing.
Hand-washing will dramatically increase garment life.
Always turn garment inside-out for laundering.
Avoid hot water washing. This will tend to soften and loosen acrylic paint from the garment.
Cold water works best for automatic washing of the painted garment.
Heat-set when appropriate.
Set washer to gentle cycle.
Drip-drying instead of using the clothes dryer will increase the life of the garment.
READY SET GLO'S Paints are all professional products. If properly prepared and cared for, will produce a fabric artwork with good durability. READY SET GLO's fabric mediums are produced with 100% Acrylic Polymer Emulsion. This produces a film with excellent flexibility, and chemical, water, and ultraviolet resistance. The milky emulsion dries transparent, allowing pigments to show their full color. READY SET GLO's Acrylics dry quickly and may be painted over immediately yet complete drying/curing will take longer. Avoid freezing. Minimum film formation temperature is 48oF/9oC.