With this easy fabric printing project, you can design your own patterns and make your mark on T-shirts, pillowcases, or cloth of any kind!

a pair of t-shirts and a tank top featuring hand-printed paint designs

Photo © Andrew Greto Photography, excerpted from Art Sparks

Have you ever tried fabric printing? You can print on just about any kind of fabric. Try making something new for your house or decorate a T-shirt that you can wear.

What You’ll Need

  • Scrap paper or newspaper
  • Styrofoam trays*
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Acrylic paint or fabric paint in assorted colors and paintbrushes, 1 for each paint color
  • Paper plates, 1 for each paint color
  • Large piece of plain fabric, such as a pillowcase or a T-shirt

*FYI Sometimes vegetables and meat at the grocery store come in Styrofoam trays. If you want to reuse a tray that held meat, wash it thoroughly with soap and hot water before using it in this project.

If you want to wash your printed fabric many times, use fabric paint. You can find fabric paint at an art supply or craft store, and follow the bottle instructions for how to use and wash the paint.

styrofoam cutouts for fabric printing

Photo © Andrew Greto Photography, excerpted from Art Sparks

Step 1. Cover your work space with scrap paper. Cut some simple shapes from a Styrofoam tray. Tape and pinch pieces of masking tape to make little handles on the backs of each shape. Squares, rectangles, ovals, and zigzags are good shapes to make.

apply paint to styrofoam shapes to make prints on fabric

Photo © Andrew Greto Photography, excerpted from Art Sparks

Step 2. Lay your fabric out flat. Pour a small amount of each paint color onto a separate paper plate. Holding your shapes by their handles, brush them with paint and stamp them onto the fabric. You can print random designs or make a pattern. Let your fabric dry before moving it.

Text excerpted and adapted slightly from Art Sparks © 2019 by Marion Abrams and Hilary Emerson Lay. All rights reserved.

Marion Abrams

Marion Abrams founded the Summer Art Barn in Hatfield, Massachusetts, in 1989. She has a BFA in art education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and… See Bio

Hilary Emerson Lay

Hilary Emerson Lay has a BFA from Emerson College in writing, literature, and publishing, with a concentration in children’s writing and illustration. Lay managed The… See Bio

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Art Sparks

by Marion Abrams and Hilary Emerson Lay

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