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How to Make Custom T-shirts at Home: 5 Ideas to Get You Started

Creating custom T-shirts is a fun project you can do with the whole family. If you have an eye for fashion, you might even be able to sell your homemade T-shirts.

Cricut makes it easy to bring your T-shirt design ideas to life. Keep reading to learn how to make custom T-shirts at home with your Cricut.

How to Make Custom T-shirts at Home

Easy Layered Custom T-Shirt Ideas

The only limit is your imagination when you are designing a T-shirt. There are many approaches to creating awesome designs, and your Cricut unlocks limitless creative potential.

There is an essential tool in Cricut Design Space you must know about when learning how to make custom T-shirts. The Layer function lets you add color and depth to your shirt.

Cricut Layers start with an image file containing more than one color. This image gets converted to an SVG file where each color is a separate layer.

Cricut Design Space has preset multi-layer images available for purchase. You might even find a free or discounted file that suits your design idea.

When you use layers, each color will get a feed prompt. Ensure you match the correct color vinyl sheets for each layer of your custom T-shirt design.

This powerful function can bring any custom T-shirt to the next level.

Plan Your T-shirt Design

To learn how to make custom T-shirts, you must start with a plan. It can be tempting to start creating and lay out a haphazard plan along the way. Still, you will get better results if you have a clear goal to work towards.

You don’t need to get extremely detailed with your T-shirt design plan. Instead, just grab a piece of paper and draw a few basic sketches to bring your ideas to life.

If you sketch a particularly attractive design, you can load it into Cricut Design Space. Simply snap a picture or run it through a scanner to get a high-quality image.

Use the editor to clean up the edges of your image before making your custom T-shirts.

How to Use Cricut Iron-On Vinyl for T-shirts

The most straightforward way to make custom T-shirts is with iron-on transfers. You can print text and images on inkjet transfer paper and then easily add them to your T-shirt using a hot iron.

Heat Transfer Vinyl

If you have a Cricut, you can create elaborate silhouettes using Heat Transfer Cricut Vinyl. Use the layer function to split your design into multiple colors.

Add a little pizzazz to your custom T-shirt with Cricut Iron-On Glitter Vinyl. Glitter makes for eye-catching text and detailing on t-shirts of any color.

How to Use Cricut Adhesive Vinyl for Stenciling

Your Cricut can help you make custom T-shirts in more ways than heat transfer sheets. Inexpensive adhesive-backed vinyl lets you create complex stencils.

With careful positioning and planning, you can cut multi-layer designs to stencil onto custom T-shirts. The adhesive prevents your image from moving around and minimizes bleeding, leading to crisp edges.

You can use Cricut vinyl stencil to make custom T-shirts in two main ways.

First, you can use the stencil to add a silhouette of the subject to your T-shirt. This is a straightforward process—remove the cutout of the subject and attach the outline stencil. The paint or dye can then be added however you see fit.

Another way to use your Cricut vinyl stencil is by carefully attaching the subject to block the application of dye or color-changing bleach. This creates a stunning silhouette surrounded by a cool splash of color.

Keep reading to learn how to make custom T-shirts with stencils.

Cricut Design Space

Step 1: Protect Your Workspace

Get your workspace ready by covering anything you don’t want to get stained with a drop cloth.

Before getting started, you also need to protect the back of your custom T-shirt.

Bleach and dye can bleed through the fabric and stain the back of your final product. Slip the T-shirt over a piece of cardboard to prevent bleedthrough.

Bonus Bleach Step: Conduct a Color Test

I’ll be using a black V-neck T-shirt for this demo. This way, you can see how bleached stencils can make neat custom T-shirts.

To make color-changing fabric bleach, mix seven parts water with three parts household bleach.

I swabbed a small drop of this 70/30 bleach mixture on the inside of the sleeve and let it dry. After an hour, I ended up with this pale rust color.

Step 2: Place Stencil

Remove the cut stencil and arrange it on your custom T-shirt as desired. Use your finger to smooth the vinyl and ensure it has securely adhered.

Step 3: Mix Color Spray

You can use bleach, fabric dye, or any combination to accomplish your custom T-shirt design.

To apply color-changing mist to your custom T-shirt, you will need a few empty spray bottles. Add the 70/30 bleach mixture and fabric dye to separate spray bottles.

Step 4: Mist Stencil and T-shirt

Mist the T-shirt evenly, paying particular attention to the space around the stencil.

Spray normally to add an even cloud of pigment. Slowly pull the trigger to get drips and splashes of concentrated coloring.

Bonus Bleach Step: Rinse and Dry the T-Shirt

If you use bleach to lighten your custom T-shirt, rinse and dry it before adding fabric dye. Remove the stencil and place it on wax paper so it can be reapplied when you are ready to dye.

Step 5: Dry and Set the Design

Remove the adhesive stencil and allow your custom T-shirt to air dry overnight. To set the design, turn the shirt inside out and dry it on high heat for about an hour.

After your design dries, you might want to clean up lines and add details. A fillable Sargent Art Brush Pen enables you to easily spot touch with bleach or dye. Just ensure you clean your brush out thoroughly between colors.

Using Cricut Vinyl for Screen Printing

Are you making bulk custom T-shirts for a team event or party? If you need to make multiple custom T-shirts, you might consider screen printing using a silkscreen.

Screen printing custom T-shirts is a lengthy process, but it’s straightforward once you get the hang of it. When the silkscreen is complete, you can easily make dozens of custom T-shirts in an afternoon.

Cricut vinyl with t-shirt

Your Cricut can help you get clean lines on the silkscreen, so your T-shirts turn out perfect every time. Here’s how to screen print custom T-shirts at home:

Step 1: Apply Photo Emulsion Liquid and Let Dry

When working with Photo Emulsion Liquid, you must stay in a dimly lit room. This photosensitive chemical is water soluble until exposed to light which sets it.

Use a two-inch flat paint brush to evenly coat both sides of a Monofilament Silk Screen twice. Allow the screen to dry for about 20 minutes between coats.

Set the screen in a dark, well-ventilated room to dry thoroughly. Leave it undisturbed for 24 hours for the best results.

Step 2: Attach Vinyl Stencil to Dry Silkscreen

Once the silkscreen is completely dry, place your stencil where you want the ink to flow freely. Leave at least a one-inch margin on all sides to prevent ink from pooling on your T-shirt.

Pro Tip: Cut out a mirror stencil and attach it to the bottom of the screen. This can help your design stay crisp by blocking light from all directions.

Step 3: Cure Silkscreen

Photo emulsion liquid cures and becomes permanent when exposed to light. This can usually be accomplished by placing the silkscreen in direct sunlight for a full day.

If sunny days are not on the horizon, you can cure the silkscreen indoors. Use an LED Growing Light or sun lamp to simulate full-spectrum sunlight.

Step 4: Remove the Vinyl Stencil and Rinse the Image

Carefully pull off the vinyl stencil. You will notice that the photo emulsion coating blocked by the stencil looks different. This is because it hasn’t been burned onto the screen.

You must rinse out the screen to remove this uncured coating. You will need decent pressure to accomplish this, so consider using your garden hose on full blast.

Step 5: Dry Silkscreen

After rinsing out the silkscreen, you might need to clean up stubborn spots. Use a cotton swab to apply a small amount of photo emulsion remover to spots and specks you couldn’t rinse out.

Let the prepared silkscreen dry before you start printing. A wet screen can leave you with poor-quality inking.

Step 6: Screen Print Custom T-Shirts

Prepare your custom T-shirt by placing it on a flat, sturdy surface. Slip a piece of paper or cardboard inside to prevent bleedthrough, and set the prepared silkscreen on the shirt.

Apply two tablespoons of Speedball Screen Printing Ink to the margin of the silkscreen. Use a squeegee to spread the ink evenly across the entire screen.

Another Alternative

If this all seems a little too complicated, there is an easier way to screen print using your Cricut. The Speedball Beginner Printing Kit enables you to create a basic screen-printing setup using Cricut vinyl.

Speedball Beginner Screen Printing Craft Vinyl Kit - Use with Cutting Machine to Print T-Shirts and Home Decor

While this beginner’s kit is simple, it comes with a tradeoff.

A traditional silk screen can be used thousands of times before it needs to be replaced. This beginner kit creates screens that can only handle a few uses before starting to degrade.

Wrapping Up How to Make Custom T-shirts at Home

Making custom T-shirts is fun and rewarding, and your Cricut can help bring your fashion ideas into reality. After reading this article, you can likely see just how handy your Cricut can be.

Now you know all about how to make custom T-shirts at home. Explore our Cricut landing page to discover more DIY vinyl-cutting tips.

Wondering What you Can Make with the Cricut? 10 Cricut Projects Ideas! – The Best Vinyl Cutters

Tuesday 13th of November 2018

[…] the most rewarding. If you haven’t dipped your fingers into the art of custom t-shirts yet, hop over to this fabulous tutorial from Thea at That Sweat Tea […]

Thea Osborne

Friday 28th of February 2020

Thank you so much!!

Michelle from Weekend Craft

Sunday 18th of March 2018

I love that you could create a shirt for your blog but every southern gal is going to love it too!

Thea Osborne

Friday 28th of February 2020

I wear it all the time and get so many compliments! love it!

Thea Osborne

Monday 19th of March 2018

For me,.. its rather a lifestyle lol! I get so many compliments on it!

Marie Dabbs

Saturday 17th of March 2018

I love sweet tea (with extra ice) and I love your t-shirt design! I also prefer to measure the size of my design based on how the shirt fits. With boobs, word placement is everything, lol.

Thea Osborne

Monday 19th of March 2018

Yes! And when you just try to avoid the boob area-well that just dont work. lol!

Doris Kilbane

Saturday 17th of March 2018

How do you determine font size? Don't want it too big or too small. How do you determine where to place on the tee shirt?

Thea Osborne

Saturday 17th of March 2018

I took out a tape measure lol! Once i figured out the placing and how wide I wanted it, I simply stretched the word image in disign space to be that width.


Sunday 11th of March 2018

I love the color combination of this shirt. It looks great together! Super Cute! Pinning!