How to Hand-Paint Black T-Shirts

Things You\’ll Need

  • Drawing paper

  • Pencil

  • White chalk

  • Black cotton T-shirt

  • Acrylic or fabric paint set

  • Palette or paper cups

  • Artist paintbrushes

... Have a T-shirt painting craft project at your next party.

Turn a plain or old black T-shirt into a personalized, hand-painted work of art. Dark T-shirts are not necessarily more difficult to paint, but the paint colors must be selected with care. Brighter or lighter colors show up better on a black background — contrasting with the darkness of the fabric. The same kinds of brushes, stamps and sponges can be used, and you can choose between fabric or acrylic paints to create permanent designs. Also, check that your T-shirt is 50 percent to 100 percent cotton, for best results.

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Step 1

... A sketch is a blueprint for your final piece.

Sketch a drawing for your T-shirt painting onto a piece of paper, using a pencil. It's best to create your design on paper first, before working on your garment. Consider the size of your T-shirt, where you want the artwork to go and the colors you want to use.

Step 2

... Transfer your drawing onto the T-shirt with chalk.

Draw the sketch onto your black T-shirt using white chalk. The white chalk shows up well on dark colors, and it easily rubs off. Alternatively, you can use a light-colored fabric pencil.

Step 3

... You can use paper plates instead of a palette.

Squeeze an almond-size amount of acrylic or fabric paint onto a palette or into paper cups. These paints dry quickly, so start with small amounts to prevent waste. Decide on the colors you want before you apply any paint. Lay your T-shirt on a table, smooth it out and tape down the edges, so you have a flat "canvas" to paint.

Step 4

Dip your paintbrush into the first color. Apply the paint onto your T-shirt moderately thick. If the strokes are too thick, they may peel off. If they are too thin, they may not show up well. Use your drawing as a guide, and work with one color at a time.

Step 5

Step back, and look at your progress so far. Add more paint to your T-shirt, as needed. Some light colors, such as yellow, need more than one coat of paint, because of the darkness of the fabric. Allow your T-shirt to dry, before moving it to paint the back or the sleeves.


Thinner fabrics need a layer of newspaper inside the T-shirt, to prevent bleeding paint.

Experiment with using stencils, stamps and spray paint on your black T-shirt.

Follow the manufacturer's guide, if you are using fabric paints. Some need to be heat set.


Prevent furniture stains by placing your T-shirt on top of newspapers before painting.

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