Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All You Ever Wanted to Know about Freezer Paper Stenciling

Since I have posted projects using the freezer paper stenciling technique, I've had multiple questions about it and requests for a tutorial so here we go.... 

First, let me explain some elements of freezer paper stenciling and what you'll need and then I'll get into the step by step process. (Note: This post might be a little long but I'm trying to be as comprehensive as possible!) 

What is Freezer Paper Stenciling?
The basic gist of freezer paper stenciling is that (once your design is cut out and we'll talk about that in a second) you can iron it SHINY side down to whatever you are painting on and it creates your stencil. Then you paint it, let it dry, and peel up your stencil. You will be using the negative space to create your stencil. For example, if you are wanting to use a "C" you would you discard the actual "C" and use the outline as your stencil.

You can freezer paper stencil on just about any type of fabric. I personally have used this technique on t-shirts, baby onesies, and tote bags. But I have also seen it done on  canvas, throw pillows, place mats, pillowcases, dish towels, etc. 

The Freezer Paper
Let's talk about the freezer paper its self. Freezer paper is similar to wax paper except it has a shiny side and a dull side. (Wax paper will NOT work for these type of projects.) I bought my gigantic roll of freezer paper at  Walmart for about 6 dollars.  It is a huge roll though (150 square feet!) and will probably last a long time! It was located right by the wax paper and aluminum foil. 

Cutting your Design
I use my Silhouette machine to make my stencils. I simply choose whatever I am going to cut in the Silhouette software, size it how I need it, and then let the machine cut it. I use the blue blade cap and cut on the same settings as if I were cutting vellum. If you do not have a Silhouette machine or another type of personal cutter, you could always find an image or words online, print it out, then trace it onto the freezer paper, and cut it out with an exacto knife. 

Painting your Stencil
You could use fabric paint for these projects but since I already had a lot of acrylic paint I thought it would be more economical to just use the acrylic paint mixed with a fabric textile medium. The fabric textile medium can be found at your local craft store and once you have mixed it with the acrylic paint, it makes the paint softer and makes it able to withstand being laundered. If you are using the medium, follow the directions on the back of the bottle as to how much to mix with the paint. I do 2 parts of paint to 1 part of the medium. Be careful with this, if your paint is too runny, it will seep through the stencil. (Yep, I learned this the hard way.)


When I first started freezer paper stenciling I only did quotes, sayings, and words but soon branched out to shapes, objects, and animals. Doing an object or a shape is a little different than doing letters because (unless you are just doing a silhouette of an object) you usually need to do more than one color and layer. I'm going to use the T onesie I showed you yesterday as an example of layering. With it, I needed to iron down the T, paint it, then move on to the turtle, and lastly the grass. This required me ironing the turtle down on top of a portion of the yellow T. I was worried about that but finally just went for it and it was fine! It didn't mess up my iron, the paint, or anything.

How to Freezer Paper Stencil 
So, I'm going to walk you through the steps with pictures using a little tote bag that I stenciled on a quote as an example. 

1. Cut your stencil out of freezer paper. If you have done this with a Silhouette machine or another personal cutter machine, you'll peel your freezer paper off your cutting mat. If you are doing words, be sure to save all the little parts that go in the letters like the p, a, o, etc... Discard or set aside your words or design. 

2. Using your iron on high heat (with NO steam) iron down the stencil SHINY SIDE DOWN. (If you iron it shiny side up, it is going to stick to your iron and make a mess.) I make a couple of passes over the entire stencil with my iron. 

3. If your stencil involves letters, you'll need to iron down the little parts that go inside the letters. I find it best to use tweezers to peel the little pieces off my cutting mat and then use the tweezers to get the little pieces where they need to go. Once I have all the little pieces ironed down, I'll pass the iron over the entire stencil one more time for good measure. 

4. Now paint your stencil. I just use a regular paint brush although I do know others who prefer to do this with sponge brush but I like using a small paint brush instead so use whatever you feel comfortable with and just paint away. You really don't have to worry about staying in the lines when you are painting (at least I don't!) but just be sure not to jostle or bump the stencil too much or the paint will seep through. Also, around the edges of the stencil, do not make large strokes. I usually just kind of pulse the brush up and down or make very small strokes around the edges of the stencil.

5. Let your paint dry. If you think it needs a second coat, let it dry 3-4 hours and then put on a second coat. I almost always do 2 coats. I just think it looks better and gives better coverage. Once your paint is dry (usually 3-4 hours) you can easily peel off your freezer paper. If you did words, you'll need to use your tweezers again to peel up all the little pieces. 
6. Lastly you'll need to heat set your paint. I turn my garment/bag inside out and iron on the back side of the paint. Then I turn it back to the right side, lay a piece of cloth over the painted portion and iron for a minute.

So, I hope this helps those of you wanted to learn about freezer paper stenciling. If you have any questions don't hesitate to email me or leave me a comment. I'll do my best to answer your questions. 

And if you do give freezer paper stenciling a try, I'd love to see your projects! 

(Linking up to the link lists listed in my sidebar)


  1. Good info here. One of our father's day projects involves freezer paper stenciling.

    Jo @ SmileMonsters

  2. Thank you. I never understood my friends when they tried to explain it to me :)

  3. Lovely tutorial! very detailed!

    I am having a giveaway on my blog. A monogramed beach bag and hat set. check it out!

  4. Amazing idea!!!!!!! We are having a hurricane so it is stay inside time guess what I am making???? You guess it Stenciled Shirts and bags!!!! Thank you for the inspiration!!!

  5. My sister recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  6. This is the greatest tutorial ever! I have a niece and nephew on the way and I wanted to make monthly onesies. Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm stopping by from tatertots & jello's link party. I'm following now too. Stop by www.thenymelrosefamily.blogspot.com any time. Thank you again!

  7. Saw your post on the Silhouette Users Yahoo group. Wonderful tutorial...what great possibilities. Anyway, I'm a new follower...
    and my blog is www.expressionavenue.blogspot.com if you want to check it out!

  8. Love learning about freezer paper stenciling! I am a fan of the hand-painted look, so this would help achieve that while using my Silhouette for the dirty work of creating the stencil. (And the onesies you have made are SUPER cute...love the tie one.)

    Thanks for your comment on my blog today. I'd love to have you guest post over at the The Thinking Closet sometime in the coming months with one of your nifty projects. I'll shoot you an email with more deets.

    Have a great weekend! -Lauren

  9. Thank you for the tutorial! I am so easily confused these days by some things that I end up not trying them, so this is one I Can do! Nice to have it explained in steps and to have the layering explained too!