Freezer Paper Stenciling: How to be crafty when you’re really not.

I’m not crafty. I can’t draw, I don’t sew or knit, or paint, or even take pictures that well. But I can trace! & if you can too, you’re in luck! You’ll be able to do something like this!

My friend Marcia is having a baby girl next month, so I made this for her baby shower last weekend. It took less than 2 hours, & only $3! Oh, & zero artistic ability.

Here’s what you need to make a freezer paper stencil that looks like you screen-printed an article of clothing, but for a fraction of the cost:

  • Reynolds Freezer Paper (find it near the foil & wax paper & stuff)
  • X-acto knife
  • Regular old acrylic craft paint (I got this bottle for 97 cents at Wal-Mart)
  • Paintbrush
  • Iron
  • Article of clothing (I found this cute, feminine, organic cotton onesie at Wal-Mart for only $2! Not even kidding!)
  • Picture to resize & trace

First, you need to find a picture to duplicate. The smaller your artistic ability, the simpler it ought to be. I tend to go for stylized illustrations with few lines. I chose those adorable chick stickers in the first picture for that very reason, & even simplified my chick further by doing away with the flower in her hair. (I borrowed the closed eye from the boy chick because I thought it was cuter.)

Once you’ve found your picture, resize it to the size you want. I just put one of The Munchkin’s sticker pictures in my scanner, cropped out everything else, & resized. I also used my photo-editing program to really amp up the contrast to make them easier to see. They’re not perfect, but they’re easy enough to trace around.

Next, print it out & use a black ink pen to trace your outline. You want a fine tip so you can really get some sharp corners. For any detail work, like the wing, eye, & legs, use something at least as thick as a Crayola marker; the lines will be much easier to work with that way.

Now get out your freezer paper & use a pencil to trace your design onto the matte (not plastic-coated) side. Be sure to trace around your thicker detail lines. Also, for interior details like the eye & wing, trace them onto a separate piece of freezer paper. You’ll be cutting them out & ironing them on separately, so you might as well make as little work for yourself as possible by spreading things out. Unfortunately, I was so excited to iron the stuff on that I didn’t take pictures of the next couple steps. So I hope that my instructions make some sense.

Now use your X-acto knife to cut out your design. Work slowly. But keep in mind that for long lines, like the curves of the chick’s body, it’s best to try to do it in one smooth stroke if you can to avoid jagged edges. For the wing on the separate sheet, I actually used scissors for a lot of it because I felt more comfortable that way. That works fine when you’re cutting around something, but when you’re cutting inside something (like the chick’s body) the X-acto is a must. I cut mine out on top of a cereal box panel to avoid slicing gashes into my table.

Now iron the design on, piece by piece, starting with the largest design (this should be your exterior outline), with the iron on the cotton setting. Take care to really get the edges down with the tip of your iron so paint won’t leak underneath.

Once the freezer paper has cooled (this won’t take long), put at least 1 sheet of cereal box cardboard inside your shirt to protect the back & start painting. For the vivid, screen-printed look on my onesie, I used a round brush & kind of just dabbed it on, & did one more coat once it dried. For a faded, vintage look, you can use short brush strokes (I did this to make an awesome Beatles t-shirt last year for free… please don’t tell their merchandising company). But whatever you do, make sure that you get all the way up (& over!) the edges of the stencil so you have crisp lines.

At this point, you need to resist the urge to pull it off & see your brilliant work. Let it dry completely, like overnight or more. Then you can pull it off. For finer details, like the feet & wing, work very slowly & have your X-acto handy to help free the paper from the paint & fabric.

Now you can admire your brilliance!

To heat-set it, just place doubled-up paper towels or pieces of scrap fabric on top of & underneath your design & iron it on the cotton setting again for several seconds.


This project has so many fun & budget-friendly applications: birthday girl/boy t-shirts, personalized sweatshirts, canvas bags for teacher appreciation gifts… the possibilities are endless!


Filed under Crafts, Tutorials

8 responses to “Freezer Paper Stenciling: How to be crafty when you’re really not.

  1. I LOVE this idea. What a great post. Wondering how I can get my hands on freezer paper here in Shanghai. Would love to make some onesies for a baby shower coming up. Thanks, Catherine!

  2. I love to see projects with freezer paper…I have yet to try it. I’ve never been good with painting anything so I am a little scared! Your onesie looks great, I love the little birdie you chose to use!

  3. Leah

    This is a great idea. Thanks for the inspiration. And I beg to differ that you’re not creative. You have given me such great craft ideas.

  4. Adorable! We are actually doing this with the preschoolers at church on Wednesday night this week:)

  5. This is SO adorable! Love it!
    Thank you so much for linking up to {nifty thrifty sunday}!
    I hope to see you again this week! 🙂
    Vanessa @ {nifty thrifty things}

  6. This is so cute! I was just looking for a homemade gift I can make for my cousin’s 1st birthday next month – and I think this is it! I love the stencil you chose, and all of the pink! It is adorable!

  7. oh my goodness… I am sooooo not artistic! Seriously? I don’t need artistic ability?
    Love this!

    • Exactly! None needed! I have none either. All you need to know how to do is trace! Let me know if you give it a try; I’d love to see how it turns out!

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