Make a Thing: Freezer Paper T-Shirt Stencils

Header by Rory Midhani

Header by Rory Midhani

Don’t get mad, but I have a confession to make. I just saw the movie Flashdance for the very first time like a month ago.

Are you okay? Are you still here? Good. Well, in the midst of my Jennifer Beals-induced haze, I noticed the tank top her pal Jeanie wears at the bar where they work, Mawby’s. My heart was immediately a-flutter no longer just thanks to Beals’ bod, but (nerd alert) that font!

It seemed like a great reason to try freezer paper stenciling (another first for me). Luckily, I found a pretty similar font for free online, and whipped up my own design. My friend Katy – another major Flashdance fan – and I made our own tanks in just one afternoon.


Freezer Paper T-Shirt Transfer

You will need:

  • A white tank top or t-shirt with the sleeves cut off
  • Freezer paper
  • X-acto knife
  • Black paint marker
  • Design (Download the Mawby’s Bar one here!)
  • Printer
  • Cutting mat or cardboard
  • Iron & ironing board


1. Print the design on the dull side of the freezer paper. On top of a cutting mat or a piece of cardboard, carefully carve out the letters using the X-acto knife. Save the little pieces that make up the inside of each “A” and “B”!


2. Carefully position your stencil on top of the t-shirt (including the center pieces from the “A” and “B”), and iron to attach. Slide an extra piece of paper or cardboard into the shirt to prevent the paint from bleeding through, and use dab the paint marker over all the stenciled words until they’re saturated.


3. Allow the shirt to dry completely before carefully pulling off the stencil.


Now you’re ready to start slinging drinks with Jeanie and Alex!

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Hannah Clay Wareham

Hannah Clay Wareham blogs about DIY projects, recipes, and inspiration, over at the Homesteady, where Martha Stewart meets Liz Lemon (and LL picks the donut shop).

Hannah has written 18 articles for us.


  1. It’s like you know my life, Autostraddle. I spent all last night making shirts this way for band merch. It works really well, but trying to do 15 in a week is not the greatest idea I’ve ever had.

  2. I made freezer paper stencil shirts all the time in high school and it was so much fun! This makes me want to do it again. I find it easier if you leave the center pieces connected, iron the freezer paper and then cut off the piece that was keeping the center piece attached w/an exacto knife, but that’s just me.

  3. I’m British and have no idea what freezer paper is, is it like grease proof paper? I’d love to make these

  4. Holy CRAP ! Jennifer Beals is in Flashdance ??? why did I not know this before !!! I guess I have to watch flashdance now ?

    • Jennifer Beals isn’t IN Flashdance, she IS Flashdance! You must see it immediately. You’ll never take a bra off without thinking of her again. ;)

  5. Is there any specific after care for these shirts? How do you wash them to make sure that the black doesn’t just bleed all over the rest of the white shirt?

    • Hi Erika! As long as you buy a *fabric* paint marker, it’ll be just fine. (Sorry I left out that crucial detail.) I’ve already washed mine a couple of times and it’s holding up well. Thanks!

  6. WOW a new way to make tshirt stencils. I do almost the same thing except I use card stock, and the cloth spray paint from the craft store.

    This is our mud run shirt. We’re called the bacon smugglers. I don’t think I have a pic that says the name though..

    • The important thing about freezer paper in this case is that it has a thin plastic coating. You can iron it onto things and peel it up very easily without leaving a residue. I have no idea if it exists outside the US, but any sizable US grocery store will have it even if you’ve never seen it before! It’s hiding with all the plastic wraps and aluminum foils. (I’d never used the stuff until last year, but there it was when I went looking.)

  7. This is super timely, as I’m working on designing a shirt to wear for Pride this weekend! I’m curious as to how you got the design on your shirts so centered and straight?
    I was thinking I’d put the shirt on first, and put safety pins in a makeshift outline to give myself a guide. But I’d love to hear what trick you used, because it clearly worked well. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Traci! My friend Katy is a super detail-oriented person, and she took her time to eyeball the placement of the stencil for each of our shirts wayyyy longer than I would have. Thanks to the time she put in making tiny adjustments this way or that, both shirts turned out very well. The safety pin idea sounds great though!! Good luck :)

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