Hacked Gadgets Forum

April 6, 2012

DIY T-Shirt Printing using a Laser Cutter

at 3:09 pm. Filed under DIY Hacks

 

My daughter wanted to make a custom shirt, the first thought I had was to use the laser cutter to cut out the pattern and letters that she wanted on a piece of card stock to use as a template. The issue with that was the edges were hard to keep close to the shirt so that the painted edges were crisp. It also took a long time since the small centers of letters needed to be double side taped in place. 

After looking at some craft sites we found out that there is a very cheap way to improve the process. The key thing to use is freezer paper. I didn’t know the difference between freezer paper and waxed paper before this, but there is a huge difference. Waxed paper is paper that has been treated on both sides with wax and freezer paper is paper that has been treated on one side with plastic. One interesting property that freezer paper has is that it can be ironed onto fabric and then peeled off with no residue. I needed to go to a few stores before I could find it, Super Store (Canadian food store chain) had one brand of it (unlike waxed paper or plastic wrap which had 5 or 6 different varieties). It was interesting to see on the back of the box that crafting and shirt making was one of the features shown.

You can follow the simple steps below to make your custom shirt. I cut out the paper using a laser cutter since I have one handy but you can simply use an exacto knife to cut out the pattern. Some of the crafting sites say the removed design can be reused but it is quite delicate and ours ripped apart at a number of places when it was being removed. If we were a bit more careful removing it or if the design was simpler reuse might have been possible but difficult.

You can see the steps we took below, click on the images to see it full size.

 

This is all of the material you need to make your custom shirt.

  • Freezer Paper (can’t be any other type of paper)
  • Fabric paint
  • T-Shirt
  • Iron
  • Print Brush (not shown)
  • Tweezers (optional, not shown)
  • Heat Gun or Blow Dryer (optional, not shown)
This is the text and vector image to be cut out. In this case a laser cutter will be used to cut everything out but if you don’t have a laser cutter this could be done by hand with an exacto knife.
Everything was cut on the laser machine. We needed to do this twice since the first time it was just laid onto the knife edges but the small center sections of some of the letters got lost under the machine. The second attempt was done on top of a scrap piece of plywood. This allowed the center pieces to be captured and easily organized by location. When you cut the pattern make sure the top of the paper is the dull side.
Heat your iron to medium/high heat. Iron the shirt flat and position a piece of blank freezer paper inside the shirt to prevent the paint from bleeding through to the back side. Position the template onto your shirt and iron it in place.
The center portions of the letters that fell out during cutting now need to be ironed in place. The scrap cutout piece can be used to align these pieces properly.
Use a brush of choice to paint in the letters and graphics. We used a foam brush which worked well. You don’t need to be very careful since the edges are well protected. You will only need to be careful when you are painting different colors.
A heat gun or blow dryer can be used to dry the paint quickly between coats of paint. This is optional since this fabric paint will natural dry in a few hours. 
Once the paint is dry you can simply peel off the the freezer paper. You will need to use you nails or tweezers to pick out the center portions that were ironed on separately.
This is the end result. Since this was the first time there was some trial and error, but making this shirt probably took the same amount of time it would have taken to drive to the mall and pick one out.

 

 


 

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2 Responses to “DIY T-Shirt Printing using a Laser Cutter”

  1. ChalkBored Says:

    Cool story, bro.

    (I wasn’t going to do it, but the decision went to a coin toss.)

  2. Tom Says:

    An alternative would be to get hold of some iron-on vinyl. I’ve cut it with a vinyl cutter, although I presume that it could also be cut with a laser cutter. It gives great clean edges, and seems pretty durable.

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