Wednesday, July 6, 2016

DIY Color Changing T-Shirts

While I was online shopping for blades, tools, and other silhouette related stuff in silhouette website during Black Friday deals last November, I came across something called "UV light sensitive fabric ink". If you are a regular reader here, you know I love testing new products. So, I ordered two bottles of UV light sensitive fabric ink in yellow and blue. I was waiting to give them a try(Couldn't try as I was on vacation for two months and then we moved, etc etc) and finally got to try them last week. Keep reading to check how you can make one!!

DIY Color changing T-shirt

Materials Required :
UV light sensitive fabric paint (I used silhouette brand)
Adhesive stencil  (I used silhouette brand)
Foam brush
Painter's tape
A Piece of cardboard
White fabric paint(Optional)
Craft knife or Electronic cutting machine(Optional)

Step 1: Cut the stencil with your favorite design. I used the silhouette cutting machine to make my own stencil using silhouette adhesive stencil but you can use store-bought adhesive stencil in your desired design or cut your own like me or use a craft knife to cut your design on the adhesive stencil. Options are endless. If you want to cut using silhouette cutting machine, below are the settings I followed.

Step 2: Remove the backing and place the adhesive stencil on to the plain t-shirt in your desired position. Make sure there are no air bubbles and go over all the letters with your fingers to ensure they adhere well to the fabric. Use painter's tape to cover the outline of the stencil and also the gaps between the stencil to avoid paint.

(Tip: You can weed the unwanted areas and use a transfer sheet to transfer the stencil onto the t-shirt.)

Step 3: Insert a piece of cardboard inside the t-shirt to avoid paint bleeding through. Use a foam brush to apply UV paint onto the stencil in a dabbing motion. Apply 2 coats of paint and allow the paint to dry in between the coats. 

I wanted to try this UV light sensitive paint in both dark and light colored fabric.So I am using 2 shirts, one in white and one in the teal color. As the UV fabric ink recommends a coat of white fabric paint for dark colored fabric, I gave two coats of white paint before applying the UV light sensitive fabric paint to the teal color t-shirt and then applied 2 coats of UV light sensitive paint on the top. 

Why 2 coats of white fabric paint, you may ask? You can see the difference between one coat of white fabric paint (A bicycle) and two coats of fabric paint here (LIFE is like riding). 

Step 4: Once the paint is dry, remove the stencil and tape to see your amazing work. This is my favorite step ;) Next thing is to step outside and test whether the color is changing. 

Here is the result, the white t-shirt with just UV paint changed color and looked perfectly awesome. It did not take much time at all. The color change happens within seconds. Also, it quickly changed back to the indoor color when you come in the shade. The bright color happens only when the sunshine is bright. It was almost cloudy here in North Carolina for past few days that I was waiting for the sun to shine brightly to capture these pictures. It also changes color when it is cloudy but the color change is not that bright which you can see in the middle picture below. 

Also, I wanted to know whether the paint withstands washing and yes it did. I did machine wash in cold and left it to air dry. The paint works completely fine and same after wash. 

UV light sensitive paint projects

Close up look of UV light sensitive painted t-shirt. 

UV light sensitive paint t-shirt

But the one in which I used white fabric paint as a base and yellow UV light sensitive paint on above did not turn out to be nice. It showed up uneven and patchy. It was not quite visible in the letters, however, it is pretty obvious in the bicycle part of the design. I'm sure I applied two coats of UV paint but I don't know why it looks patchy. 

Reasons might be:
1) Because I used different brand white fabric paint instead of the same brand paint. So the UV paint did not adhere to the white paint properly.
2) The white fabric paint I used, need to be ironed to set which I did only after applying the UV paint because I don't want to remove the stencil. But I am not sure whether that contributes to this unevenness. 

In the end, I am happy that the shirt came out so nice that I don't bother much about this unevenness. I love how neat and crisp the lines were after removing the stencil. I am in love with this stencil:). I highly recommend this stencil if you are looking for an adhesive stencil. The one I used is from Silhouette brand. (Not sponsored or anything - just sharing a worthy product with you guys :) )

You can skip the step of applying UV paint and just take it as "How to stencil a T-shirt" if you want to make your own personalized t-shirts. Always make sure you read the instructions carefully. The fabric paint I used is from Tulip brand and it says to heat set the paint and allows it to dry for 72 hours before washing. So, I did not test this by washing yet. 

Updated on Sep 22, 2016: Both the t-shirts have been washed several times and the paint holds very well. The effect of changing color is also the same and not affected. 

Updated on Dec 25, 2018: The UV paint still holds good on the white t-shirt and I am finally ready to say bye to the T-shirt. The Teal one is still my husband's favorite and the paint has started to crack all over. 

how to stencil a t-shirt

Hope you like this fun step by step tutorial of DIY color changing t-shirt and also how to stencil a T-shirt. If you are good at freehand drawing you can use the paint directly to make a cool color changing t-shirt or use painter's tape to create geometric shapes. The option to customization is always endless. I hope you will give this a try this summer and have fun.It is a simple and easy way to update your plain boring t-shirt into something fun. Let me know what you think in the comments below. As always I will be happy to hear from you.

Other T-shirt projects you might like :


  1. Love your T-Shirt designs! So clever to use the UV Paint!! Thank you so much for sharing with us over at Waste Not Wednesday! We can't wait to see what you have been up to this week :-)

  2. How fun! I never even knew that they had that for the Silhouette - goodness, I love that machine! :) #HomeMattersParty

  3. I've never heard of this! It is so cool! My daughter would get such a kick out of it. Thanks for sharing at #HomeMattersParty

  4. I have only seen this a handful of times in my life, but when I've seen them in a t-shirt shop on the beach they were quite pricey.

    Thank you for sharing this with us on the #HomeMattersParty.

  5. So fun! I am going to have to get some of that paint! What a fun summer craft projects to do with the kids. Pinned.

  6. What a cool product - I've never heard of this before. Thanks for sharing #HomeMattersParty


  7. I really love how this turned out! The bike one is my fav :) Good to know it withstands the washing machine! #HomeMattersParty

  8. What a fun T-shirt idea! My daughter would love this color-changing project. :) Thanks for sharing at #HomeMattersParty

  9. Very nice post. I like it, Thanks for sharing.

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