We’re fully into summer here — the students have emptied out of the library at work, my brothers are out of school, and the AC is on most days.

One summer staple for me is fun graphic tee shirts.  I love a good library joke shirt, a “rosé all day,” or an “I’m just here for the savasana.”  <– My mom and I have matching versions of that one that we wear to yoga together.  A must-buy shirt for me is anything astrology or moon related.  I love spending summer nights looking up at the stars and the moon.    That’s why I’m super excited to share this DIY phases of the moon shirt with you today!

DIY Phases of the Moon Shirt >> MaddieMadeThis.com

I used my Briar tee as the base for this shirt — painting on a design was one of the ways I recommended you personalize it for this month’s Project #SewMyStyle.  You can use any tee that you want, though, store bought or you made!  You can also use this to make unique aprons, tote bags, jean jackets… whatever!  Keep in mind that the more textured the fabric is, the more uneven the paint application will be.  But really, the sky’s the limit here.

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DIY Phases of the Moon Shirt >> MaddieMadeThis.com

DIY Phases of the Moon Shirt

If you don’t have a cut machine like a Cricut or a Silhouette, this is truly the easiest way to paint a nice and professional looking design on a shirt!  All you need are a few simple materials:

  • Freezer paper (it’s heavy duty wax paper — it has to be freezer paper!)
  • Paint – I used Martha Stewart multi-surface paint in wedding cake and brushed pewter
  • Sponge brushes – I used the medium one from this set to do the white, and the small one for the silver
  • A tee shirt
  • An ironing board
  • An iron
  • Scissors or Exacto knife (and a safe surface to cut on with the latter)
  • Your design – scroll down to the bottom to download mine!

Set Up

Before you begin, it might be helpful to trace around your tee shirt on the dull side of the freezer paper.  This helps you center the design and make sure it’ll fit.  Additionally, it might help to draw a quick grid on the paper to make sure everything is straight.  Neither of these things is necessary, but if you’re a first-timer or a perfectionist, this might ease some anxiety.  Anyone else get anxious about painting a tee shirt?  No?  Just me?  Awesome!  Moving on…

Trace your design onto the dull side of the freezer paper.  It’s in your best interest to choose a design that doesn’t have a ton of tiny little pieces or letters to it, believe me.  Then take scissors or an Exacto knife and start cutting.   You want to cut out anything that you’ll be painting over.  If you have smaller pieces, like the insides of letters or tiny shapes, set those aside for the time being because it’s easier to iron those on second.

Heat up your iron to a medium dry heat — no steam.  I put mine on the wool setting.  The iron needs to be hot enough to melt the waxy side of the paper, but be careful that it’s not set higher than what you should use on the tee shirt material.  When the iron is hot and your design is cut out, center the design on the shirt.  You can use iron-safe pins to really stick it in place if you want.  Place your iron down with gentle pressure on a corner of the design.  Give it a few seconds and then lift it up.   The freezer paper will be visibly stuck to the material.  It’s easiest to start with the area that has the most freezer paper first!

DIY Phases of the Moon Shirt >> MaddieMadeThis.com
Pro tip: don’t forget to cut out the full moon like I did…

I do a few rounds with the iron — I first gently press all the areas of the design to stick them on there.  I won’t move the iron around when it’s on the fabric, in case any little section gets flipped up and stuck to the iron.  Once it’s all good and on there, I will move the iron around the design.  Take special care to really stick the edges that will get paint on them down, so there’s no bleeding!  That’s probably the most important part of this whole process.

If you put your small pieces to the side, ironing them all on now when the large design is stuck is easiest.   I’m sure there’s a level of ironing that’s too much ironing with freezer paper, but I’ve always given it a lot of heat and pressure and haven’t had anything melt on me yet…!

Paint Your Design!

Once the freezer paper is on and cooled, it’s time to paint.  Put another sheet of freezer paper or something like newspaper or a brown grocery bag between the front and back of your shirt in case the paint bleed.  I started with the white paint and did a thin layer all over the cutout sections.  I won’t get too into the fabric I used for my Briar right now, but it did have a fantastic texture that soaked up the paint a little unevenly, which was PERFECT for the crater-y I was going for.  The black fabric still comes through the white paint, which makes my moons look even better, I think.

DIY Phases of the Moon Shirt >> MaddieMadeThis.com

Once that was dried, I did a quick layer of the silver.  I tried to keep it mostly to the edges on the smaller moons and all over for the big ones.  If you’re doing moons as well, less is more when it comes to this paint!  If you put too much on, no worries.  Add another layer of white while the silver is still wet to dull it down a bit.

If ironing your design on super well is the number one most important part of this project, being patient is number two.  Don’t try to remove the freezer paper before the design is dry.  You’ll probably end up glopping paint onto the part of the tee shirt where you don’t want it.  If you’re lucky and that doesn’t happen, you still run the risk of the paint bleeding into another area.  Just be patient!  And really, if you only put a thin layer of paint on, it won’t take long at all to dry.

DIY Phases of the Moon Shirt >> MaddieMadeThis.com

Pretty easy, right?  I promised it would be!  To take care of your one-of-a-kind shirt, be gentle.  Hand wash, or wash inside out on a gentle cycle in your machine.  You should have your awesome shirt for years to come!  If you’re interested in my moon design, good news:  I’ve digitized the shapes for you to download and cut out yourself!  Please note that you’re going to have to arrange them on your own: my layout was too big for my scanner, and also you’d have to adjust them if you weren’t making a small Briar tee anyways.

If you use this tutorial for your own DIY phases of the moon shirt, I want to see what you make!  Tag me on Instagram with @maddiemadethis or #maddiemadethis, or shoot me an email with it.  I love to see what you do!