How to Spray Paint a T-shirt in 5 Easy Steps

By Nicole Tinkham


The CAN JAM Graffiti Art Battle is just two short days away (Saturday, April 12th from 4-8pm) and a big part of the event is stenciling your own shirt. If you have yet to see it, check out the official CAN JAM flyer at the end of this blog with full event details. This post will explain the step-by-step process that will be used for spray painting shirts at the event and serves as a great reference for stenciling shirts on your own. Follow these 5 easy steps for creating an awesome custom shirt!

Before you begin:

Before you begin spraying away, there are a few things to check off your list. Ask yourself the following questions before moving onto the first step.

• Are you wearing gloves? Trust us, you’ll want to wear gloves – here’s why!

• Do you have your colors picked out? Have your colors and overall idea ready to go.

• Are you in a ventilated area? We recommend spray painting outside as the fumes can be quite powerful in an enclosed area.

• Do you have a protective covering on the work surface? Protect the table you’re working on by covering it with cardboard or a tablecloth. You may also want to protect your clothes by wearing an apron.

Image   Image

Once you have these 4 things checked off your list, you’re ready to prep your shirt and add some color!

Step 1: Prepping the shirt


Slide a piece of cardboard (or other type of sturdy board) inside the shirt where you’ll be stenciling. This will give you a nice flat surface to work on and prevent the spray paint from leaking onto the back of the shirt.

Smooth out the t-shirt, making sure there are no lumps or folds. Next, you want to tuck the sleeves underneath so they’re out of the way. Congrats, the prepping is complete!

Step 2: Lay down the stencil


Think about where you’d like the stencil and lay it down on the shirt accordingly. As you can see, our CAN JAM stencil is attached to a large board. This will protect the shirt from being misted outside the stencil. However, if you want a messy/artsy look forget about the protective shield.

Step 3: Clear Finish

Clear finish  Step3

Before applying color, you’ll want to spray a clear finish over areas to be stenciled. This will control the spray paint better and prevent paint from soaking into the shirt. Once an even layer is sprayed over the stencil area, let it dry before moving on to the next step. To speed up the drying process, use a hair dryer.

Step 4: Apply Color


Now comes the fun part, adding color! Make sure to shake the spray paint can thoroughly before spraying. Hold the can a few inched from the shirt and spray until you have a nice coating over the whole stencil. You can use one color or make layers of multiple colors, the choice is yours.


Once you have your colors laid out, use the hair dryer to speed up the drying process.

Step 5: Take a look at your masterpiece!


Time to reveal the final design! Carefully lift the stencil off the shirt and admire your creation. You may want to wait before touching the spray painted area as it might still be wet.

Afterwards: Clear the can


Once finished using a can of spray paint, you want to “clear” it, or make sure any leftover paint is removed. To do this, simply shake the can for about a minute, hold upside-down and spray until there is no longer color spraying out. This prevents paint from drying up and clogging the cap.

Excited to make your own shirt? Join us at CAN JAM and check out the variety of stencils and spray paints we have available for you to use! View the details of the event below. Don’t forget to check out the CAN JAM Graffiti Art Battle event page on Facebook and be sure to let us know if you’re going!



8 thoughts on “How to Spray Paint a T-shirt in 5 Easy Steps

    1. So far we haven’t had any problems with ours! Not sure exactly how long they last but we spray painted shirts 2 years ago and they still seem to be fine. Hope that helps!

    1. We use a piece of cardboard inside the shirt so the paint does soak through to the other side. We also hold the spray paint can at a distance so we don’t drench the t-shirt. Does that make sense?

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