Jumpstart: Design Stamp Wear

For the “Jumpstart” column in January/February 2017 Cloth Paper Scissors, we asked Julie Fei-Fan Balzer to show us how to create wearable artwork using foam stamps. Here’s Julie:

DESIGN, STAMP, WEAR by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

I take great pleasure in making art that I can wear. Perhaps it’s the show-off inside of me, but I love it when someone compliments my bag, my shirt, or my jewelry and I can say, “Thanks, I made it!”

ArtFoamies are one of my favorite tools because of how well they work with paint. Unlike rubber or silicone stamps, they hold a lot of paint and aren’t damaged by paint drying on them. Also, because they are so large, it’s easy to create multi-colored prints, using more than one color of paint at a time.

Jump Start by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer
Jumpstart by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer


Freezer paper
Permanent marker
Scissors and/or craft knife and cutting mat
Iron and ironing board
Cardboard, to fit inside the shirt and larger than the design you plan to paint
Fabric paint, a variety of colors, including white or another light color
Balzer Designs ArtFoamies foam stamps TIP: Foam stamps are the best stamps for using with paint and, in my opinion, paint is the best product to use when stamping on fabric.
Inking palette




    1. Draw a simple design on the non-waxy side of a piece of freezer paper with a permanent marker, leaving plenty of blank space around the design. (FIGURE 1) TIP: I think it’s easiest to work with a shape that is simply an outline with no inside pieces (such as the inside circle of the letter “o”) to worry about.

Figure 1
Figure 1
    1. Cut out the design, using either scissors or a craft knife and cutting mat. If you’re working with a very large piece of freezer paper, like I did, I find it helpful to tape the freezer paper to the cutting mat so that it doesn’t move while I cut it.

    1. Lay the freezer paper stencil onto the t-shirt front, waxy-side down. Once it’s placed exactly as you want it, use an iron on the cotton setting to temporarily set the freezer paper to the shirt. (FIGURE 2)

Figure 2
Figure 2
    1. Place the cardboard inside the t-shirt to prevent the paint from leaking through. Paint the entire area inside the stencil with a brush. (FIGURE 3) NOTE: It’s important to use fabric paint so that the t-shirt remains supple. Regular acrylic paint will permanently stiffen the t-shirt. Acrylic paint can be used for this, but fabric medium must be added to it, so the hand of the fabric is not changed.

Figure 3
Figure 3
    1. Roll fabric paint onto the inking palette with a brayer, and then use the brayer to apply the paint to the stamps. Use less paint for a more perfect print and more paint for a less perfect print. I do both. My goal is to make these stamps as easy to use as possible with as few rules as possible.

    1. Stamp over the painted area in multiple layers. (FIGURE 4) If you wait for the paint to dry between layers, the colors will be crisper. If you don’t wait, the layers will blend a bit. There isn’t a right or wrong here; it’s a matter of personal preference.

Figure 4
Figure 4
    1. Randomly and lightly apply white or another light color to a few areas of the design. (FIGURE 5) Let dry.

Figure 5
Figure 5
    1. Add another layer, or three, of stamping until you’re satisfied with your design. TIP: If you feel that you’ve gone too far (which I think is impossible because exuberant pattern and color is delightful), you can always repeat steps 7 and 8 until you feel the balance is right. However, I encourage you to let go of constraint and self-judgment and simply have fun creating and making a colorful mess. The genius of creating inside the freezer paper stencil is that whatever you make will look beautiful once you remove the stencil.

    1. Carefully remove the freezer paper stencil. Allow the paint to dry. NOTE: You do not need to wait for the paint to dry to remove the stencil, though you can wait if you like.

    1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for heat setting the dry fabric paint, so that it’s washable and permanent.

This technique is perfect for any fabric project—a t-shirt, skirt, baby onesie, a tote bag, or even home décor items, such as placemats or a table runner. Even better, it’s incredibly easy to do, and the finished result looks polished and professional. I hope you’ll give this technique a try and wear your art proudly.

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer is an artist, author, blogger, teacher, podcaster, product designer, and the host of ”Make It Artsy“on PBS. balzerdesigns.com

Get the entire issue of Cloth Paper Scissors January/February 2017!

cover CPS JF 2017



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