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Crafting With Freezer Paper Stencils

Crafting With Freezer Paper Stencils main article image
Posted on March 20, 2021 by Desiree McClung

Freezer paper is a common household item found in most homes. It was a staple when I was younger in our house of 10 people, since my grandmother would buy meat in bulk and wrap it in freezer paper and twine and store it in the garage freezer. Freezer paper is a combination of wax paper on one side and parchment paper on the other side. The coated, poly side keeps the air and moisture out of the package which keeps the meat from developing freezer burn and preventing discoloring. The amazing thing about crafting with this product is that once heated, the waxy side of the freezer paper adheres to fabric, making it an excellent stencil that will stay in place for your project. Once you use a stencil, they are not reusable, but freezer paper is so inexpensive, that it does not really cost much to make them. Freezer paper can be purchased at most grocery stores near saran wrap and aluminum foil. I purchased mine at Target for $3.69 for a 75-foot roll. I wish I could get vinyl that cheap!

Why make freezer paper stencils?

Since I have a Cricut machine and love using vinyl, I asked myself “why would I want to use a stencil and paint instead of using HTV?” Using paint on a textile is an inexpensive way to give a faux screen-printed look to your fabric project. The paint will last longer when applied properly and it will not crack or peel that way that HTV can after repeated washings. This makes it great for items that will get a lot of washings, like kitchen tea towels. Even if you do not own a cutting machine, you can use a craft knife to cut out your stencil with freezer paper. I have never had a steady hand and cannot even cut a straight line with a craft knife, so I am sure my stencil would look juvenile if I made it by hand. Since freezer paper is waxy on one side, it can be adhered with a household iron or Easy Press machine to your canvas, shirt, tote bag, canvas shoes, backpack, tea towel, or pillow cover. This technique does not work as well with hard, flat surfaces, like wood since the stencil does not adhere as well and paint seeps under the image. I have seen a freezer paper stencil hack where you trace your stencil with a craft knife onto the wood after its heat applied to create an indention surrounding your image that the paint can spill into so that it does not bleed under the stencil, however, I have not tried this technique to give feedback on it.

What paints and brushes do I use?

When filling in your stencil with color, you can use fabric paints, fabric pens or fabric spray paint. For my projects, I used paint and pens. Spray paint and I do not bode well together! When selecting a paint, you want to look for a paint that is made for fabric. If you use acrylic paint, be sure that is mixed with a fabric medium like Liquitex Fabric Medium to make your acrylic paint more flexible, adhesive, and useable with fabrics. I picked up some Tulip fabric paint at my local Wal-Mart and Emooqi fabric paint markers from Amazon. Some great fabric paint brands that I have worked with in the past are DecoArt and Delta Creative as well. If you are using paint on a darker surface, you want to make sure that select a highly pigmented fabric paint so that your color pops on the dark background. You may also have to paint more than one layer. When painting, I used foam craft brushes. Some crafters prefer to use a sea sponge for a weathered look, and some prefer a traditional paint brush for small details and when using multiple colors for better precision.

How do I design a stencil with my Cricut?

There are 2 options for creating a stencil with freezer paper with a Cricut machine, with a carrier sheet, and without a carrier sheet.

UPDATE: Freezer Paper is no longer an option with the current Cricut Design Space. Parchment Paper setting with MORE pressure or Wax Paper setting with DEFAULT pressure both work well for cutting through Freezer Paper.

Option 1: With a carrier sheet

– Create your image in Cricut Design Space and weld the image together

– Send the image to your Cricut to print.

– Mirror the image

– Select Custom Setting: Freezer Paper (if freezer paper is not an option on your machine select parchment paper)
– Apply your freezer paper NON-COATED SIDE DOWN onto a carrier sheet. I prefer to use an old carrier sheet from used HTV (yes, the stuff we usually discard!) but you can also buy HTV carrier sheets on Amazon

– Smooth out the bubbles with a brayer or a scraper

– Adhere onto a Cricut cutting mat. I used a green mat.

– Make sure the coated side is facing UP

– Cut your image

– Weed or reverse weed your image. Remember that this is a stencil, you will want to remove the middle of the image that you will be painting! Keep all the small pieces between the letters in place if you have any. This is where having that carrier sheet comes in handy!

– Place your image on your textile coated side down

– Use your iron or heat press to adhere the image to your textile. Use high heat for 5-10 seconds.

– Remove the carrier sheet and then you are ready to paint

Option 2: No Carrier Sheet

– Create your image in Cricut Design Space and weld the image together

– Send the image to your Cricut to print.

– Do not mirror the image

– Select Custom Setting: Freezer Paper (if freezer paper is not an option on your machine select parchment paper)
– Apply your freezer paper COATED SIDE DOWN directly to your Cricut cutting mat

– Cut the image

– Weed your image, saving all the small pieces between letters, which you will iron to your fabric later

– Place your image on your textile coated side down

– Use your iron or heat press to adhere the image to your textile and you are ready to paint

Painting with fabric paint

Not using a carrier sheet was more time consuming for me, especially with images that have a lot of details or bits and pieces that need to be ironed on later. When you finally start painting, I highly recommend painting light layers. You may need one or two layers of paint depending on the type of paint and the coverage that you want. You want to avoid over-saturating your stencil with paint, as it will be more likely to seep under the stencil and bleed onto your fabric. When painting, it is also best to stipple or dab the paint brush instead of painting side to side. This will help with bleeding and pulling up your stencil by mistake. These tips will help to give you crisp, clean lines. Once your paint has fully dried (I waited 24 hours for my project to dry), remove your stencil and discard it. Even after carefully adhering the stencil and painting very carefully, I had a few spots that bled, but overall, I think that the design came out the way I hoped it would.

Painting with fabric pens

I have never tried to use a fabric pen on fabric as an adult. I remember making tee shirts at camp when I was a kid with fabric pens and puffy paint. I loved the array of colors that came with the 24-pack I bought. The colors were vibrant and bold, but for the purpose of my project, I did not want too many colors on my tea towel. I felt that markers were easy to use (I had my 10-year-old help me with this one) and did not take much time to dry at all. I was able to pull up the stencil within 30 minutes. The paint pens did bleed more than the liquid paint did and I also felt that after 6 words, the black pen was starting to run low on ink, which was a disappointment. Overall, I did love the ease of use and fast dry time, but I like the texture of the fabric paint once it dried more than the pens.

Heat setting

Most paints require heat setting so that colors stay vibrant wash after wash. Heat setting fabric paint requires heating your fabric with a household iron or heat press on the highest setting for 2-5 minutes to set the paint. You want to move your iron around to ensure that you do not scorch your fabric. It is also recommended that you heat set from the backside of your painted fabric. If you are ironing the front side of the project, you should use a pressing cloth or towel over your image. You want to iron or press without steam for proper setting. Heat setting can also be done in an oven on 350 degrees for 15 minutes or a clothes dryer on high heat for 1 hour.

On the bottles of the Tulip brand paint I used, it did not say to heat set, but in my experience, heat setting is critical to ensure your paint will be permanent. Check the directions on your paint to see if it indicates what the manufacturer recommends. You want to be sure to heat set your painted fabric before you add glitter or other embellishments. Once your project is set, avoid washing the product for a week to ensure complete curing of the paint.


Bleaching with freezer paper stencils

In lieu of painting the fabric, you can also use bleach with freezer paper stencils. Once you apply your stencil, you can spray bleach lightly inside the stencil to change the color of the cloth. Once the bleach is almost dry, you can remove your freezer paper stencil. You can also press a stencil to your fabric and spray bleach around the image for a unique effect. I have seen several projects that included bleach that have incredible results, but for the purpose of this article, I did not create any projects with bleach.

I think stencil making with freezer paper is a project that I unexpectedly enjoyed. Stencils are extremely simple to make, and you can create custom, permanent images for loads of different projects. I hope that you learned as much as I did, and happy crafting!


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March 20, 2021

UPDATE: Freezer Paper is no longer an option with the current Cricut Design Space. Parchment Paper setting with MORE pressure or Wax Paper setting with DEFAULT pressure both work well for cutting through Freezer Paper.

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