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Tutorial Tuesday: Stenciled Leggings

January 19, 2010

I’ve been wanting to do some fabric stenciling for a while now, but hadn’t gotten around to getting the supplies. While we were in Florida, however, we were staying right near a Micheal’s, so I dragged my boyfriend over there with me to look for some suitable paint. I figured I’d either buy fabric paint or regular acrylic paint that I could mix with fabric medium. While I was looking around, however, I came across Simply Spray Fabric Paint. I had never heard of spray paint for fabric but it sounded like exactly what I was looking for so I bought a couple of cans. (The company also makes “Spray Blood” which they say “can transform your everyday apparel into a realistically blood-spattered costume in just minutes! Leaving you with more free time to find your victims and eat their brains.” Hahah). According to the packaging and the website, unlike a lot of fabric paints, it doesn’t require heat-setting and it stays soft after drying. Since I wanted to paint on tights or leggings, which cannot be ironed without killing the elastic, this sounded perfect. Plus, it doesn’t smell bad (it’s non-toxic, according to the website), and stays soft after drying. So far I really like this stuff, but the cons are that it tends to pool up and run on the paper stencil, the silver was a lot more glittery than I was expecting, and I’m withholding judgment on how well it’ll hold up after washing. After the success of this project, however, I’m already dreaming up new ways to use it (not involving fake blood).

Fabric spray paint. (In addition to the Simply Spray, Tulip also makes some that I saw at Micheal’s.)
Leggings or tights
Spray adhesive/glue
Thick paper/cardstock
X-acto knife
Bulldog clips


1. Print out your design on thick paper or cardstock. Maybe not the best choice, but I used photo paper because it is thick and I already had it on hand.

2. Carefully cut out your design with the X-acto knife.

3. If you’re printing on something stretchy like tights or leggings, this step is important if you don’t want your image to be warped when you’re wearing it. Put them on, place your design where you want it, and mark the edges with chalk. This way you’ll be able to stretch your leggings to the proper length for painting.

4. Cut a piece of cardboard to place between the front and back of your fabric, otherwise you might have bleed-through. Place your stencil on top and stretch your fabric so that your stencil edges line up with the marks you made previously. Clip the fabric to the cardboard with the bulldog clips.

5. Spray your paper with spray adhesive. Mine said that for non-permanent bonds you should spray your surface and wait 3-5 minutes before attaching, so I did. Do whatever your directions say.

6. Place your stencil on your fabric, lining up the markings with the stencil edges. Press down gently to make sure your paper adheres, especially any detail bits. Cover anything you don’t want sprayed with newspaper.

7. Go to town with the fabric spray paint. Mine says on the directions to make sure to start and end your spray off and fabric, and I found this to be true–it tends to be goopy at first.

8. Let dry 1 hour, carefully peel off your stencil, and repeat, if necessary.

The one on the left is still clamped to the cardboard, so it’s stretched out more.

Ta-da! I’m really happy with how they turned out and I’m already eying a couple of plain pairs of tights that could use some decoration.

Looking for more tutorials and DIY projects? Check out my What I Made page!

22 Comments leave one →
  1. stylepint permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:46 pm

    Just stumbled onto your blog and I must say I love your tutorial! Those tights are really cute! =)

  2. January 29, 2010 7:25 pm

    Those look so cool! I love the feather. Thanks so much for adding this to the One Pretty Thing Flickr pool. I’ll be linking in the next Fashion Roundup.

  3. February 24, 2010 8:50 am

    Wow! What a fab idea! Thanks for posting!

  4. Julie permalink
    February 24, 2010 9:37 am

    I love this!!!! I want the exact same pair! Where did you find your stencil??

    • February 24, 2010 11:27 am

      Thanks, Julie and Katy!

      Julie, I made my stencil from a feather image I found online, resized, and crudely outlined. Here’s the outlined image:

      • Julie permalink
        February 24, 2010 1:14 pm

        Thank you so much! I’ll send you the pictures of the ones I make! Promise!

      • February 24, 2010 1:24 pm

        Julie, that would be great! I’d love to see yours!

  5. February 24, 2010 1:19 pm

    Saw you on One Pretty Thing…I’ve been wanting to do this for ages but was never sure how to get the design to set without the paint caking up. Glad to know there’s a specific product out there! Thanks!

  6. February 24, 2010 6:08 pm

    I was just thinking today about spicing up a pair of plain tights with some paint but unsure if I’d be able to find fabric paint that stayed soft. Soooo glad your post was linked on One Pretty Thing! Thanks for the paint tips and tutorial!!

    • February 25, 2010 6:45 pm

      Thank you, and send me a link/picture if you make some–I’d love to see them!

  7. February 25, 2010 11:06 am

    Who knew you could spray paint leggings! Nice work!

  8. February 25, 2010 12:12 pm

    These. are. awesome.

  9. Ad-aura permalink
    September 23, 2010 10:46 am

    Nice idea! I love this… might just use the idea.

  10. April 9, 2011 3:36 am

    Hi! Stumbled across your site just now and I’m in love!! Everything is so helpful.
    By the way, can you recommend an alternative paint that I can use for this DIY? Not sure I can find those spray paints where I am.


    • April 9, 2011 12:34 pm

      Hi Valerie! Thank you, and welcome! As for an alternative to spray fabric paints, you basically just need something that doesn’t need to be heat set with an iron, because the heat will most likely damage the elasticity of the tights. If you want to stencil on something else that won’t be a concern, though, so you could just use any old fabric paint, or acrylic paint combined with fabric medium. You could try regular fabric or acrylic paint on tights without heat-setting, and see how that holds up. Otherwise I think you can order the spray paints online, at least if you live in the US. Good luck!

  11. November 5, 2011 10:13 pm

    Hi ! I’ve been reading about all this spray paint stuff (forgive me,Simply spray) I’d gotten a can at Hobby Lobby, about 6 months ago. had no idea about the upholstry kind,but I started looking at my slightly to burgandy wing back chair. My tiny mind started clicking, got the can spread the news papers, kept the coats very light. soon I had a great color I could live with. now that I know black is’nt the only color and there’s different types, well… I’ll never pay 300$ to reupholster(and that price was from a friend,she does beautiful work) anything. Being monaterairly challanged gives wings to the old saying “Nessesity is the mother of invention” and I love creation, those leggings are so cute! Kimberley in Ok.C

  12. November 29, 2011 12:04 am

    These are GREAT!!! I am also following you on Pinterest. I think I’ve found a kindred DIY spirit. ;)

    • November 29, 2011 12:15 am

      Stacie, thank you! And gosh, I think you’re right–just started following your blog and your boards :-)

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