How many times have you walked down the street and seen someone wearing a super cool shirt and then spent the rest of the day finding shirts very similar, but not exactly like what they had? Chances are they customized a generic shirt or paid way too much for something they could have made at home, and that’s why you can’t find it at Walmart. But honestly, personalized t-shirts come in so many varieties, and some forms of customization are significantly easier than others.

Hippie Vibes

Tie-dye shirts are surging in popularity with everyone stuck at home right now. If you’ve never made a tie-dye shirt it is a lot of fun, though it can be quite messy. It starts with a boring white shirt. Take rubber bands and randomly wrap them around different parts of the shirt. For specific patterns, there are plenty of guides online. My favorite is the bullseye pattern where you pick the shirt up from the center and wrap the rubber bands around it in equal sections going down. Most craft stores and general stores sell dye kits for tie-dying. The kits typically include pigment powder that you mix with water and a few squirt bottles. For the bullseye, alternate colors in the sections making sure to fully saturate. For a more random pattern, just make sure to place the colors all over the shirt. I usually let the shirt sit overnight, but it only needs to sit for a few hours. Then, take out the rubber bands and rinse with cold water. 

Bullseye pattern tie-dye shirt from happinessishomemade.net

Another twist on the standard tie-dye shirt is to take a spray bottle with equal parts of bleach and water and a black shirt. Spray the black shirt where you want discoloration and wait about 10 minutes for the bleach to soak in. Then wash the shirt. This can be done in layers to get lighter shades of orange out of the black.

DIY Bleach shirts using two different application methods courtesy of gimv.org

Standard Personalization

Some of the more generic styles of personalizing plain shirts are through screen printing, iron-ons, and embroidery. Screen printing is done by creating a stencil, or screen, that just the design hollowed out, and rolling fabric ink over it to fill in the gaps. The stencil is removed and the design is left behind. Iron-ons are made from a heat transfer vinyl. You can order ready to go designs or cut your own out of heat transfer or iron-on vinyl. The shiny side goes down on the shirt and when it is heated up, it adheres to the fabric. Iron-ons are probably the easiest of the three methods in this section. The next personalizing technique is embroidery. Embroidery is creating designs with a variety of stitching techniques. It can be done with a sewing machine or by hand, and can be very time consuming depending on the pattern, though oftentimes embroidery is just a simple design off in the corner that acts as an accent rather than being the focus. 

Cute pig embroidered shirt by thesprucecrafts.com

Recycle Old Clothes for DIY

Got a shirt that you love, but it has holes all over? Personalize it by cutting it up. Turn that old rag into a grungy fashion statement. From adding triangle cut outs, to just getting rid of the sleeves entirely and turning an old t-shirt into a tank top, there are plenty of ways you can customize old shirts.