Sunday, June 14, 2009

How to Make Chess Team T-Shirts Using Fabric Spray Paint

For full instructions on this project, see my other blog post about making t-shirts here. I used the same general technique for making the chess team shirts but with some specific embellishments.


Aerosol fabric paint. Something like this. In black.
White t-shirts.
A cardboard rectangle big enough to slide inside the shirts.
Xacto knife and cutting board.
Freezer paper.
Iron-on letters (optional)

1. Find or draw your design. You are looking for a simple silhouette of a chess piece. You can use whichever piece is your team's favorite. We used kings because our coach refers to the kids as King Benny, King Ben, etc. Maybe you want to be knights or even pawns. You know, the pawns are the most powerful pieces on the board. Or something. Look for something very simple in silhouette, like this:

2. Print out your design at about 10 inches high.
3. With an Exacto knife and cutting board, cut the design out of freezer paper. Save the inside! If you need a visual on this process, check my other post.
4. You now have two pieces of freezer paper -- one in the shape of a chess piece (to make the white king) and one with a chess piece shaped hole in it (to make the black king).

5. Position the freezer paper with a chess shaped hole in it in the spot you want the black king, and iron it down.
6. Slide your cardboard piece up inside your t-shirt to protect it from seeping paint. Spray your fabric paint into the stencil. Spray LIGHTLY! This is not a job for kids. Back up about a foot from the shirt and spray in gentle bursts. If you spray too close or too heavily, it will get clumpy and gluey and will not dry properly. Ever. As long as you live. Even if you live to be 37, like I have.
7. Let it dry for a few minutes and then peel the freezer paper outline off. You now have a black king!
8. Position the king-shaped freezer paper where you want the white king. and iron it down.
9. Spray your fabric paint around this reverse stencil. This is supposed to look a little graffiti, a little rock-and-roll, so spray in a zig-zag and let your inner tagger out. You do have an inner tagger, don't you? You didn't poison your inner tagger with too many violin lessons and tae kwon do tournaments did you? Good. So tag away.
10. Let it dry for a while and then peel the freezer paper off. You are done!

You can also add letters, iron-on jewels, and other embellishment. Go mad. The beauty of custom t-shirts lies in the creative potential; you can put anything you want on them and have a lot of fun doing it, so go nuts! Chess is a battlefield, and you may need to employ all the iron-on weapons in your arsenal. More pictures:

On the kids' shirts, I put the black king on the back.

Father and son shirts. Yes, this is their game face.

Chess shirts in action at the Championship Chess Norfolk tournament in May.

Benny's concentration pose.

The Benjamins

The Brocketts

Chess warriors


  1. What a fabulous effect! That looks so cool!! I can totally see doing this with lots of different shapes - I feel an art project coming on! :)

  2. Anonymous5:55 PM

    Those Benjamins make a rare pair!

  3. Woah, those shirts are SO COOL!

  4. Anonymous7:02 PM

    you should email that to the paint company! your pics are kool!

  5. just came across your blog -- lots of good stuff here.

  6. its very cool ides thank you friend .

  7. Anonymous11:59 AM

    We at strongly believe in necessity of chess to increase both knowledge and understanding. It is unfortunate that the oldest game in the world (Chess) has a very little fan base, aims to change that. We understand the importance of blogs and the information made available on them. We are working towards building a strong fan base around our FREE chess server to better increase the use of Chess online. Your blog seems to have a large viewing public and seems to hold great information which I would love to make available to my viewing public.

    If you would like to have included the code for the banner along with textual link information. Please email me back with the subject line as your url, so that it doesn't go into spam and I make sure you only get the award banner. Thank you for your great work and dedication, we look forward to your response!

  8. Seven Dallas Chess Club juniors, all chess experts and some with world youth titles, held their own against a slate of Oklahoma's toughest players. Although their group as a whole came up short 6-1/2 to 7-1/2, it was clear they felt little intimidation from their older and more experienced opponents. US Chess Federation President Jim Berry, a longtime member of the Oklahoma Chess Team, remarked, "Chess starts exactly where these kids are today. They represent the brightest future of American chess."

  9. Anonymous2:17 PM

    holy moly totally awesome, starting right now!