80’s Style Painted Tees

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 Relive the 80’s and have fun making your own 80’s style painted tees. 
2 people wearing fabric painted t-shirts with title text reading 80s Style Painted Tees.

80’s Style Painted Tees

There may be those that hate the 80’s and 80’s styles, but one thing no one can dispute is that the 80’s were fun (I know I was there!).  Tulip Paints were there, too.

One of the fun memories I have of the 80’s is painted t-shirts. The designs were kinda crazy (some might say hideous), but they were definitely fun.

Recently Tulip Paints gave me the opportunity to relive my youth and share the fun of decorating t-shirts with my children.  We received a bunch of great Tulip products to try out.

But my favorite (and my daughters’, too) is this authentic 80’s  idea sheet that Tulip included.

vintage t-shirt pattern package showing three women in vibrantly designed shirts.

My daughters and I shared a lot of laughter and memories paging through the pictures. (Remember the inspirational poses, you’ll see them again soon)We decided that we would use Tulip Soft Paint and Tulip 3D paints to make their tees.  My girls were inspired by the 80’s designs but wanted to put a more modern twist on them.  I was amused and hoped for the 80’s-ier the better.

We started with 100% cotton tees and washed the tees (no fabric softener) and then ironed them for the best possible “canvas.”

a white t-shirt.
hands putting blue tape on a white t-shirt.

My oldest, Baby, chose to go with a block pattern.

sponge paintbrush in black paint on green paper plate with Yoda sticker.
 We used painters tape to make the blocks.  Baby determined the size square she wanted, measured her pieces of tape and then placed the squares where she wanted them.  It’s important to take the time to thoroughly smooth the inside edge of the tape down (where the paint will be) so that the paint doesn’t bleed under the edge of the tape. 



Baby mixed a little white Tulip Soft Matte Fabric paint into the black Tulip Soft Matte Fabric paint to make a lighter black color (it amuses me that we used left-over Star Wars birthday party plates for the paint pallet).
a hand painting black squares on a white t-shirt inside blue tape lines.
Baby used a sponge paint brush to pounce the paint onto the shirt.  She took extra time to get good coverage on the tape edge so she’d have crisp square edges.
a closeup of a white t-shirt with painted on suns on black squares.
After the black paint dried, Baby used the Tulip 3D paint to freehand draw suns on the squares.  The Soft paint in the black squares keeps the tee soft and flexible, while the 3D paint gives the design dimension.
Baby is quite happy with the way her modern twist on 80’s design turned out (and here is our first Tulip 80’s idea sheet pose).
a person wearing a white t-shirt with suns painted on black squares.
See the little black spot near the block on her shoulder?  Be careful when you’re pouncing your paint on the shirt that you don’t get carried away and paint outside of your tape.

We’ve decided that it is her trademark logo.  (“I meant to do that!” Name that 80’s film reference.)

My youngest daughter, Baby Girl, is an artist.  She wanted to create a design that looks like stained glass.
a white t-shirt with blue tap on it making a design.
She used painters tape to block out the border of the design.  She then cut the tape lengthwise to have thinner pieces for the shapes inside the border.
a person using a sponge brush to paint designs on a white t-shirt inside blue tape lines.
 Baby Girl chose to use yellow, pink and purple Tulip Soft Matte paints and Tulip Soft Pearl paint in green.  From experience, we recommend you start painting in one corner and then plan your color placement from that starting corner.  We dabbed the colors on the shapes so we didnt’ get confused about what colors went where as we painted.
Since Baby Girl was going for a stained glass look, we pounced the paint and painted in in strokes, leaving the paint looking “blotchy”.  That helped make the design look more like stained glass when it was finished.
a girl wearing a white t-shirt with a colorful geometric design painted on it.
Baby Girl strikes her best 80’s pose (pose number 2) to show off her stained glass tee.  Using the Tulip Soft paint was key in making this large design flexible and wearable.  We did learn that you can’t smooth your tape edges out too much.  If you look closely at the left edge of the bottom green block, you’ll see that the paint bled under the tape a little.  Baby Girl is still pleased with her design, but learn from our mistake.
I don’t remember boys making or wearing painted tees in the 80’s, but I wanted to include my son, T, in the shirt painting fun.
He chose to use Tulip fabric stencils and Soft Matte purple paint to add one of his favorite Adventure Time quotes, “Oh, My Glob.”   We found that if we both held the edges of the stencil down and T. was careful in pouncing the paint, the letters turned out well. (For the record, I did the “H” and it’s the least clear of the letters.  Take your time and don’t rush so your letters turn out clear and crisp like the ones T. did.)
a white t-shirt with blue tape on it and text reading Oh My Glob.
Because the stenciled letters were a little small, he used Tulip black Puffy paint to add the wavy lines. 
A quick 80’s pose (pose number 3) showcases the kids’ handiwork.  
3 people wearing fabric painted t-shirts.

You can find more about Tulip’s current Tie Dye Your Summer Campaign and giveaway by liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter,  following them on Pinterest and checking out their blog.   I’d recommend all four for the great ideas and tips.

Have fun and “Paint On!” (said in my best 80’s rock voice).
You might also want to check out my Easy Painted Flag Tee.

Organized 31 - Easy Painted Flag Tee


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  1. Wow, all four shirts look great! I tried using the letter stencils and had no luck at all. I might try using your tips next time.

    1. It took 2 of us to hold the stencil down well. But with both of us pressing the stencil down, it worked well.

  2. Susan – thanks for the trip down memory lane. How much fun is the 80’s comeback! She’s a maniac… maniac… Hugs, Holly

    1. Lol, Holly. I’d forgotten that one. 🙂 How about one of my favorites, “Hip to Be Square”, who doesn’t love Huey Lewis and the News?!

    1. It was fun. It’s getting tougher to get the teens to do projects for me, so I’m treasuring this.

  3. I had an 80’s party already this summer and am planning another in the fall. This will be perfect. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Malia. I used… ummm…. blue painters tape? No idea what brand, it’s a roll we’ve had for years. Maybe Scotch brand, but it’s just a guess. Sorry.

  4. Very nice! Makes me want to pull some of my old tees out and create something new.

    Visiting from Sew Darn Crafty link up,

  5. All I can say is fun! Oh, those 80’s! Thanks for sharing & linking up at DearCreatives.com Theresa

  6. You guys had so much fun! I love the kids’ poses! 🙂 Now they know what it was like to be a teen in the 80s!

    1. It’s always fun when the goofy spirit hits us! The 80’s were a lot of things, but they sure supplied some fun poses.

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