Make Stuff Monday: Galaxy Print Top DIY

Galaxy print is pretty in right now, though it’s really hard to come by if you’re seeking something affordable.  It’s starting to trickle down into the less pricey stores, but even then it’s tricky to find.  So galaxy print is remaining a stylish but hard-to-find trend, which means it’s not catching on as quickly as, say, mullet skirts.  And that’s exactly why I decided to DIY my own galaxy print top.  Well, that, and I really wanted something galaxy print, but couldn’t find something in my budget in a print I actually liked.

Let’s begin.

I started with a standard black t-shirt from Michael’s Crafts, and a bucket of various kinds of paints.  The paints ranged from spray on fabric paint and brush on fabric paint, to standard acrylic paints.  I stretched my t-shirt out on a cardboard shirt form, which I also got at Michael’s, so that the paint wouldn’t bleed and so that it would be easier to paint.  I pinned the back of the shirt behind the shirt form nice and tight so that the front was smooth and easy to paint on.  While pinning it back would ensure that there were no bumps or folds while I was painting, I still made sure that I was careful with any brushing I did, and regularly monitored where the bottom of the shirt was so it wouldn’t flip up on itself and screw things up.  I’d have pinned it back better, perhaps using binder clips along the edges of the shirt form, but I didn’t have any.  It’s been noted for next time.

DIY Galaxy Tee: Step 1

Wait! Before You Start Painting…

First, make sure you wash your shirt before you paint. I forgot to do that, and because I am impatient, decided not to.  I haven’t washed my shirt yet, and I’m not anticipating any problems (I won’t be putting it in the dryer), but it’s always better to wash and dry (without fabric softener) a garment before painting on it.

Definitely invest in fabric paints instead of other types. The more I use them, the more I recommend buying the Folk Art Fabric Paints that are brush on.  They soak into the fabric nicely, and while you can tell it’s been painted, the surface is softer to the touch than with any other fabric paint I’ve tried.  They’re available in a wide variety of colors and mix nicely with each other as well as other brands.  But I recommend using them alone for a softer result.

Normally, I’m all about using images for inspiration, and having them on hand for reference as needed. In fact, I had looked up some galaxy print stuff online prior to starting this project, but I decided not to print anything out like I normally do.  I wanted to just go with my gut on this one and not have to worry that it wasn’t turning out “right” or something.  After all, galaxies are natural creations that all look different and constantly change, so there really isn’t a “perfect” here.  So I say, if you’re going to do this, look up some ideas, but then go with your heart and just paint, without trying to duplicate something exact.

Also, remember that the less paint you put on your brush, the better. You can always go over paint and add more if you think it needs it, but it’s pretty much impossible to remove paint when you’ve applied too much.  So go light when it comes to dipping your brush in and painting, and build on it if you need to.  Better safe, than sorry!

The painting process.

I started off with some Tulip spray fabric paint I bought specifically for this project. I chose a color called “Dark Teal” that was more of a turquoise color, though I had no idea just how bright it would be when it actually sprayed, especially on a black tee.  As I layered it, it seemed like it would stay fairly bright, but I knew I’d have to wait until it dried to see for sure.  I started off spraying in just 2 places, but added some across the middle of the shirt as I went.  I layered the spray and changed how I pressed the pump to create drips and heavier spray in some area to create depth to the color and a foundation for more colors.

DIY Galaxy Tee: Step 2

Once I was done with my turquoise base, I decided to add some pink to the shirt. I decided to use the magenta Folk Art Fabric Paint I used for my Bobs as my base, but added some gold and black Tulip fabric paint to it to make it a little richer and add some shimmer, which would give some dimension to the design.  I stippled it on using a stiff brush, and just kind of added it where I felt it worked, mostly opposite the blue I had just done.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 3

From there I brought out another spray on paint, this time in black. I did a few regular sprays, but then pressed the top of the bottle slowly so that the paint came out in drips instead of in a spray.  I figured the black wouldn’t show up much on the black tee, but that I could add some depth by darkening some of what I’d already painted, and that I could create some neat effects if I added some “bubbles” of black to the design.  I was pretty pleased with the way this worked out, even before it dried.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 4

At this point, I decided that I needed a little more blue in my design. I looked in my bucket o’ paint and dug out a rich, iridescent royal blue and a deep purple and decided to mix them.  I then used a smaller, but still stiff brush to stipple it on randomly, but in smaller patches than I did the turquoise or the pinky gold color.  At this point, I wanted to start creating depth and the illusion of different layers to the galaxy.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 5

A looked at my shirt and decided I needed to add some lighter colors. I pulled a turquoise out of my paint collection and mixed it with a little bit of the iridescent royal blue and a dash of black–I didn’t want it too bright.  I didn’t mix it entirely, and sort of let it marble, and decided to apply it with the butt end of a paint brush for a different texture.  I kept the groupings very small to create more depth to what I had.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 6

Here’s where I stepped back and decided it was time to start adding detail. I pulled out my glow in the dark fabric paint, which I bought specifically for this (because what’s a galaxy if it doesn’t glow at least a little bit?) and a very fine brush.  I started dotting the paint around randomly to create the illusion of stars.  The fine dots looked nice, but there needed to be something a little… more.  So I added a couple starbursts here and there, which really pulled it together, I think.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 7

Things were getting a little to monochrome for me, so I decided to take it up a notch with some green. I mixed a lime color from the Martha Stewart line with gold for some shimmer and actually used my finger to dab it on in a few small spots.  Using my finger gave it a completely different texture from the other blobs, and added a unique dimension to it.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 8

And suddenly, that green was just a little overpowering for me. To counter it, I mixed the Folk Art Fabric magenta with an iridescent bronze, figuring it would be darker than the gold and black mixture I had done before, and it was.  I dry-brushed it on in areas that I felt were empty, overlaping some of what I had already done for some depth.  The magenta definitely balanced out the green, just as I expected it would.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 9

Throughout adding layers of color, I also added more blobs of black. I used the “squeeze the trigger slowly to create drips” technique a few more times as I layered on more color and texture, so that I could add more dimension to my galaxy.  I was careful not to overlap the blobs too much, and even blew on a couple of them while wet to create strange shapes (if you’re going to do this, get a straw, it’ll be easier).

This is the part where I decided to get messy! Or, messier considering I’d already used my fingers.  I wanted a splattering of some gold in my galaxy, but didn’t want to outright splatter paint my tee, since I wanted it a little controlled.  So I filled up a small, soft brush with plain gold fabric paint, and used my finger to bend the brush and create a splattering effect. Most definitely the messiest part of this process!  But, I was able to control where the splatter went and how much of it was in certain places, so it worked perfect for me.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 10

Once I was done splattering, I stepped back and looked at my shirt. At this point, I decided it was done.  Here’s a pic of what it looked like right after I decided to stop painting.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 11

From here, I let it dry on the shirt form for 3 days, to make sure that it was completely dry before I did anything with it.  Then I tried it on to see how it looked.

Going from tee to tank.

I decided it was a bit boring as a tee shirt, and opted to cut the sleeves off and make it a tank. I put it on and used tailor’s chalk to mark where I wanted the sleeve to end, going for a lower cut opening.  I then measured the distance and marked the same on the other side, to make sure it would be exactly even.

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 12

I cut off the right sleeve, leaving a bit of a wider shoulder on it. To make sure things were even, I used the right sleeve as a template for cutting the left off.  It was almost more of a muscle tee than a tank, but I liked the way it looked and decided to leave it just the way it was.  I gave both arm holes a little tug to roll the fabric in on itself (so no sewing needed, horray!) and that was it!

DIY Galaxy Shirt: Step 13

Styling my galaxy tee.

Styling this was pretty easy. Underneath, I wore a black bralette from Forever21.  I paired it with boyfriend fit jean shorts from H&M, and added my black wedge booties from Isobel Toldeo’s 2011 Payless line.    It was a little plain so I tucked up a little bit of it and secured it with a safety pin underneath, to create an asymmetrical hem in the front.  I added a few bracelets on one hand, and that’s it.  Oh, and I had my huge sunglasses on in these pics to prevent me from being too squinty, but they worked nice with the outfit.

Since this post is already pretty long, I’ll only share that 1 set of pics here. You can check out the rest (including a blooper!) of the set on Facebook in my DIY Galaxy Top album!

If I could do it again…

I would definitely wash the shirt, then cut it first.  Then I’d go bigger with my galaxy print, instead of making it so small on the front.  Bigger, I feel like, would stand out better from farther away, and would have a better impact.  But otherwise I’d keep the technique the same, as I like the overall look of my galaxy.

What do you think? Something you’d try, or not your thing?  Let me know in the comments!

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15 comments for “Make Stuff Monday: Galaxy Print Top DIY

  1. August 13, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    I really like this! I like the way you cut the shirt, too. Maybe, just maybe, I could get my daughters to do something like this with me. We’re not the craftiest bunch, but we sure could try!! And, with these directions…well, practice makes perfect (or close to it, anyway).

    • August 13, 2012 at 4:23 PM

      This was actually going to be my practice shirt–I had bought another to do as a “real” one, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that galaxies are all different and not perfect, so I decided to keep this as my one and only galaxy shirt (for now) because I liked the way it turned out 🙂 Give it a shot and let me know how it comes out!

  2. August 13, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    I think you did a great job with the shirt and with the review. It really helped with sharing each step to the finished project. Great job!

  3. Teresha
    August 13, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    I love DIY projects that you get to wear! This would be great to wear to a Star Trek screening!

  4. August 13, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    Rachel, you are a natural at this. Love your tutorial. Very detailed and easy to follow. These Galaxy shirts look fun!

  5. mel
    August 13, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    Thank you for sharing the process step to step. What a fantastic review! I love your tutorial and the Galaxy shirts looks fantastic!

  6. August 13, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    That is super cool and so creative! My son loves it! He’s really into space right now and wants to make one to wear to school! So much fun!

    • August 14, 2012 at 9:44 AM

      Awesome! You guys should give it a shot… it would be a fun project for a rainy day! If you do, send me a pic 🙂

  7. August 13, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    That came out fantastic! Thank you for sharing the step by step with us and for showing us how you decided to style it.

  8. Lee McKeon
    August 29, 2015 at 10:24 PM

    Love this can’t wait to do this with my daughter!

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