How To Make Rhinestone & Bling Shirts By Hand

how to bling a shirt

Don’t we all love rhinestone shirts? They come in many different colors, sizes and shapes and can be used to decorate T-shirts, hoodies, belts, jeans etc.

Do you want to make your own DIY rhinestone shirt?

This post will tell you exactly how to decorate shirts with rhinestones. So make sure to read to the end if you are a looking to make a bling shirt by hand for yourself or as a gift for someone else.

What Type of Rhinestone should I use?

As mentioned before, rhinestones come in a variety of different colors, shapes and sizes. Different types of rhinestones can be categorized by the different ways you attach them to clothing.

  • The first type of rhinestone is the glue on rhinestones. These are the most basic rhinestones. As the name implies, you will use a special glue to attach these stones to clothing. This is the simplest way to work with rhinestones but is quite labor intensive.
  • On the other hand, you have hot fix rhinestones. All you need to do to attach these rhinestones to clothing is applying some heat. This is the preferred option if you are planning to make bling shirts in bulk for two reasons.
    1. You can attach all the rhinestones simultaneously by heating all the stones together.
    2. If you have a rhinestone template ready, you can easily align the stones and make the same shirt over and over again.

One way of applying heat is by using the good old iron. This work pretty ok if you iron is very warm and is big enough to cover the entire design. Check this article if you want to try to apply the rhinestones using an iron.

In this article, we will talk about using the heat activated rhinestones and heat them using a heat press machine. The heat press will allow you to heat and transfer big designs evenly within just a few seconds.

How to Make Rhinestone Transfers?

First, you will need to prepare a rhinestone transfer. If you own a Silhouette vinyl cutter, you can use Silhouette Studio Designer Edition to design your own rhinestone transfers.

Here are the steps to make your own rhinestone transfers with Silhouette Studio:

  1. Open your image in Silhouette Studio Designer Edition. You might have to change the file type to all to find your image.
  2. Go to your trace window to make an outline. Select the trace area and use the filters and threshold to get the best trace. You might want to read our article on How to Use Silhouette Studio if you are having problems.
  3. If you have your desired outline go to the Rhinestone window and select the desired effect. Feel free to try out all the different effects to see which one you like the best. Don’t forget to experiment with the Rhinestone Spacing too!
  4. Using the Single Click tool you can add individual rhinestones to your design that are not in the original trace. Additionally, the Freehand tool allows you to draw lines of rhinestone.
  5. Open the Send to Silhouette window by clicking the printer icon. Select the Rhinestone Template Material and select the Double Cut option for the best result.

Keep in mind that even though there is a Freehand tool and Single Click tool in the Silhouette software, it is pretty awkward to draw intricate designs yourself. If you want to draw your design yourself, use a specialized drawing software and then save and open the file in Silhouette Studio. For more detailed instructions on working with silhouette studio, you might want to take an online die cutting class.

Also, if you are normally making text-based designs, you can drastically widen your options by downloading free fonts for the Silhouette Cameo.

Of course, you can also make transfers by using one of the Cricut machines.

Preparing the Transfer Mask to Make a Rhinestone T-Shirt

Now that you have Rhinestone transfer cut, you need to prepare the materials and fill the holes with sticky flock. Use the following steps to easily prepare your Rhinestone transfers:

  1. Remove the backing paper from the sticky flock.
  2. Remove the holes that didn’t come off with the backing paper. You can easily do this by sticking it to a surface, smoothing it and peeling it off again. If some of the holes are still closest, just pop them out manually one by one.
  3. Fill the holes with your rhinestones. This can be down in two ways:
    1. Use a tweezer and fill the holes one by ones. This is a very delicate and tedious process so we normally recommend the next method.
    2. Flood the design with rhinestones and brush them into place. Most of the rhinestones will automatically fill the holes correctly. Use the tweezer to do some final corrections.
  4. Now that all the rhinestones are in place, use a transfer mask to prevent all the stones from falling when you move the design to your T-shirt. Smooth out the entire surface to firmly attach al the stones to the transfer mask. Make sure to prevent any bubbles or unevenness when you apply the transfer mask.
  5. Peel off the transfer mask and check if all the rhinestones came off.

If you missing a few rhinestones on your transfer mask, don’t worry! Simply use your tweezer to attach the missing rhinestones on the mask manually.

How to add rhinestones to clothing?

Now we finally came to the fun part. This is where the magic happens and where we explain to you how to attach rhinestones to clothing.
To successfully attach the rhinestones to clothing like a T-shirt you need to apply heat to the transfer mask. If you are running a small rhinestone shirt business or just enjoy making a lot of rhinestone shirts, you want to use a heat press for simplicity and speed.

To prevent any shrinking or color fading, make sure to wash the shirts you are using beforehand.

  1. Place the T-shirt on the heat press and the transfer mask on top of the T-shirt.
  2. Make sure both the T-shirt and transfer mask are smoothed out.
  3. With the heat press, apply the amount of heat recommended in the manual that came with your transfer mask. Normally this is around 320 Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.
  4. Let the rhinestones cool down.
  5. Carefully pull off the transfer mask.

And your rhinestone shirt is done! If you really like your creation, you migth even drape it on a sewing mannequin so everyone can admire it.

Keeping your DIY rhinestone shirt in good shape

Now that you have successfully attached the rhinestones to the shirt, you want it to stay that way. Here are some things to keep in mind to make your shirts last a little longer.

  • Don’t wash the shirt within 24 hours of adding the stones
  • Use your laundry machine on a gentle setting or wash it by hand
  • Hang dry the shirts instead of tumble drying
  • If just a few individual stones come off, you can try to reattach them with special glue

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