Well, Shit: Designing and Creating a Dragon Age Shirt…Twice

Yesterday we had the pleasure of going to PAX South. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a gaming convention. When we won the tickets, I considered the possibility of cosplaying. Then looked at my calendar. Nope. So I told Husband he was to wear his Mega Man shirt I made him. I just needed something to match. Our first thought was Protoman or Rush or Dr. Wily to fill out the franchise. Then I was like, nah. Mega Man may be one of his favorite games, but it’s not mine. Mine are Zelda, Bioware, and Elder Scrolls games. So, of course, I needed to make a Dragon Age shirt. Which means I needed to make a Dragon Age:Inquisition shirt.

My supplies from left to right. Plastic index dividers, hairspray, glue stick, masking tape, Simply Spray spray fabric paint in green apple, bleach mixture in a recycled bottle, hydrogen peroxide.

The Stencil

I’ve always used wax paper for my bleach and painted shirts. However, in the past I’ve had a hard time getting crisp lines with the kind of stencil I was planning, so I thought to try a different material. The internet told me about plastic sheeting, and I balked. These were not things I was sure I wanted to spend money on. So I went investigating into various stores, feelings of hopeless seeping in to me. Then I came across an off-brand version of these at Walmart.

I paid $0.66 for a package of five. I thought, well, what the heck.

The Bleaching

To get my stencil to adhere, I used a combination of regular old glue school glue stick and hairspray. Glue stick along the edges reduces bleed under, and hairspray keeps the rest down. The glue stick leaves a little bit of a residue, but it rinses out with just a little bit of cold water.

DSC00120 DSC00121

Ignore the plastic piece the middle. I was trying something stupid that didn't work.
Ignore the plastic piece the middle. I was trying something stupid that didn’t work.

Lay down the stencil and adhere.


Dunk it in a water/peroxide bath.

After doing another rinse and dry, it’s ready to be inspected.



The tiny mistakes along the outside edge the stencil and on the ring finger are more likely user error than glitches in the stencil. It does look pretty nice though.

The Paint

The second part of the design was a bright green overlay. I decided to try a spray fabric paint for the first time.



Stencil drawn and applied.

Then sprayed.


Not freaking bad, if I don’t say so myself.

I waited the requisite number of hours, then gave it it’s first wash.


Oh. Damn.

There was significantly more fading from the green paint than I had expected. In certain lights you could barely see anything. I was not happy.

Now, I had two options: go with it, and hope it read better while out in the world or try again.

After a day of consideration, I decided that an event where thousands of people had the potential to see this shirt was a big enough deal that I needed to bring out my A-game. I live to impress, after all.

Back to the Drawing Board

I went darker, first off, opting for a navy blue instead. I had no idea what color I was going to end up with. I keep a list of what color certain shirt colors and brands bleach to, and this one wasn’t on it. Whatever it happened to be, though, I was pretty certain I would probably be able to make it work.

The Bleaching (again)

I had learned that my new stencils worked fairly well, already, so I was confident going into the bleaching for the second time.

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Now that is a color I did not expect, but I kinda dig it. There are a few extra spots, but that’s cool.

The Paint (….sigh, again)

I went back to basics, relying on my usual fabric paint techniques.


I mixed up my color with yellow, green, white, and a little gold metallic paints. I initially was shooting for an apple or a lime green, saw that was just a little too bright to blend with the more subdued colors, so I backed off into a more minty green.


I applied the stencil as before, but without bothering to cover for overspray. Even using a sponge, the light color was still revealing a lot of brush strokes, so I used my meager painting ability to make the strokes look more intentional.


After peeling away this is what I have, and I like it even more than the original design that was living in my head. The colors go surprisingly well together, and it’s reminiscent of the tarot card motif found in the game’s artwork.

I did a little clean up work with some more paint and a navy dye pen to fix the rough spots, and it was ready to wear.


The Stencil

I love working with this new material. It’s cheap, effective, easy to cut, easy to clean, and surprisingly durable. Freezer paper still has its use in tear away stencils, but I’ll probably be sticking to this for a lot of projects.

The Paint

I don’t know man. Reading online, some people seem to really like this spray stuff and it should be great in theory, but I wasn’t able to make it work for me for this project. You can only use it on light fabrics, you can’t mix colors to get the exact tone you want, and there’s a lot of excess spray. The 2.5 oz can only got me through two sprays, making the $4 price tag less than economically ideal. I think if one was painting large areas of a project that didn’t need to be washed often, this might be a good product. Not for me, though.

Now considering I went to a couple of Bioware panels and a signing and got to actually show real Bioware employees who worked on the game this shirt, I’m super glad I went back and redid it.

Also, this happened.
Also, this happened.

4 thoughts on “Well, Shit: Designing and Creating a Dragon Age Shirt…Twice”

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