16 April 2012

Children's Art to T-Shirt

Early April was Papa Juise's Birthday, and we ignored the pressing matters of Spring for awhile to make him some gifts with our hands and our hearts. One of those was a T-shirt, made with Kaia's art, and I have to admit, I am kind of jealous. We yet again used the freezer paper method of printing, and I fell in love with it all over again! Aside from the onesies that I made for Kaia as a babe, we did some freezer paper printing together last year, which I think I failed to post anything about. Oops? Anyway, it is easy, and fun, and very rewarding, here is how we did ours.

I taped freezer paper to the table for Kaia to draw on, shiny side down, so that the papery side is the drawing surface. I drew boxes on each of them as guidelines for Kaia to stay within so that I would be left with a border on the pictures. I explained to her that I would need to have some paper all the way around her drawings in order to put them on Papa's shirt, and asked her to try to keep her drawings inside those boxes. Then I handed her a Sharpie. Okay, fine, you do not need to give your child a Sharpie if you do not want to, but the thick, bold lines were nice when it came time to cut them out, and the shiny side of the freezer paper doesn't let it bleed through. At least, ours didn't. I don't want to be responsible for your fancy dining table or anything.

When she was done drawing, I started the iron warming, pulled some paperboard out of the recycling, and got to work with my exact-o blade. I'm sure you could probably pull it off with scissors, but I wouldn't want to try. This is a job for the razor. Next you want to cut all the positive space out of the drawings, leaving the negative space intact. That is to say, you want to cut all drawn lines out of the background, and it is okay if you dice those lines up, but the background itself is what you are going to use as your stencil, so don't cut into it. If that seems confusing, hopefully the next few pictures help clear it up. I cut first around the outside borders of her pictures, and used those to decide where to place the images on the shirt.

In the picture on the left you can see that the empty space forms the lines of the drawing, and in the picture on the right you can see the parts which are being removed. I still have the top half of the face to cut out and iron to the shirt in this picture, but the rest is chaff. I did not bother trying to cut out eyes, little noses, or belly buttons, because those are much easier to dot on later than to cut out of the stencil.

I ironed the pieces in place as I cut them out, mostly because some of the pictures needed to be cut into a handful of pieces and I didn't want to lose track of where they all went. The simplest one was done in two pieces, and I think the most any of these had to be cut into was seven.

Iron the freezer paper shiny side down for about 15 seconds. It will stick to the surface of your cloth. Make sure the edges are all adhered, and then you are ready to paint. Place another piece of freezer paper, cardboard, or something of the like, inside your shirt to keep the paint from bleeding through the back layer. I used screen printing ink, but I have in the past used acrylics. I found that mixing the acrylic with a little water made the end product much softer, and helped it last longer. Either way, though, eventually acrylic will begin to crack, especially over large areas.

Dab the paint in. You want to get the lines filled in, but you don't want to leave globs of paint on the shirt, or have thick layers. Use just enough to give a solid coat, then lift any excess paint back off with your brush. Be careful not to paint over the borders of your stencils, or any areas you wish to be a different colour.

Wait for the paint to dry completely. No, seriously. Be patient. Waiting for the next day would be best. I have messed prints up before because I decided the paint was "dry enough", it's not worth it. Once the paint has set, peel off the freezer paper. It comes up very easily. For eyes, noses, and bellybuttons, I trimmed the swab part off a cotton swab and used the stem to dot paint on in the appropriate places. I found it useful to have taken pictures of the drawings beforehand that I could reference in getting the details in the correct positions. For smaller needs, I used a toothpick.

I think it came out super cute, and Papa Juise loved it! Kaia pretty much wants him to wear it every day and doesn't quite understand why he won't. She's ready to make another, and I don't think it will be long.


  1. I love this idea - what a super special present!

  2. NICE!!! I will have to do that, how exciting. Her drawings are wonderful

  3. Really great idea! It turned out so cute.

  4. This is great!! I followed you over from KCCO and here is my project this week: My project this week: http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2012/04/crafting-on-with-needle-and-thread.html

  5. Thank you all! It was a lot of fun, I can't wait to do more. :D

  6. Beautiful process. Lovely artwork by your daughter. And great collaboration between you and her. Thank you for explaining the process and taking pictures of it. It really is a beautiful t-shirt.

  7. I found you through Garden Gossip (post with Dragonflies) :) I will be following your blog shortly (when I am off facebook). I really like the t-shirt...and sent it to my daughter. Yes, it is a hint that Grandma would like one. I am guessing that there is a lot of relatives that would like one! Thank-you for easy-to-do tutorial. Kids' drawings are the best <3 And your daughter's are no exception.


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