This father's day I thought, instead of selling you more items, it would serve you better during quarantine to DIY an amazing tee with your kids to gift the father figure in your life!
I have two designs in this tutorial that you can use to print a t-shirt. One design is created using carved potato and the other is printed using a fork. You can use any flat surface object like a popsicle stick, a bottle cap or even a cookie cutter to print on the t-shirt.
I got my inspiration to print using a fork from this blog article. Click here to get more on different items to use for printing.
You will need:
- A tshirt (you can buy them from target, or any near by store)
- Old bedsheet; to lay on the table to create a soft padding
- Sharp pairing knife
- Fabric Inks; you can use fabric paint or even acrylic paint
- Sheets of paper
A link to buy a t shirt:
Link to buy fabric paint
I have no monetary benefits from you using these links. These are some products I have either heard of or used that I feel would work well.
I highly recommend that you test print patterns on paper or on a piece of scrap cloth to gain a bit of confidence and understanding before printing on the tee shirt.
Color testing: To test what color ink looks best on the tee, turn the bottom of the tee over and apply a bit of ink on it. I initially thought black would look good, but you can see here that the white stands out better than the black. Based on the color of the t-shirt, inks are absorbed differently and often don't give us the color we imagined.
First you must layer your bed sheet into a couple of layers so to act as a soft padding for your surface while block printing. Then put a layer of paper in between the t-shirt under the area you would like to print on. The paper will prevent the ink from bleeding onto the back side of the tee.
Design 1: Using a fork
I have decided to print a square pattern on this tee. I am now going to mark of the square using tape. I am trying to keep this simple to print on with a 13 month old, so I chose the square. I am eyeballing this measurement, but feel free to measure out the distance if you’d like. You can also print on the full t shirt in a random pattern, if you feel that would be easier to do with a child. Feel free to let your imagination go wild.
A tip: You can cover the areas you don’t want to print on with paper, if you don’t want to chance any accidents.
I am using my finger tip to apply ink on the back of the fork. Do apply a thick layer of ink on the back of the fork. If you get ink in between the spokes of the fork, you can remove the excess ink using your finger from the front of the fork. You can also use a roller or brayer to apply the ink as well. I am just showing options using limited resources. This is a messier option, but it reduces the number of things you need to buy. I am lightly pressing the fork on the tee in an alternating pattern of vertically and horizontally. You could also test print this pattern on paper or on a piece of scrap cloth to gain a bit of confidence and understanding before printing on the tee shirt.
Don’t worry if you misjudged your spacing and the print goes onto the tape. At the end when you remove the tape, you will still have a crisp border. It is a hand printed tee, which makes every imperfection a unique characteristic of the tee.
When you print on the tee the ink may not be very bright the first time. This is fine. You can print on top of the print a second time and this will make the color more vibrant. Its fine if you stick to just a one layer print, you can call it a textured print.
When you look at the finally design, you will notice some of them are a double print and some are the single print. The brighter ones are the double print and the lighter one is the single print. Overall I think it adds a bit of whimsy and texture to the overall design. You can also notice that my spacing isn’t perfect, but that’s what adds character to a hand printed tee versus a digital tee.
I kept the t-shirt aside for an one hour for the paint to dry. And I touched to make sure the paint is dry. Now for the big reveal. Pull the tape out slowly and keep one hand on the tee. As you can see the border is crisp in spite of me painting over the tape. And voila your t shirt is ready!
Design 2: Using a potato
For the blocks I am first drawing the shape I want on paper. 1 am making a 1.5” square, a triangle with a 1.5” base and a circle with a similar diameter. I unfortunately do not have a circular object with a 1.5” diameter so I am folding the paper and cutting a circle. If you have a tool to draw a proper circle, please do use it!
Now cut your shapes and put them against each other and ensure they are proportional to each other.
Next take your potato and slice it neatly across into three pieces. You need a nice flat surface while printing. You want each piece to fit nicely into your palm. This makes it easier to hold while printing.
To carve a square, put the paper square on top of the potato and make a ¼” to ½” cut into the potato. Now cut around the potato towards the square, and remove the bits of excess potato on top.
Repeat the same procedure for the triangle.
Making a circle is a bit tricky, but I’m sure you can do it! Place the paper circle on top of the potato piece. Use the pointy tip of the knife to make a marking of the circle. Next make multiple close cuts into the potato about ¼” deep. It wont be a precise circular shape but you can make it finer later. Then cut around the potato about ¼” from the top, till you reach the circle and remove excess potato bits from the side. Now you can clean up the edges of your circle and make it neater.
And there you have it! You have carved a circle, a triangle and a square potato block!
Now for the fun printing portion. I have decided to print across the chest. So first place a layer of paper between the t-shirt. This will prevent the ink from bleeding from the front of the tee to the back. Now take a long strip of tape to mark the starting line for printing. I have taped it right below the neckline of the tee. I know I am going to print three rows and hence I am not taping off the bottom line.
In this video, I am using a roller or brayer to apply the ink on my blocks. I have applied some fabric paint on my tray and using my brayer I am applying it on my tee. My first print is placed near the sleeve joint. And from there I am switching between the blocks. I am trying not to put the same shape right next to each other. Although, I have placed two triangles beside each other but they are facing opposite directions.
When you apply ink on the block, ensure that the entire block is covered with ink. This will create a nice solid print. I am applying a bit of pressure on the block while printing on the t-shirt.
When I reached close to the right sleeve joint, I feared that the square block might print on the sleeve. So I put a piece of paper to catch the ink and prevent it from printing on the sleeve. You could also tape over the sleeve joint at the start to make it more comfortable for you while printing.
I cut a bit off the sides of the potato because I could not see the edges of the shape while placing the block. This made it harder to judge the spacing of the blocks properly
While printed the second and third row, I tried to make sure that I didn’t repeat the same shape that was directly above the one I was printing. For example if there was a square directly on top of what I was going to print, I would choose either a triangle or a circle.
I tried to have a conversation with Rachel on what shape I should use next. I also gave her a washed piece of potato to keep her happy while I printed. She is 13 months old and still puts everything into her mouth. So it wasn’t quite safe for her to play with inks yet.
While printing don’t forget to have fun and take pictures with your kids, and tag me on it @amucherian. I’d love to see it and join in the fun.
Once you are all done with the printing, give a cheer out and do a happy dance. I always do a dance at the end of printing because I am happy it turned out well! You just printed a tee, so you definitely should dance!
Here’s the final design, notice the spacing I left between the print and the sleeves. The spacing between the shapes are slightly loopy and not perfect, but I think it looks pretty awesome. Don’t worry about imperfections, they add character and visual appeal to the t-shirt.
After keeping the tee aside for an hour for the paint to dry, I removed the tape and enjoyed this wonderful t-shirt.
Heat setting the t-shirt
After the fabric paint has dried for 24 hours, it's now time to heat set your paint to make it laundry proof. Turn the t shirt inside out and put a sheet of paper in between the t-shirt. Now iron over your painted fabric to seal in the paint for about 2 mins. Do not iron directly on top of the print. Put your iron on low to medium heat and iron over the painted areas, keeping your iron moving so you don't burn the fabric.
Every paint reacts differently, so I would recommend hand washing the t-shirt in cold water, to ensure the inks stays on.
Do tag me @amucherian when you make your wonderful t-shirts! I'd love to see them <3