A beginners guide to fabric printing – for you and your budding fashion designer

Children love to create their own unique works of art – as testified to by any parent whose fridge and walls are covered with their child’s masterpieces.  As well a pictures and paintings, children particularly enjoy creating something which can be used or worn and so, we’ve put together our guide to a fun fabric printing project for you and your kids.

Before you begin, work with your child to decide what kind of design he or she would like on the T.Shirt.  It can be helpful to draw the design onto a piece of paper before starting on the T.Shirt.

You will need

  • A plain T.Shirt (these can be picked up inexpensively online or in discount stores)
  • Fabric paint (see below)
  • Paint brushes
  • Water
  • Printing tools (see below)
  • Freezer paper

First things first, you’ll need to decide what kind of paint you’re going to use.  There are a number of options available which include:

Fabric crayons

These are an effective (and effectively mess free) way of painting onto fabric.  Perfectly sized for little hands, crayons allow your child to draw their design directly onto the fabric.  Most children are familiar with crayons for regular painting and so will feel comfortable using these.  Baker Ross do a great and inexpensive pack of 12 crayons in different colours.

Fabric markers

Similar to fabric crayons, fabric markers are a convenient and relatively mess free way of drawing directly onto fabric.  Many packs of fabric markers, like these from Amazon, contain different colours and are great value.

Fabric paint

Fabric paints are usually sold in pots like these from Clever Baggers and, are a great way of producing vibrant designs.  Unlike crayons and markers, these paints usually need to be mixed and so, are a little messier than other methods.

Most modern fabric paints, markers and crayons are non-toxic, however, there are still brands out there who use toxic ingredients so it’s always a good idea to check that your chosen brand has the AP Certified non-toxic seal as not all packaging lists the ingredients.

The right tool for the job

Now that you’ve chosen your paints, it’s time to decide which tools will work best for your design.  When it comes to tools, the sky really is the limit – many common household items work brilliantly for fabric printing including Lego bricks, bottle tops, buttons, coins, and, hands and fingers.

Now that you have your paint and your tools, it’s time to get started!

First, make sure that clothing and surfaces are protected and clear a space for your work.

Step 1

Place a piece of freezer paper inside the shirt and then iron on top of the shirt in order to stabilise the shirt for printing and, to stop the paint seeping through to the back of the shirt (and the surface that you’re using).  Make sure that the paper is shiny side up before ironing.

Step 2

Mix your fabric paint or gather your markers or crayons and place them in a tub for easy access (this also reduces mess in the event of spillage). Keep your paint-brushes handy, making sure that you have a separate one for each colour of paint. 

Step 3

Grab your painting tool and colour it with your marker or dip it into your fabric paint, making sure that the whole surface is covered.  It’s a great idea to use different tools in different colours for a fun and interesting effect.

Step 4

Press the tool firmly onto the shirt and hold it for a moment to make sure that the paint is transferred onto the fabric.  Repeat with different tools in different colours to complete your design.

Step 5

Once your design masterpiece is complete, leave to dry for a good couple of hours.  Once perfectly dry, iron inside out to seal the paint – your shirt is now ready for your child to wear – and to show off to their friends!

More printing activities

Once your child has got the hang of printing using tools, try some new projects including:

Finger painting

Using fabric transfers

Sewing patches and sequins onto fabric