Make a Customized Silhouette T-Shirt Of Your Kids

Andrea McMann, Silhouette Tee shirt, Screen printing, Silhouette T-shirt, Andrea DIY column, eco screen printing, eco tee shirt

Kids grow up quickly; so I’m always looking for new ways to celebrate these fleeting days while my little ones are still small. Recently, I came up with a fun project that captures a moment in a child’s life, and creates a unique fashion statement. Here’s how to make a customized silhouette T-shirt that features your precious tots.

Andrea McMann, Silhouette Tee shirt, Screen printing, embellishing clothing, how-to, keepsakes, silhouette T-shirt, Silhouette T-shirt, Andrea DIY column, eco screen printing, eco tee shirt

For this project, you’ll need:
1. A child who is willing to cooperate for photo taking
2. Digital Camera
3. Printer
4. Standard computer paper
5. Freezer Paper (found at the grocery store, in the plastic wrap aisle)
6. Pencil or Pen that draws crisp lines
7. Tape
8. X-Acto Knife with sharp blade (found at craft or hardware stores)
9. Old magazine or piece of thick cardboard
10. Iron
11. T-shirt of your choice (Try American Apparel, Alternative Apparel or Article 1 for green blank tees)
12. Fabric Paint of your choice
13. Paintbrush

First, you’ll need to take an appropriate photo for the project. Make sure your child is in a cooperative mood, or everyone may just end up frustrated. Try to get your child’s entire body in the photo, and don’t cut off any fingers or toes! Also, make sure your children aren’t holding their hands in front of their bodies, or the silhouette will look strange. When you’ve taken a photo you’re pleased with, imagine it as a silhouette. If you like way it looks, use it! Here’s the photo I used (Don’t my kids look thrilled to pose for me?):

Andrea McMann, Silhouette Tee shirt, Screen printing, embellishing clothing, how-to, keepsakes, silhouette T-shirt, Silhouette T-shirt, Andrea DIY column, eco screen printing, eco tee shirt

After you’ve taken a photo you’re pleased with, load it into your computer. Print your photo on regular computer paper, because photo paper is too thick for this project. I cropped my photo as closely as possible, and selected a “5×7” print size.

Tape your printed photo onto a sunny window and tear off a similar-size sheet of freezer paper. Tape this freezer paper on top of your photo, with the dull side facing toward you. Make sure you tape it snugly to prevent any wrinkles. Use a pen or pencil to trace your children’s silhouettes. For best results work slowly. Here’s what mine looked like:

Andrea McMann, Silhouette Tee shirt, Screen printing, Silhouette T-shirt, Andrea DIY column, eco screen printing, eco tee shirt

Next, use your X-Acto Knife to cut out the silhouettes. Be sure to place the magazine or cardboard underneath the paper to protect your table. Once again, work slowly and carefully. If there are any spots (especially between arms and bodies or fingers) that need to remain the same color as the shirt, save the piece of freezer paper that you cut out in these areas. Look at my silhouette for example. See those spaces between my daughter’s arm and body? I saved the piece of freezer paper I cut out there, because the silhouette wouldn’t look as good without it.

Now that your stencil is cut, it’s time to adhere the stencil to your shirt. Place your shirt on a heat-proof surface and smooth out any wrinkles. Choose a setting for your iron that corresponds with your shirt’s fabric. Do not use steam. Place your stencil on your shirt, shiny side down. Iron carefully over the stencil for about 30 seconds, or until it sticks lightly to the shirt (make sure to remove any tape from the stencil first). If you’ve saved any small cut-out pieces of freezer paper, situate them correctly, with shiny sides down, and iron again.

Next, tear off a piece of freezer paper that is slightly larger than your stencil. Place this new piece inside the shirt, shiny side up, making sure to cover any spots where the stencil is present. Iron the front of your shirt for about 30 seconds. This will create a seal and prevent paint from leaking onto the back of your shirt.

Paint a thin layer of your chosen paint over the stencil. Too much paint will result in a sloppy-looking stencil. Here’s what my painted stencil looked like:

Wait several hours (overnight is best) to allow the paint to dry. DO NOT remove the stencil too soon! After the paint is dry, carefully remove the stencil. Tweezers work great for removing any small pieces of freezer paint.

Set paint according to manufacturer’s suggestions, and enjoy your cool and priceless keepsake shirt!
Here’s my finished result:
Andrea McMann, Silhouette Tee shirt, Screen printing, Silhouette T-shirt, Andrea DIY column, eco screen printing, eco tee shirt

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32 Responses to “Make a Customized Silhouette T-Shirt Of Your Kids”

  1. Robin says:

    Great project idea!!!

  2. love the idea, totally kool and easy to do some art on all the shirts i have, thanks!

  3. Beatrice says:

    Hello, I will like to know if after used the T-shirt is washable?
    And what kind of paint did you use!
    It looks sooo NICE and green!

    Thanks,

    Beatrice.

  4. I\’ve done this before, but never thought of the freezer paper ironed to the inside. That\’s a fantastic tip, thanks for sharing it!

  5. Kristen M. says:

    Great idea. I came here via photojojo. I’ve seen this paint method and I love silhouettes – I just never thought to combine the two. I’m thinking it would be fun for my kids to create their own t’s with a silhouette of them and their favorite stuffed animals.

  6. JuanS says:

    I have to try this! thank you

  7. eric says:

    You could also cut the stencil out of contact paper. I used to use that for masks when airbrushing t-shirts years ago.

  8. Angela says:

    Can\’t wait to try this out, kids willing of course

  9. Cheryl says:

    I am very excited to try this this afternoon. I have never done anything like this and I don\’t really understand how the paint sticks to only the silouhette of the kids. So once you put the freezer paint and iron you never pull any of the freezer paper off until the next morning? I\’m gonna give it a try! Yours is awesome.

  10. Baraka says:

    Incredibly cool!

  11. motor9 says:

    Another method (if ya got the goodies, of course) is make sure your photo is a silhouette (or high contrast) to begin with so that the edges are easily defined. In (adobe) Illustrator use the Auto Trace feature to generate a vector graphic based on your photo. Delete any unnecessary objects leaving only a solid closed outline. Export the graphic to your vinyl cutter (I use a Roland Stika 15) and watch it cut away… remove (or weed) the interior vinyl from your art work and your all set. A perfect stencil (semi-reusable) with a sticky surface. I’ve repositioned one a few times, but use caution as the vinyl is delicate. Once you place the stencil, you can mask around it and spray with fabric spray paint. Multi-color looks sweet! Sorry for the looonnnggg post – enjoy! [m]

  12. jim says:

    Freezer paper, what’s that, Is is called something else in the UK?

  13. Tina says:

    Great school holiday activity for kids who are old enough to help with the painting part. A pet cat or dog who can sit or stand still for a photo could work well too. Light coloured paint on a dark shirt is another idea.

  14. theresa says:

    Could you show a picture of the inside of the shirt? Does the paint make it stiff on the inside?

  15. Kate says:

    Jim – (or anyone in the UK or Australia) – apparently it is very hard or impossible to find freezer paper there. I’ve been in a lot of swaps with people from other countries where they ask me to send them freezer paper. Just an FYI.

    Thanks for the great idea – I think it will make a perfect b-day present for my sister!

  16. BrudderLuv says:

    Freezer paper is just paper that is polyethylene coated on one side.

  17. Mandy says:

    This is fabulous! What a great idea!

  18. Bill says:

    I’ve also heard of doing a similar project with bleach. It works by bleaching the areas NOT covered by the paper. Might be interesting to combine the two ideas. of course, bleach is a tough one with small kids.

  19. Jenn says:

    I just wanted to let everyone know, that I did this well over 5 years ago. I used Basic® Acrylics on FoTL T-shirts. Yes, 5 years later they are still holding strong. The T-shirt has since faded but the print is perfect. I didnt do photo silhouettes, I used hand crafted stencils.

  20. Thanks, everyone, for the wonderful response to my silhouette T-shirt project! I’d like to take a few moments to answer your questions.

    Beatrice: I use regular old fabric paint, which can be found in any craft store. Acryllic paint works also. It’s completely washable after 72 hours.

    Cheryl: I usually wait overnight to pull the freezer paper off, because I happen to do most of my stencils in the late evening. This saves me from temptation quite nicely! As a general rule, at least four hours is good enough.

    Jim: I think that Kate already answered your question! You could use contact paper, or order freezer paper online. Good luck!

    Theresa: The inside of my shirts really don’t look like much. Sometimes a vague shadow of the stencilled image comes through on the back side of the front of the shirt. For the stencil to work well, you have to use a fairly thin coat of paint, and it often doesn’t bleed through much. Depending on what kind of paint you use, it doesn’t have to be stiff on the front or the back. If you can find soft fabric paint (some craft stores carry it, or look online), it makes wonderfully soft stencils that feel like they’re part of the fabric!

    I hope that my answers have helped all of you! If you need any further assistance, you can email me at: chocolatefingerprints(at)gmail(dot)com.

    Thanks again!

  21. erin says:

    I’m in the US and I think “freezer paper” is the same thing as “waxed paper,” which is what I’ve always called it. Hope that helps. The wax must temporarily melt onto the shirt, like batik, right?

  22. Sherry says:

    Freezer paper and waxed paper are NOT the same thing! Waxed paper has a waxy feeling on both sides and is somewhat transparent – and it shouldn’t stick to anything that it’s ironed to, as the wax is a deterrent. Freezer paper looks and feels like white butcher paper, but with a somewhat plasticky-feeling coating on one side. It is used to wrap and freeze cuts of meat… plus it makes great stencils, and if ironed to fabric (muslin works well) trimmed to 8-1/2 x 11 inches, you can print onto fabric with your inkjet printer.

    Another idea (haven’t tried it yet, but it should work as it’s on the same principle) is to use prepasted wallpaper. Wallpaper is made to withstand a lot of abuse. I’d try printing on the prepasted side. After cutting out the stencil and before ironing it onto your shirt, spritz the prepasted side with water from a water mister – that should make the stencil stick to the surface of the t-shirt.

  23. I totally LOVE this and will definitely try it!!
    Thanks!

  24. Jen says:

    This is a FABULOUS find for me. We never do Christmas presents between my parents and my husband and me. They always get gifts for my kids — but they have 18 grandkids plus several great grandkids, so they just skip their own children altogether (there are 7 of us, and most of are married!).

    So I’m the person with the love language of gifts — I am most delighted when I find the perfect gift for someone. This would be perfect for my parents from my children. I’m definitely going to try some variation of it for Christmas for them, this year.

    Thanks!

  25. christy says:

    First I tried wax paper, your right not the same I thought they were too! Ran out for freezer paper, worked like a charm, at least it has soo far, I just painted it and am now waiting for it to dry. I want to peek soooo bad! I will be a big girl and wait ’till morning. Thank you I am oh so diggin it!

  26. Karen says:

    I’m in LA and I have gone to three different grocery stores looking for freezer paper… any ideas anyone? How about contact paper? Thanks. My son has been making stencils but always had problems with not getting a clean edge. It sounds like this will be the ticket!

  27. ashleyd! says:

    i’ve seen this tutorial done a few times and this one i understand the best!!! thanks so much for spelling it out simply enough to be understood!!!

  28. Brandon says:

    Freezer paper is good for one-off shirts, but for reusable stencils, use overhead transparency sheets. They’re thicker, so they’re more difficult to cut, but you’ll be able to make more shirts than you will with freezer paper. To make it temporarily stick to the shirt, use a spray adhesive.

    I’ve also had good results getting a thin coat of paint into all the nooks and crannies of the stencil without moving it by using a foam brush and dabbing up and down, rather than moving it in a painting motion.

    Here are two shirts I made around 2004 using this technique:
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v332/NoPopNoStyle/Craftster_Stencil/alf_shirt.jpg
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v332/NoPopNoStyle/Craftster_Stencil/tschichold.jpg

    You can find a lot more info and discussion of various techniques where I first did: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?board=141.0

  29. David Baker says:

    I wanted to let you know that I made a shirt like this with my son and daughter on it for my wife for Christmas and she absolutely loved it. Thank you for the idea.

  30. Is what you did called screen printing? That’s pretty cool.

  31. downhomediy says:

    Just FYI…
    Reynold’s makes a freezer paper
    http://www.reynoldspkg.com/reynoldskitchens/en/product.asp?prod_id=1798

    LOVE this project! Thanks for sharing.

  32. interiorblogging says:

    In Australia you can buy Reynolds freezer paper from Spotlight. They sell it by the metre for a doller or so. Looking forward to making my silhouette.

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