How to Decorate Kids' T-Shirts


Kids will love the Spiral T-shirt.
Kids will love the Spiral T-shirt.

Every kid has a favorite T-shirt. With the T-shirt decorating crafts in this article, kids can now have favorite T-shirts they decorated themselves.

These kids' T-shirt decorating ideas include a mix of styles, from tie-dye patterns bursting with color to nature-inspired designs you can make from the leaves in your own back yard.

Each decorating idea includes a list of needed materials and easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. With a little practice, it won't be long until you've learned how to decorate kids' T-shirts.

Get started on these great wearable art craft projects with the links below:

Tees Please T-Shirt

This cool T-shirt decorating idea uses images of kids' favorite things -- cars, animals, and flowers -- to make a personalized design.

Around the House T-Shirt

With this T-shirt idea, you'll use house paint to add color to a plain white T-shirt.

Tie-Dye T-Shirt

Follow simple, step-by-step instructions to create a colorful classic T-shirt design.

Trivia Challenge T-Shirt

Hammered Leaf Prints T-Shirt

Learn how to decorate a T-shirt using this cool leaf printing technique.

Batik T-Shirt

Try this T-shirt decorating technique to transform a plain white T-shirt into a colorful and beautiful treasure.

In the Mist T-Shirt

This T-shirt decorating idea combines leaves with transparent paint mist -- resulting in a lovely, forest-inspired creation.

Native American Feather T-Shirt

Feathers combine with paint and buttons to create this cool T-shirt decorating idea.

Spiral T-Shirt

This colorful T-shirt decorating idea involves a fun, hands-on technique kids will love trying.

Making a Splash T-Shirt

Have a favorite photo? With this T-shirt decorating idea, you can frame that photo -- on a T-shirt -- with a cool wave frame.

Cutting and pasting take on a whole new meaning with the kids' T-shirt decorating idea in the next section. Keep reading to learn about the tees, please T-shirt.

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Tees Please Kids' T-Shirt

You don't have to be a great artist to make a terrific T-shirt. The tees please kids' T-shirt uses a collection of cool images to make a personalized T-shirt design.

What You'll Need:

  • Cotton T-shirt in any color
  • Pictures cut out from printed fabric (the bigger, the better) of cars, aircraft, horses, stuffed animals, flowers, etc.
  • Scissors
  • Dual-sided fusible interfacing
  • Iron
  • Fabric paint in tubes
  • Wide piece of cardboard

How to make the tees please kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Wash and dry the T-shirt first; don't use fabric softener. (Fabric softener keeps the interfacing and paint from bonding completely.)

Step 2: Cut out the pictures and other shapes from the fabric. Plan your original design. Then cut out interfacing to match the fabric pieces.

Step 3: Iron the interfacing onto the fabric pieces following package instructions. Then, iron the fabric pieces onto the T-shirt.

To make the shirt even more durable, use a sewing machine to make small stitches around each picture.

Step 4: Slip the cardboard form into the T-shirt to make the fabric taut before painting. Using fabric paint in a tube, outline all edges of the pictures. This helps anchor them to the T-shirt.

Step 5: Let the paint dry, and then outline the edges again. Let dry for 24 hours. Avoid using fabric softener in the wash later, because it could loosen the fabric pictures.

The kids' T-shirt decorating idea in the next section uses an unlikely item -- house paint -- to make a totally unique T-shirt. Keep reading to learn more.

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Around the House Kids' T-Shirt

Decorate the around the house kids' T-shirt with the paint colors from your own house.
Decorate the around the house kids' T-shirt with the paint colors from your own house.

House paint turns a T-shirt into something cool with the around the house kids' T-shirt decorating project. Your T-shirt will be more personalized if you use the paint colors from your own house!

What You'll Need:

  • White T-shirt
  • Newspaper
  • Large plastic bag
  • Sponges
  • Blunt scissors
  • Water-based house paint
  • Clean foam food tray (from fruits or vegetables only)
  • Scrap paper

How to make the around the house kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Place your T-shirt over spread-out newspaper. Put a large plastic bag inside the shirt, between the back and front.

Step 2: To paint your shirt, make some printing stamps using sponges. Cut sponges in the shape of a star, crescent moon, and sun. Put some house paint in the foam tray and dip a damp sponge in the paint.

Dab off the excess paint on scrap paper. Now print your design on the shirt, covering any existing house-paint stains. Let the paint dry completely.

Tie-dyeing is a classic way to jazz up a plain white T-shirt. Learn more about this kids' T-shirt decorating technique in the next section.

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Tie-Dye Kids' T-Shirt

You and your kids will have a great time making this tie-dye kids' T-shirt.
You and your kids will have a great time making this tie-dye kids' T-shirt.

Kids will love wearing this cool tie-dye kids' T-shirt, with its bright bursts of color. What's more, the process of making a tie-dye T-shirt is fun for kids and adults, too.

What You'll Need:

  • White T-shirt
  • Rubber bands
  • Large plastic bag
  • Red, yellow, and blue fabric dye
  • 3 squeeze bottles
  • Soda ash
  • Scissors

How to make a tie-dye kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Cover your work area with a large plastic bag. Wearing rubber gloves, mix the dye. Pour 1/2 cup of hot water into each squeeze bottle.

Add one teaspoon of yellow dye to one bottle, two teaspoons of red to another bottle, and two teaspoons of blue dye to the third bottle. Add two teaspoons of soda ash to each bottle. Screw the lids onto the bottles. Shake well to mix.

Step 2: To make a bull's-eye design, gather the T-shirt in your hand with the center as one end of the gathered shirt.

Tightly wrap a rubber band around the shirt about two inches from the center point. Bundle another rubber band about two inches down from the first rubber band.

Step 3: Place the rubber-banded T-shirt on your work surface. Squeeze the red dye over the first section, squirting into the folds.

Apply the yellow dye to the next section, then squeeze the blue dye about two inches beyond the last rubber band. Let the shirt set for about three hours.

Step 4: After the shirt has dried, rinse each section until the water runs clear. Remove the rubber bands and lay the shirt flat to dry.

Trivia goes beyond the board game with the kids' T-shirt decorating idea in the next section. Keep reading to learn how to make the trivia challenge kids' T-shirt.

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Trivia Challenge Kids' T-Shirt

Pick the topics you're interested in to decorate the trivia challenge kids' T-shirt.
Pick the topics you're interested in to decorate the trivia challenge kids' T-shirt.

You'll keep them guessing when you wear the trivia challenge kids' T-shirt. Personalize this kids' T-shirt design by choosing trivia questions about your favorite subject.

What You'll Need:

  • White T-shirt
  • Fabric markers
  • Research books

How to make the trivia challenge kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Dig up interesting facts by reading encyclopedias and other informative books on the topic. Then form questions about the facts you learned.

Step 2: Write the questions on a T-shirt using fabric markers. Write them in interesting patterns on the shirt. Some should be in very tiny letters and others in large letters.

For one question, use a combination of words with large letters and words with small letters. Try different types of handwriting. Then challenge your friends to answer the questions on your shirt!

The kids' T-shirt decorating idea in the next section uses leaf prints as embellishments. Keep reading to learn more.

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Hammered Leaf Prints Kids' T-Shirt

Kids who love nature will love making the hammered leaf prints kids' T-shirt. Make your T-shirt truly personal by using leaves from your own backyard.

What You'll Need:

  • Small board (1/2 to one inch thick)
  • Newspaper
  • 100% cotton garment or fabric
  • Leaves
  • Waxed paper
  • Masking tape
  • Hammer
  • Alum
  • Water
  • Salt

How to make the hammered leaf prints kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Cover a small board with two or three layers of newspaper. Lay your fabric on the board. Open up the bottom of the t-shirt and slip the board and newspaper inside.

Step 2: Arrange a variety of leaves on the fabric. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper, and tape the corners of the waxed paper to the fabric.

Step 3: Pound with the hammer until you have pounded every part of the leaf. When you are done, lift off the waxed paper. You'll see a leaf print.

Step 4: To set the print, soak for two minutes in a mixture of three tablespoons of alum and one gallon of warm water. Wring out the excess fluid, then soak the fabric in a mixture of 1/4 cup of salt and one gallon of warm water.

Remove the fabric, rub off any clinging bits of leaf, wring, and let it dry. Wash by hand in cold water.

A simple white T-shirt becomes a beautiful, colorful treasure with the batik kids' T-shirt project in the next section. Keep reading to learn more.

Looking for more great kids' crafts? Try:

Batik Kids' T-Shirt

Each batik kids' T-shirt you make is completely unique.
Each batik kids' T-shirt you make is completely unique.

These batik kids' T-shirts are beautiful, colorful, and simple to make. The great thing about these batik T-shirts is that no matter how many you make, each will be different.

What You'll Need:

  • Large plastic bag
  • White T-shirt
  • Fabric marker or pencil
  • Old crayons
  • Paper cupcake liners
  • Disposable paintbrushes
  • Fabric dye
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Iron and ironing board

How to make a batik kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Cover your work surface with a large plastic bag. Lightly draw a design on your T-shirt.

Step 2: Remove the paper wrapping from the crayons. Melt the crayons in paper cupcake liners in the microwave.

Step 3: Paint the melted crayons on your design. Let it dry. Then crumple up the T-shirt. This is what creates the cracked look of batik.

Step 4: Mix the fabric dye according to package directions. Be sure to wear rubber gloves. Soak the T-shirt in the dye for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 5: Cover an area of your work surface with paper towels. Place the T-shirt flat on the paper towels to dry.

Step 6: Iron the T-shirt between four layers of paper towels. The paper will soak up the excess wax.

The next design uses fern leaves and paint to create a beautiful, forest-inspired look. Check out the in the mist kids' t-shirt decorating idea in the next section.

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In the Mist Kids' T-Shirt

If your child loves the outdoors, he'll appreciate this rainforest-inspired t-shirt.
If your child loves the outdoors, he'll appreciate this rainforest-inspired t-shirt.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

When you make the in the mist kids' T-shirt, you'll remember your last walk through the woods by using the materials you collected on your trek. Fern fronds work well, but any kind of large leaves will work.

What You'll Need:

  • White T-shirt
  • Transparent fabric paint mist: tea dye brown, emerald green, and cornflower blue
  • Fern fronds or other large leaves

Tools:

  • Waxed paper
  • Newspapers (optional)
  • Glue stick (optional)

How to make the in the mist kids' T-shirt:

Place wax paper inside the shirt between the front and back.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 1: Spread shirt out on waxed paper or newspaper-covered work surface. (You may want to work outside or in the garage.) Place waxed paper between front and back of the shirt and inside the sleeves.

Arrange the fern frongs on the t-shirt.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 2: Cut fern fronds and arrange on front of the shirt. If desired, lightly touch a glue stick to any leaves that are sticking up. This isn't necessary, but it helps make a clearer image when painted.

Spray the paint in a diagnol movement beginning at the lower right corner of the shirt.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 3: Shake brown paint well. Spray in a diagonal area at bottom right of shirt. Repeat with green paint, slightly overlapping paint colors and continuing up in a diagonal direction.

Continue pattern with blue paint. If necessary, use brown again to fill in extra space at the top left corner of the shirt.

Remove the fern fronds, and let the shirt dry.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 4: Carefully remove fern fronds and let shirt dry. You can paint the back of the shirt in the same way, with or without the fern fronds.

The Native American feather kids' T-shirt uses feathers, paint, and a silver button to create a unique, beautiful T-shirt. Learn how to make this kids' T-shirt in the next section.

Looking for more great kids' crafts? Try:

Native American Feather Kids' T-Shirt

This Native American feather t-shirt is easy to make but very creative.
This Native American feather t-shirt is easy to make but very creative.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

The Native American feather kids' T-shirt celebrates the Native American spirit with a lovely feather-print design. A silver button and tiny "beads" of fabric paint make a colorful finish.

What You'll Need:

  • T-shirt
  • Three feathers
  • Black fabric printing ink or acrylic paint
  • Silver button
  • Dimensional paint in three or four colors

Tools:

  • Waxed paper
  • Flat dish
  • Brayer*
  • Scrap paper
  • Needle and thread

*You can buy a brayer at an art store, or make one with a roll of adding machine paper. Cover the roll with scotch tape and slip a pencil through the middle to create a rolling pin.

How to make the Native American feather kids' T-shirt:

Arrange the feathers on the t-shirt.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 1: Place waxed paper between the front and back of a freshly washed shirt (do not use fabric softener). Arrange the feathers on the front of the shirt the way you want them placed.

Roll the brayer in paint, and then gently roll it over the feather.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 2: Spread a bit of black printing ink on a flat dish by rolling it repeatedly with the brayer. Hold a feather by its shaft on top of a piece of scrap paper.

Gently roll the inked brayer from the bottom up to the tip of the feather. Roll several times, always in an upward direction, until the feather is covered with ink. Roll the brayer in the inky dish often to reink it.

Place the feather, inkside down, on the t-shirt.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 3: Carefully place the feather, ink side down, on the shirt following your arrangement in Step 1.

Do not wiggle it or bump the feather once it has been laid on the shirt or you will smear the design. Ink and place the other two feathers on the shirt.

Cover the feathers with waxed paper, and gently rub the feathers.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 4: Gently cover the feathers with a piece of waxed paper. Rub each feather with your hand so the ink transfers to the fabric.

Remove the feathers, and allow the t-shirt to dry.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 5: Carefully lift off the waxed paper and the feathers. Allow ink to dry.

Sew on a silver button, and draw dots down the shaft of the feather using dimensional paint.
2007 Publications International. Ltd.

Step 6: Sew the silver button to the shirt at the top of the feather design. Use dimensional paint to make tiny dots of color down the printed shaft of each feather. Set your shirt aside to dry.

The spiral kids' T-shirt uses a cool technique to make a fun, colorful T-shirt. Learn more about this kids' T-shirt in the next section.

Looking for more great kids' crafts? Try:

Spiral Kids' T-Shirt

Your kid will love the spiral kids' T-shirt.
Your kid will love the spiral kids' T-shirt.

The spiral kids' T-shirt decorating idea uses a cool spiral technique to create a one-of-a-kind T-shirt sure to become your kid's favorite.

The sky's the limit when you use the spiraling technique to add color to a simple T-shirt. Don't stop with one or two colors -- give your creativity free rein.

What You'll Need:

  • White cotton T-shirt
  • 6 rubber bands
  • Purple and teal fabric dye
  • 2 squeeze bottles
  • Paper towels
  • Scissors

How to make the spiral kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Soak shirt in cold water. Remove from water and wring out excess fluids.

Step 2: Lay shirt face-down on work surface. Place three fingers (thumb, index, middle finger) in middle of shirt. Press down firmly with your fingers and twist the shirt clockwise.

The spiral will start to form as you spin the shirt with your fingers. With your other hand, keep the pleats sharp as they form. When the shirt is tightly twisted, it will form a circle.

Press down firmly with your fingers

Step 3: Place a rubber band across the center of the shirt. Place another rubber band across the center in the opposite direction. Add four more rubber bands, dividing the circle into 12 equal wedges.

Use several rubber bands to divide the circle into 12 equal wedges.

Step 4: Wearing rubber gloves, put dye into squeeze bottles. Apply dye by starting at the outside of one wedge and squeezing dye into wedge. Stop before you get to the center point. Continue alternating dyes until all wedges have color.

Alternate dyes until all the wedges have color.

Step 5: Turn the shirt over and apply dye to the opposite side, making sure to squeeze the same color dye into the same wedge as on the front. Continue until all wedges are dyed.

Let dye set 30 to 60 minutes. Rinse under cold water, gently squeezing until water runs clear. Blot with paper towels.

Blot with paper towels.

Step 6: Cut rubber bands off with scissors. Unroll shirt and let air-dry.

Cut rubber bands off with scissors.

The making a splash kids' T-shirt combines a favorite photo with a cool water-splash pattern. Check out the final section to learn how to make this great kids' T-shirt.

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Making a Splash Kids' T-Shirt

Everyone's a winner with the making a splash kids' T-shirt.
Everyone's a winner with the making a splash kids' T-shirt.

If your son or daughter excels at a particular sport, the making a splash kids' T-shirt is a great way to display their team spirit.

With this project, you can transfer the team's best photo to your child's favorite t-shirt so they can show off their winning team with pride.

What You'll Need:

  • White T-shirt
  • Photo-transfer medium
  • 1-inch sponge brush
  • Palette
  • Scissors
  • Waxed paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Fabric paint brushes (we used a flat shader and a medium round)
  • Color photocopy of desired photograph. (If there are numbers or letters in your photograph, be sure to ask for a mirror-image copy at the print shop.)
  • Blue crystal dimensional fabric paint
  • Aqua or blue soft sparkling fabric paint
  • Pressing cloth
  • Washable fabric glue
  • White paper
  • Black marker
  • Disappearing-ink pen
  • Shirt board

How to make the making a splash kids' T-shirt:

Step 1: Place your shirt on a shirt board. If your shirt board has dried paint on it, cover it with waxed paper, because dried paint may transfer to the inside of your shirt and discolor your photo.

Step 2: Trim all white edges from photocopy. Lay photocopy face up on waxed paper. Apply a thick layer of transfer medium with finger or sponge brush. Be sure all edges and corners have been covered.

Apply a thick layer of transfer medium

Step 3: Place photocopy face down on center of shirt, about 3 1/2 inches from base of neckline. Smooth onto shirt with rolling pin, making sure to remove any air bubbles.

If any transfer medium is pressed out of the sides, wipe it up immediately. Dry flat for 24 hours.

Use a rolling pin

Step 4: After 24 hours, remove shirt from shirt board and heat-set both sides of transfer for 30 seconds using a pressing cloth and a dry iron on a wool setting. Let cool.

Heat-set both sides of the transfer using a

Step 5: Soak shirt in water for 30 to 60 minutes. Remove from water. Squeeze excess water from shirt, but do not wring transfer area. Lay shirt on a clean, flat surface.

Using your fingers, gently rub paper backing. Work from the center of the transfer to the outside edges.

Step 6: When you have removed the first layer of paper, return shirt to water to soak for another 15 minutes. Remove from water, repeating process until all paper particles have been removed.

Be especially careful when rubbing edges so as not to tear the transfer. Let shirt dry flat. (Transfer may appear cloudy.)

Remove the paper backing from the transfer.

Step 7: When all paper particles have been removed and shirt is dry, return shirt to shirt board. Pour a puddle of washable glue onto palette and use sponge brush to apply a thin coat to the transfer area. Set aside to dry.

Use sponge brush to apply a thin coat of washable glue to the transfer area.

Step 8: Trace splash patterns onto separate sheets of white paper with black marker. Place patterns inside shirt above and to right of transfer, aligning corners of splash with corner of photo.

Trace patterns onto shirt with disappearing-ink pen. Repeat, moving patterns below and to left of transfer.

Trace patterns onto shirt with disappearing-ink pen.

Step 9: Use fabric paint brushes to brush soft sparkling fabric paint inside of splash lines. Squeeze blue crystal paint from bottle in a line around the edge of the transfer. Use the flat shader brush to flatten line of paint in a wavy fashion.

Use fabric paint brushes to brush soft

Making a splash kids' T-shirt variation:

The splash design works well with a swimming picture and blue paint, but you can also use the same pattern with any team photo for any sport.

Simply change the paint to the colors of your team or other colors that will coordinate with your photo, and you can make a splash even if you're not a swimmer.

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ABOUT THE CRAFT DESIGNERS

Trivia Challenge by Lisa Lerner and Kersten Hamilton

In the Mist by Janelle Hayes ad Kim Solga

Native American Feather by Janelle Hayes and Kim Solga

Spiral by contributing writers Christine DeJulio, Janelle Hayes, and Muriel Spencer

Making a Splash by contributing writers Janelle Hayes, Christina Romo Carlisle, and Janis Bullis