Homeschool Art Class

Fabric Printing (Permanently) with Crayons and Sandpaper

My kids love wearable art.  Making it is fun and telling everyone they made it themselves is even better!  This fabric printing method is especially do-able because it doesn’t require any specialty fabric paints or markers, just plain old crayons.

My kids love wearable art. This fabric printing method is especially do-able because it doesn't require any special fabric medium, just plain old crayons.

Did you guys know it’s possible to heat set plain old crayons to be permanent on cotton fabric?  You can!  It’s easy and uses up old crayons instead of investing in more supplies that you only use for one project!   Grab an old t shirt and get busy drawing, printing, and showing off!

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Sandpaper as an art supply…

While you could color straight on to the fabric we’re going to color on sandpaper and then transfer that image to the fabric.  If you have ever watched a child try to color on fabric I will tell you it’s not easy.  Fabric is stretchy and squishy.  Unless you stretch it it’s almost impossible for a little one to color back and forth without the fabric wadding up in a really frustrating way.

Sandpaper doesn’t do that.  The scratchy texture adds a nice sensory element to coloring and a textural element to the final print.  We used a fine grade of sandpaper.  The rougher the sandpaper the more texture will show in the final print.  Either will work; use what you have!

Choosing a successful design…

Printing an image reverses it, like a mirror image.  This can be a tough concept for kids to get.  I discourage words or letters for that reason.  (Although my kids were certain they could write their words in mirror image that doesn’t seem like the best idea for new writers!)

Sandpaper is not a precise art.  It’s rough which doesn’t allow for sharp, clear lines.  (That’s why this is a great project for using up old crayons.  Save the new box for another day!)  Choosing a subject that’s large, graphic, and easy will allow for success!

Lay that color down..

Lay that color down heavy!  I like to think of this as a bit of exercise for little fingers.  Crayon shouldn’t be fine lines but blocks of color.  You’re trying to deposit the crayon wax onto the sandpaper, lots of it.  All of our Crayola crayons worked for this.  These Metallic FX crayons  were especially soft and easy to deposit on the sand paper.  But again, use what you have.

We cut our images out when they were done being colored.  There were lots of little crayon “bits” floating around.  Cutting them out avoided ironing those specks onto our t-shirts.

My kids love wearable art. This fabric printing method is especially do-able because it doesn't require any special fabric medium, just plain old crayons.

Fabric printing….

Now to transfer the image from sandpaper to t shirt.  Turn your t-shirt inside out.   Place a piece of cardboard inside the t-shirt and preheat your iron to high.

You want to place your colored sandpaper inside the t-shirt (which is inside out,)  crayon side touching the front of the t-shirt.  This means your iron will be ironing the wrong side of the t-shirt and directly under that will be the colored sandpaper.  Make sense?

Updated: I’ve had some questions on this part!  Make sure the crayoned sandpaper is touching the front of the shirt when it is ironed.   Where it is touching is where the design will be!

Now cover all those layers with a layer of parchment paper to protect your iron.  We ironed all of our individual pieces at once but our designs didn’t need to be too precise.  You could do it one piece at a time.

Apply iron moving it very slowly with a little pressure.  Feel free to peek and make sure you’re happy with the amount of color transfer before peeling your layers apart.

Turn t-shirt right side out and iron again; still protecting your iron with a layer of parchment paper.  Keep your iron on high heat to ensure you’re heat setting your fabric printing.

My kids love wearable art. This fabric printing method is especially do-able because it doesn't require any special fabric medium, just plain old crayons.

Throw that baby in the dryer…

One more step to fully heat set your fabric printing; the dryer.  Throw your t-shirt into the dryer on high heat for a half hour or so.  Alone.  Do it with just your printed t-shirt just in case any waxy pigment is still coming off!

I also washed and dried this tee by itself the first time.  I couldn’t tell that any crayons-y wax came off at all- just being safe!

Wear and enjoy…

This would be super fun and easy to do with a group for a birthday party or Scouts.  You could print t-shirts, pillowcases, bandanas, anything cotton!  Let me know how your printed fabric project turns out!

 

 

Use up old crayons with this fun melted crayon process art!

Looking  for other ways to use up that basket of crayon bits and pieces?  Try this melted crayon art!

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20 Comments

  • Reply

    Kelsey

    July 17, 2017

    Can you add more than one shirt that has been printed on in the dryer or will they bleed together? Thinking of doing this with a group.

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 17, 2017

      I did two at once and they did not bleed. I did iron them really hot and long before hand. I think any excess wax comes off at that point! let me know hw it goes! This would be a good cheap-ish project for a group!

  • Reply

    Liz

    July 18, 2017

    Sounds like a great project for my pre-k-ers.. question.. Is there a type of sandpaper that is good to use or does it not matter? Thanks so much.

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 18, 2017

      The example in the pic was done on super fine sandpaper. It doesn’t have much graininess at all. It works with any type of sandpaper it will just have more or less texture based on what you choose. They make great prints on paper as well!

  • Reply

    Anna

    July 20, 2017

    So, your crayon will be coming off of the sandpaper onto the back of the shirt’s front side, since it is inside out. Thus, the wax will be laid down inside the shirt and seep through to show on the front when you turn it back right to wear. Am I correct? Sounds like a fabulous project to do with my 7 year old grandson who loves craft projects. 🙂

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 20, 2017

      SO you want the crayon to be in contact with the front of the shirt. The you want to iron the backside of the shirt. You’re transferring color to the front of the shirt but just ironing the backside so the heat transfers through. The crayon will not be dark enough to show through the inside of the shirt! You can do this same process on paper too! Have fun and let me know if you have any more questions!

    • Reply

      Judy

      July 22, 2017

      No, as I read it, the crayon gets laid down on the FRONT side of the shirt. You iron the wrong side of the FRONT of the shirt while it’s turned inside-out. Imagine placing the designs, crayon side down, on the FRONT of the shirt where you want them to be, and then turning the shirt inside-out! The sandpaper would now be on the inside, with the crayon touching the FRONT of the shirt. You iron on the wrong side of the FRONT of the shirt. Of course you can’t really lay the sandpaper on it before turning it inside out, so you have to turn it inside out first, then place your sandpaper inside the inside-out shirt, with crayon touching the FRONT, if you want the design on the FRONT! Hope that helps. It’s more confusing to say than it is when you do it!

      • Reply

        kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

        July 22, 2017

        I am dizzy reading this but you are spot on! It does get so confusing to explain but is pretty simple if you just think about putting the crayon so it touched the front of the shirt! Judy- your explanation is perfect!

  • Reply

    MARY

    July 20, 2017

    I’m curious, how does the picture hold up over time? With several washings does it get duller? And do I have to worry about the wax getting onto other clothes after the initial wash?

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 20, 2017

      Hi Mary, I washed and dried the printed shirts separately the first time. After that I have just thrown them in with other kids clothes. They haven’t left wax on anything. The image has dulled slightly after 7-8 washes but not significantly. I’m still happy with how the image looks!! Let me know how it goes for you!!

  • Reply

    Fiona Scally

    July 20, 2017

    What if you don’t have a drier, any suggestions on alternatives to this step? Thanks.

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 20, 2017

      You could try just setting it with a super hot iron and then letting it air dry. I turned my iron on the highest heat and really gave it some pressure and my image stayed great. I can’t imagine that the drier has more heat than the iron I used. You could always try it on a old rag or shirt! Let me know how it works!!

  • Reply

    Felicia

    July 21, 2017

    Could you use oil pastels or would that be too greasy? This is an awesome idea! We may have to try it with our national art honor society!!

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 21, 2017

      I would guess they would be too greasy. If you try it let me know how it goes!!

  • Reply

    lacyquilter

    July 24, 2017

    Since you’re using high heat on your iron, is it necessary that your shirt is 100 percent cotton?

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 24, 2017

      The t-shirt we used was 100% cotton. I’m thinking it would most likely work on a mixed material as well though. Let me know if you try it!

  • Reply

    Wendy

    July 25, 2017

    How did you get the design onto the sandpaper so you can color it in? I am confused about that one.

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 26, 2017

      Hi Wendy,
      We just colored right on the sandpaper. It was a free hand design so there wasn’t any transferring of a pattern or anything! Just color away!!

  • Reply

    jacqueline

    July 27, 2017

    What a beautiful way to transfer images. This is a great project. Thanks for sharing, I will most definitely be making prints on a t-shirt.
    -Jacqueline

    • Reply

      kitchentableclassroom@gmail.com

      July 27, 2017

      Thanks Jacqueline! Let me know how it goes!

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