Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tutorial: Make Your Own Custom Clothing Designs With Ink Effects

As I've mentioned before, I've got pretty limited graphic making & drawings skills.  Even so, I don't let it stop me wanting to create my own designs on clothes.  Today I'm going to show how to make fun custom transfers - that anyone can do - using Ink Effects.

So what am I talking about?  Ink Effects is a fabric transfer ink made by DecoArt (one of my lovely sponsors).  I really wanted to try it out, because I've always had a love/hate relationship with traditional iron-on transfers.  I love the idea of ironing on an instant design, but no matter what I did, they ALWAYS peeled off.  Who wants a shirt you can wear once or twice and then looks defective?  That sheet stuff also limits things to a single color, is a bit pricey & requires a cutting machine if you want to make a custom shape.  And it looks plastic-y.   So frustrating!

Using Ink Effects is totally different.  You simply paint your design on regular paper and iron it onto your fabric.  You can use lots of colors, mix them to create your own shades and layer them too.  So many more possibilities...there's no way I could have made this with those plastic sheets:

The inks transfer best on synthetic fabrics, but will still work with cotton blends for a more watercolor-like finish.  The trick with those is using their spray-on base coat to help the ink adhere better.  I used it with the two t-shirts I did:

It's also important to go by the colors on the caps when designing - not the color of the ink as it goes on.  It'll transfer on the fabric as the cap color:

For my first one I just painted up a coloring book page.  My little miss is a My Little Pony fanatic, so I knew she'd go bananas for a pony-themed shirt.  I painted the black outline with a really thin craft brush:

Then I filled in with some colors.  There's no way I could draw Rarity myself, but I can paint in the lines of a coloring book:

Then I just ironed it on.  You've got to keep the iron moving a bit and press really firmly to get the colors to transfer evenly.  With the cotton blends it took a few minutes:

Then I just peeled the paper away and could see some purple pony peeking out:

Ta-da!  We have a pretty pony!  I was hoping little miss would like it and the minute she saw it she went "MY LITTLE PONY!  It's a Rarity shirt!!!" and snatched it out of my hands.  I think it's safe to say she approved.

If you want to do your own custom designs it's nearly as easy.  I wanted to make a Harry Potter-themed shirt for my 10yr old since he's a big fan, but I had nothing I could just color like that.  So, I downloaded a free Harry Potter font from and typed up the phase I wanted in Word and remembered to mirror it before printing (you don't want backwards letters!).  For the wizard's hat I freehand drew a pointed hat with a little "H" crest and traced two quarters to make the perfectly round glasses.

I painted two layers so the black would be pretty solid.  It took a little time painting the letters, but it wasn't hard.  Then I lined up the papers to a spacing I liked & did the ironing.

I didn't iron the edges quite as long as I probably should have, so I could have transfered the black a bit better, but it kind of gives is a bit of a dreamy, foggy feel.  Since that's sort of Potter-esque, my little guy still digs it:

And if you want crisper, brighter color, using 100% synthetic fabric is the way to go.  I had this plain polyester white top I hadn't worn in years because it was a bit boring, but add some freehanded blue sparrows and it's much more interesting:

I liked the freedom to do whatever kind of design I want and not be overly complicated.  It's also making me want to do more things with synthetic fabrics, which is something I usually avoid.  Now I want to rummage though some more old clothes in the basement and see what else I can transform!

I'm also sharing this project with my FAVE LINK PARTIES.
Click HERE to check them out!

I was not financially compensated for this post.  I received free products, of my own choosing, from DecoArt to use in my own project ideas.  The opinions are completely my own, based on my experience. 


  1. very nice idea and so beautiful pics!Well done!

  2. These are cute. I would like to try some of my own!

  3. Visiting from Let's Hear it For the Boys. I'd like to invite you to my Friday Flash Blog, where you can share your best blog entry of the week! The party goes on ALL weekend. And who knows, you may just get featured next week.


  4. Wow! That's quite amazing how well the colors transfer! I have never had good luck with the transfers I have purchased in the past.... :(
    Happy Cinco de Mayo..… :)

    hugs xx
    Crystelle Boutique

  5. Good morning - I really like this as I love to make t-shirts for the grand kids. Do you know if this works as well on dark t-shirts - say red?

    1. It works best on white or very light colors, since those have less dye already in them - then the ink can transfer best.

  6. I am reading the post with my three year girl on my knees and...
    she LOVED that t-shirt too... I wish I could find this product here in Italy to make her one too, she's mad with Twilight Sparkle because of the purple color ;)

  7. This is awesome! We may have to try it for birthday parties! My little ones are MLP fanatics as well, so they would love that shirt too!

  8. wow how fantastic!! never knew you could even do this!

    Thanks for linking this up on Serenity Saturday Link party!

  9. I didn't know they had paints that you could iron on a tshirt like that! I know the kids were so excited to have shirts with their faves on it!!

  10. I'm so excited that you posted about this! My daughter is also a HUGE MLP fan and would love to have a MLP shirt but this mommy doesn't want to shell out the extra dough for a themed shirt. What a frugal find! Thanks!

  11. So stinkin' CUTE! My daughter loves MLP! I have some of this...but have not used it yet...I need a few more colors...and then I see a MLP shirt in my future!

  12. Very fun idea! I love the idea of doing transfers but I had the same reservations/frustrations it sounds like that you did. I didn't want to bother with something that wasn't going to last. I love this idea, and the fact you can customize it however you want. Super fun! Thank you so much for linking this up with me @ Great Idea Thursday's! Krista @ A Handful of Everything


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