Design & Paint a kids T-Shirt

Updated: Aug 20, 2020



stenciled graphic tee





When I talked my way into my first design position, I told the company I had already been designing. They apparently believed this and offered me the job. You can read about this in my very first blog here, on How I became a children's wear designer. The first thing the woman said after she hired me was, "ok, you will be our top designer!" I was all coy and was like "oh, I hope so, thanks!" She gave me a questionable look because she wasn't talking about me being the best designer, she was talking about me actually just designing the tops! This was a great first design job because it was pre computer and everyone did everything by hand. Usually I would have blank tees or simple silhouettes and I would then apply the art. Mostly this was heat sealing squares of fabric, lace trim and then decorated with puff paint and glitter, I was in my glory! I would come to work and do arts and crafts most days. This would soon give way when the computer was introduced and less and less hands on designing took place. Now 30 years later I spend endless hours sitting at my computer designing what I need directly there.


A few years ago when my sister and I had our business, "Double Arrow Designs" we invested in a Cameo machine to cut stencils for us to help with our furniture repaint jobs or our etched glasses. You can read all about that here. I especially loved creating prints for the textile portion of these projects. I think for me it brought me back to what I did so many years ago when I hand painted my samples. I truly miss my partner and sister Nicole who I would spend every weekend with. But in life, nothing stays the same forever and we are forever finding ourselves in a new chapter.


As I have been navigating my way through the Covid-19 Pandemic. the one thing that I have gained so much of the last few months is time. We are never aware of how much of this we squander.I think I finally realized the burnout I had from my daily commute into the city from the age of 18. I wake up every morning these days with a renewed resolution to make the most of each day. Today as I finished painting my last night table, I thought about what my next blog would be about. Like any creative, we spend a lot of time thinking an idea out, but once we have it nothing can stop us! I decided to dust off the the Cameo that was shelved after we had stopped using it for our business. My idea was to create a graphic and a coordinating print on a baby tee shirt. Similar to how I had use to years before at my first design job. I loved drawing out my design in the computer and cutting my stencil on my cameo machine and hand painting it. The print was done with the Silhouette stamp to achieve a smaller stamp that could be strategically placed for an allover print look.


During this process I found my daughter, Emma by my side, who inherited my artistic ability. She was interested in watching and helping. She recorded a time-lapse video of me creating these two designs. I failed to get that onto this blog, but check out and follow me on my instagram here, where I will be posting it. Emma has had to navigate herself through these times with the loss of school, prom, graduation and friends. What we have gained is this special time where we have spent talking and creating together. Today it was like she stepped into the space where my sister once stood just a few short years ago. The space was filled with creating and talking about all the possibilities. I can't replace all that she has lost, but what we can do is create something new.




Steps to creating a graphic or all over stamp for apparel

  1. place a thin piece of cardboard inside your garment, the last thing you want to do it paint through the front and have it show up on the back!

  2. Decide on your design.You can purchase this exact graphic I have done on my tee here on my Etsy store. Etsy is a great source for digital cameo files if you can't or don't want to create your own.

  3. I use plain clear contact paper, its inexpensive and does the trick with an adhesive backing to tack down on your garment

  4. Place your stencil on your garment. You can reposition as needed. I placed my graphic about 1 1/2" down from center neck. too far down and the graphic will sit on the child's belly.

  5. I use water based acrylic paint for painting on apparel. You can also use fabric paint, but I like the range of colors I can get from acrylic. It's a personal choice either one works.

  6. Use either a small sponge, or soft bristle brush, and dab the paint in. Do not brush it, this may lift the sides of the stencils up and your defined edges may get lost. so dab away! make sure you get the coverage you desire because once you pull the stencil off it is really hard to find that exact placement again.

  7. peel your stencil off, use a tweezer for any small pieces so you don't smudge the paint on the garment.


stenciled graphic tee
stenciled tee


Steps to creating an all over stamp for apparel

  1. Place a thin piece of cardboard inside your garment, the last thing you want to do it paint through the front and have it show up on the back!

  2. Decide on your design. You can purchase this exact graphic I have done on my tee here on my Etsy store. Etsy is a great source for digital cameo files if you can't or don't want to create your own.

  3. Create your stamp using the Cameo stamp kit. (pictured below)

  4. I like to use a pencil point first to grid out before hand where my stamps will land so that the overall design looks good.

  5. I use water based Liquitex acrylic paint for painting on apparel. You can also use fabric paint, but I like the range of colors I can get from acrylic. It's a personal choice either one works. (fabric paint will have a softer finish then acrylic)

  6. Use a small sponge, and dab the paint onto your stamp.

  7. Stamp away!



graphic baby tees
Completed stencil & stamped coordinating tees

Stamp kit I used on this project



Below are the products that I used in making these baby tees.

Note:  My blog periodically contains affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase, I might make a small commission at no extra charge to you. Purchases made through them are greatly appreciated.































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