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