It was late Thursday afternoon and my children, who were doing a week of Pedalheads bike camp, tell me tomorrow is Superhero Day so they need something to wear. Ugh. It’s not as simple as throwing on one of the kazillion costumes we have at home because a) they would get too hot in those; b) there’s a high probability that the capes etc. would get caught in the gears/wheels; and c) they want to dress up as Green Lantern and Wonderwoman. Superheros for which we don’t have any costume components. Double ugh.
Alright, Supermama to the rescue.
Our first stop was Dollarama. Maybe we’ll hit the jackpot and be able to throw something together. After roaming the aisles for a couple minutes, it’s clear that costume luck was not on our side there. I packed them back into the car and headed to the store that has rarely failed me when piecing their costumes together in the past: Value Village. The stars were aligned and my daughter found a one piece dance costume with a red top, blue bottoms and stars (of various colours) all over. Add a red 2 min t-shirt cape and she’s set. It’s a little quirky, but she’s happy as can be which means I am too. We searched high and low for something with Green Lantern or his symbol on it. With nothing to be found, I picked up an XS woman’s green t and promised my son I would work my magic.
It’s surprisingly easy to add graphics to anything using contact paper (aka mac tac or clear shelf liner), acrylic paint & a paint brush with thick flat bristles.
Step 1 (5 min) – Find the graphic you want to add & print it on paper
I adjusted the search criteria to include only large images (click Search Tools – Size – Large) so that I wouldn’t have to play with the size of the one I selected before it printed. Make sure you choose to ‘View Image’ before you try to print.
Step 2 (3 min) – Cut out the graphic you printed & test it on the t-shirt. You may notice that I have a piece of cardboard inside the shirt. It’s there for two reasons: 1) it keeps the shirt from shifting later on as you apply the logo and 2) it prevents the paint from seeping into the back side of the shirt. I ripped off the back of one of the kids’ colouring pads. You can use anything you have on hand ie. the side off a cereal box or a cardboard gift bag.
Step 3 (1 min) – Glue the paper graphic to the mac tac. I like using glue sticks. They don’t make a huge mess and you don’t have to wait for it to dry. When you’re gluing it on, be sure to put it on the right side (front/back) of the mac tac. If you don’t, the image will be reversed. Luckily for me, this one is a no brainer because it’s the right way no matter what, but it would be different if I was working with something like the Superman logo, in which case I would glue it on the front (plastic side).
Step 4 (4 min) – Cut out the graphic on the mac tac. You are now creating a sticky stencil. Remember that the t-shirt colour will show wherever you stick the mac tac and the other areas will be your paint colour. If you have to cut inside an image, bend the mac tac a little and make a cut so you can slide the bottom of your scissors through.
After I cut off the thin green circle, I realized it made more sense to have more mac tac around the outside edges to keep the paint inside. My quick fix – trace a bowl that’s close to the same size as the logo’s circle on a new piece of mac tac and cut out the inside.
Step 5 (4 min) – Starting with the outside section of the graphic, apply the mac tac to the t-shirt. I recommend taking the top part of the backing off at first and figure out exactly where to stick it. Then you can pull the rest of the backing off slowly in a downwards motion while you smooth out the mac tac as you go. I’ve made the mistake of taking the backing off all at once and it makes it much harder to work with. Once the mac tac is on the shirt, smooth out all the inside edges with your finger. You’re trying to stick them down as much as possible to prevent the paint from seeping under.
After the outside of the graphic is on the shirt, add the inside part(s).
Step 6 – (7-8 min) Start painting! Using very little paint, tap the brush in a vertical motion onto the exposed areas of the material. If you think about how you tap someone on the shoulder, it’s that type of movement but going up and down instead. Tapping helps to keep the edges down and prevents the paint from seeping under, which gives you clean crisp lines when you’re finished. I did 3 coats on mine and waited a minute or two between each one.
Step 7 (2-3 min) – Remove the Stencil. I used a toothpick to help lift the corners and then carefully peeled it all off. Do this step while the paint is still wet just in case there’s any lingering paint that could seep under your edges.
Step 8 (2 min) – Done! Remove the cardboard from inside the shirt & hang to dry. If you leave the cardboard inside while it’s drying, it will likely stick to the paint that seeped through during Step 6.
Ta dah! One Superhero t-shirt in 30 minutes.
In the past, the acrylic paints my kids used at school have not come out of clothing easily. I’ll have to test it out on this one with my fingers crossed.
Now where else can we do this….