There are a ton of different ways to make a t-shirt custom. Fabric markers is one of the easiest! The options are nearly endless. For this project I use crayola fabric markers which are the cheapest on the market, yet they work great.

Everytime I make something, especially clothing, I find it goes one of two ways:

  1. I hate or strongly dislike it and it disappears to the dark regions of the closet never to be seen again!
  2. I love it and it becomes one of the items worn straight out of the laundry every time!

However, I am happy to say this project ended up being the later. Not only do I love it but my husband and the toddler (who has to wear it) love it too. Sure it helps that I am a sucker for a white tee but it turned out super cute.

White shirt + toddler = bad mix?

Usually! however in this case the illustration and the staggered colour blends the stains right in! I am continually impressed with how it looks out of the wash.

What I used

White t-shirt

Crayola fabric markers

Paper and pencil

You’ll also need an iron to set the image.

Finding a white t-shirt

White clothes don’t stay white for long so you may already have white shirts that can be customized to hide any stains. I also like hunting for white clothes in thrift stores and consignment stores. A white shirt with simple details on it can work too. I’ve used a baby onesie with a black outline of a bunny on it, just adding in colourful flowers to liven it up and hide discoloration. There is also the option of buying a shirt new, walmart and Michaels both sell cheap shirts meant for crafting, not the most eco friendly method but useful when inspiration strikes.

Making a template

You could freehand anything you want on the t-shirt or any other clothing but it’s easier to deal with potential mistakes before hand and make a template. First sketch out your idea.

This was my husbands initial drawing when I asked for help with the idea. I love it and I’ll keep it forever!

On a white piece of paper in pencil sketch out your drawing. Make sure to compare it to the shirt you are working on to get the dimensions right. it would be terribly disappointing to find your finished image won’t fit on the shirt.

train track template in pencil

Trace over your lines in a dark pen or marker, something that will be easy to see through the shirt. Only trace over the lines you intend to transfer over to your shirt. Keeping the design simple will end up in a better result.

train template in marker

Setting up

With the template made find an object is flat but bulky enough to wrap the shirt around. Drawing on fabric is much easier if it is held tight and flat. I wrapped this toddler size t-shirt around a binder. Tuck the template under the front of the shirt. Take the time to line it up exactly how you want it. If it is moving around at all just hold it in place with a couple pieces of tape it doesn’t take much.

template for train drawing showing through t-shirt

Drawing on your design with fabric makers

With everything set up its time to bring in the fabric markers. Start with the outline to get the basics of the image drawn in, then add the details. Make sure not to push too hard since the fabric will move around a bit. You may find it helpful to go over some lines a couple times to get them nice and dark.

fabric marker drawing on white t-shirt

Add in any details and colour after. For this design I went with a few splashes of colour here and there with some grey shading. I think this is partially why it does such a good job hiding stains.

train tunnel drawn on white t-shirt colour added

Finishing and setting the fabric maker

Fabric makers need to be set with heat in order to be made permanent, although don’t bank on being able to wash it off even if you haven’t set it yet.

train tunnel drawn on white t-shirt with fabric markers
My finished customized train tunnel toddler t-shirt

The instructions for the crayola markers are right on the back on the package, either:

  1. Turn your shirt inside out and iron with the iron on the cotton setting for 4 minutes. or
  2. Place your shirt in the dryer alone on the highest heat setting for 30 minutes.

I have always used the iron method, it is easy enough but if you don’t have an iron a dryer will do.

In the end

Realistically this is one of those projects that probably doesn’t need a tutorial. So often we think things are more complicated than they are. I hope this post made it seem as easy as it is, and maybe provided some inspiration. I look forward to the kids being a bit older and getting to make their own, even better! a fathers day gift for Dad or Grandpa.

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