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How to Turn Your Kids’ Artwork into Screen Printed T-Shirts

Apr 25, 2020 | Cricut Projects, Design Tips, Indoor Activities for Kids, Project Ideas, Screen Printing, Tutorials, Vinyl Projects

turn drawings into cricut design space for shirt making

Do you have a little artist in your family? After you’ve hung a few of their favorites, what do you do with the rest of their artwork?  How about turning them into DIY screen printed t-shirts!  This project would be great gift idea for grandparents, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day.

NOTE: This was a pre-quarantine craft day with friends.

diy shirts for kids craft at home

Supplies Needed for this Project

kids artwork to cricut design space tutorial

Step 1: Prepare the Artwork: Draw with Bold, Black Marker

For this project tutorial, I have found that artwork that has thicker lines works better.  You will be cutting the design on your Cricut or Silhouette so think about what designs will work the best in vinyl.

You want the artwork to be on a white piece of paper with ONLY black lines. This will make the process of transforming the design into an SVG file much easier.

Your kids can start by drawing in pencil, then trace over with a black marker.  You can also use a Brightpad to trace a finished piece of artwork to a new piece of paper.  If you have a drawing that your child colored in or uses lots of different color lines, tracing the design onto a new sheet of paper will make the process easier.

Step 2: Scan the Artwork to Your Computer

Next, we need to get the art from paper to digital form.  You can use a scanner (I used my HP LaserJet All-In-One Printer).  If you don’t have a scanner, you can take a photo of your artwork. Just try to get really good lighting!

Step 3: Open Image in Adobe Illustrator

Once your artwork is in digital format (most likely a PDF or JPEG), open the file in Adobe Illustrator.  I use Adobe Illustrator because it’s the program I’m most familiar with from my graphic design days. If you don’t have Illustrator, you can trace the design in Procreate on your iPad or use an online service (just search “convert JPG to SVG” and you’ll find tons of options).

Watch as I walk through these steps in the video below.

How to Convert JPEG to SVG in Illustrator

  1. Click on the image and choose, Object > Image Trace and choose Black and White Logo.
  2. Click Expand and Ungroup the graphic.
  3. Remove the white pieces inside your design.  This should leave just the black outline.
  4. If your artwork has any thin lines you might want to add a stroke to make those a little bolder. Once you add a stroke in Illustrator, you need to attach that to your design. To do this, click on the graphic and choose Edit > Path > Outline Stroke.  In the Pathfinder window (Window > Pathfinder) click the Unite button.  This will merge the outline with the original line.
  5. Save As and choose the format SVG.

Cricut kids at home project DIY brightpad

Step 4: Cut and Transfer Vinyl Design to Screen

Now you have an SVG file of your artwork and you’re ready to import it into Cricut Design Space.  In a previous tutorial, I shared the step-by-step on how to import a design into Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Studio, if you want more details on this process.

Cut Your Design on Oracal 651 vinyl and be sure to choose the Mirror option.  Cutting the design mirrored will allow us to put the vinyl on the back of the screen printing frame.

Once your design has been weeded, transfer the vinyl to the back of your screen printing frame.  If you have trouble getting your vinyl to stick to your screen, I offer a transfer tape that works very easily!

screen printing with kids

Step 5: Screen Print

Now the really fun part begins.  It’s time to take your screen with your design and make a shirt (or tote or anything!).  For more tips and tricks on this part of the process, be sure to check out my ebook, “A Complete Guide to Screen Printing with Craft Vinyl.”

Squeegee the fabric ink over your screen and lift the screen to reveal your printed design!

how to screen print custom desigsn drawings with kids

For my daughter’s navy shirt, she wanted white ink.  White ink is a little trickier to use than dark colors.  Be sure to read all about Screen Printing White Ink on Dark Fabric before attempting this one.

Once your shirts are dry, use a Heat Press or Easy Press 2 to heat set the ink.  For more tips on how to heat set Speedball Fabric ink, read 6 Ways to Heat Set Your Screen Printing Ink.

what to do with kids artwork t-shirt tutorial

Watch as I walk through these Steps in Adobe Illustrator

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