So I had a stroke of inspiration late last night when my children refused to sleep. My four-year-old is an aspiring artist. Seriously it’s crazy how long he can just sit and draw. Anything drawing related excites him, and of course, we must honor his works by hanging them proudly in our school room. Which I totally love. But it got me thinking, how cute would it be to make him a shirt featuring one of his works.
Now I’m a graphic designer by trade, so this would have been a pretty straightforward undertaking to accomplish in Adobe Illustrator. But what I wanted was to show a way to accomplish this that anyone could do for FREEEEEE!!! Because Adobe Illustrator may be fantastic, but it’s difficult to learn and not affordable for most people. So here we are. I’ve put together a way for you to do this from start to finish using only your smartphone and three or four free online tools. So let’s get started.
Photograph the Artwork
Now this is going to work best with simple drawings made with thicker markers. Pencil and pen marks won’t transfer over very well. So this morning I had my son pick his favorite piece of art off of our wall for me to work with.
What you’re going to do is take the picture and place it directly under some artificial light. Make it as flat as possibly by trying to avoid any shadows on the paper. This is the picture I took:
Editing the Picture On Your Phone
Next, open the picture in your phone’s editor and desaturate it to black and white. Then adjust the exposure settings to make the background as light as possible and the drawing as dark as possible. These are the adjustments I made on my iPhone, but I’m positive any smart phone can make similar changes.
Once you’ve made these adjustments, email the image to yourself so you can access them from a desktop.
Adjusting the Contrast
If your child used a lighter colored marker, like mine, chances are you’ll have to increase the contrast on the image. The first free tool you’re going to use to do this is PicMonkey.com. Watch the video tutorial below on how to do this. (P.S. Sorry it sounds like I’m yelling at you…)
Converting The Drawing To A Vector
The next tool we’re going to use is called Vectorizer. This is going to help us clean up the image and turn it into a vector file that can be edited further later on. Watch the video tutorial below on using Vectorizer for this project. (Yeah…seriously I don’t know why it sounds like I’m yelling so bad)
Removing The Background In Gravit
Now that your drawing is converted to a layered vector, it’s going to be very easy to remove the background and clean it up. We’re going to do this in another free online tool called Gravit. Once again – a video tutorial for your pleasure. (Just turn the volume down. I swear I’m not a loud person.)
Uploading Into Cricut Design Space
Now if you are using a different die cutter, the file you made will work just fine for you as well. I just have a Cricut, so the tutorial I have below includes instructions for their particular software. As you’ll see in the video I will also be including some “Artist In Training”, “I Made This”, “Talented.” and “I Make Pretty Things” cut files for you to pair with your child’s drawing if you desire.
Watch the video tutorial below for uploading your files to your Cricut die cutter:
Ironing It On
Once you’ve cut your design onto iron-on vinyl, prepare and iron it on per the viny’s instructions. The sweatshirt I’m using in this picture is the Hooded Raglan Sweatshirt pattern from Brindille and Twig without the kangaroo pocket on the front. (P.S. This pattern is FREE!) I made it with Raspberry Creek Fabrics French terry, and it is soooo warm and cozy.
Tips for Ironing On Designs
- Drop your ironing board, so it’s flat to the ground. High heat isn’t enough; you need tons of pressure too. Like your whole body weight. Having the iron on the floor is safer to apply this pressure, gives you better leverage and prevents damage to your ironing board legs.
- Turn the heat up as high as it goes.
- Be patient! When I apply my transfers, I press the iron down over the design (using a press cloth) for four intervals of 20-30 seconds before calling it good.
- Let it cool completely before removing the transfer film.
Then show your little person their work of art and watch them smile.
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