DIY Painted Kitten Tee: Easily Transfer Designs to Clothing with DecoArt Ink Effects

I’ve been ogling kitten tees as of late…I’m a total crazy cat lady (except I live with my Hub’s dog…go figure).  So the best I can do is a little kitten of my very own..on a T-shirt per se.  But being as type-A as I am, I just couldn’t settle on a design I liked.  Some were too twee for me, some t-shirts weren’t loose enough, or were too short, or too pink; some had writing on them, some had ugly cats…and wouldn’t ya know it, it is now the middle of Summer and I am still hankering after a watercolor-style kitten t-shirt.  So I decided to DIY!
I’m utterly sick of iron-on decals…they impart a heavy, stiff feel to your fabric and leave a shiny residue that screams “I ironed this on!” Fabric paints stiffen up the fabric and don’t work well with a watercolor-style effect, catching the fabric as you paint and refusing to be thinned with water.  I’d love to go with screenprinting for the natural look but something like this would require multiple screens and be a fairly difficult process to do at home.  So what to do?
Enter Ink Effects, a new line of products from DecoArt, designed to overcome all the traditional obstacles to transferring designs to fabric.  You just paint your design on – get this: regular white paper – and then whip out your iron and iron what you painted onto your shirt.  A perfect transfer, in slightly more-muted colors, with absolutely no stiffening or shininess to the fabric.  Revolutionary!  So if you’re interested, here’s how to make your very own DIY Painted Kitten T-Shirt:
You Need:
tee in your choice of color (white will show the most contrast to the Ink Effects paint)  /  piece of plain white paper to paint on + an extra plain piece for ironing  /  Deco Art Base Spray (if you’re using a t-shirt made up of 30% or more cotton)  /  DecoArt Ink Effects colors
Tools: paintbrush/es   /    iron   /   ironing board   /   bowl for water   /   surface protecting sheets (optional)
How To:
1.  Pre-wash and dry your t-shirt.
2. If, like me, you’re using a photo as a template, make sure to flip your image horizontally before printing in your printer software or photo-editing software if you have text or an asymmetrical image, since your transfer will be mirrored onto the shirt.  Place your paper onto something so the Ink Effects won’t leach through.
3. Paint over the image you printed out using DecoArt Ink Effects colors.  For the kittens, I first painted a layer of the base color (pink or blue), then mixed up the base color with black.  I dipped the paintbrush into the mixed color, dabbing it in a clean area of my bowl to get rid of excess paint so I had a really thin layer on the brush.  Then I painted over the black stripes and details in the fur, scrubbing the brush on the paper to create a “washed out watercolor” look to the painting.  Any part you don’t paint will end up the color of the t-shirt (in my case, white).  Also remember that when you transfer your image to the shirt, the colors will appear much lighter, so paint a little darker than you need to!

4.  Allow 30 minutes to dry.

5.  While waiting, apply the Base Spray to your t-shirt in the area you’re going to be applying the transfer.  Shake well first, and spray a thick coat down onto the fabric.  (You may want to do a practice or test swatch to make sure it’s not globbing up.)

6. Once the Base Spray is dry, place your t-shirt onto the ironing board.  Place the painted paper face-down onto your tee, and iron with steady pressure for about 30 seconds, moving the iron continuously.
This was my test.  You can see how the Ink Effects adheres to the pilling in the fabric first; this is why you want to apply firm pressure and multiple passes to get it to adhere to the fabric itself.

(If you’re concerned about the transfer being to dark, I highly recommend doing a test on a piece of similar scrap fabric, so you can see how the transfer looks.  If it’s too light, you can re-iron to the same area, this time applying the iron for about 60 seconds).

7. Peel off your paper to see your transfer.
TIP: Your one transfer can be used multiple times to create a pattern – though with each application the colors will lighten.  3 times is the max number of transfers you get from the original.
And that’s pretty much it!  A smooth, hassle-free transfer, bonded entirely to your shirt…and as easy as painting a picture!
I luuuuve my cutie-pie kitty t-shirt…and am so excited about the possibilities for this product!  Just think…a DIY painted flower pattern on your pants or blazers…watercolor Breton stripes on your tees…a loved one’s face on canvas as a gift…
DecoArt Ink Effects will very soon be available at Jo-Ann’s Fabric Stores across the U.S.!  (next week, in fact!)
In the meantime, check out DecoArt online:




 What do you guys think of Ink Effects?  Does it look like something you might want to try out? Oh, and check out everyone else projects while you’re at it:


I wrote this post as part of a paid campaign with Blueprint Social.  The opinions in this post are my own.  I was sent DecoArt Ink Effects colors and Base Spray to try out and share a tutorial with my readers.  To read more about my Disclosure Policy, see here.

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9 Comments on DIY Painted Kitten Tee: Easily Transfer Designs to Clothing with DecoArt Ink Effects

  1. Rosy
    7.13.2012 at 4:36 pm (3 years ago)

    Holy flippin’ crap this is the coolest DIY! I know I always say that but this is really flippin’ cool haha I would love to do this!
    Rosy recently posted..Throwback Cursh

    • carlyjcais
      7.13.2012 at 4:45 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you, Rosy! You are so sweet…and you could totally do this too! (Just like paint-by-number…but cooler!;-)

  2. Ryoma Sakamoto
    7.14.2012 at 8:25 am (3 years ago)

    Juan than in Japan. I had majored in design and photography at the university. I think the cat T-shirt design is very nice.

  3. Soccer Mom Style
    7.14.2012 at 1:43 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi Carly, I paint shirts so that is very interesting post to me. I agree with you that fabric paint dries sort of stiff. I buy regular craft acrylic and use lots of fabric medium which makes it softer.

    Also, I’d love to paint water color style with Rit color dyes sometime. Have you tried that?
    Soccer Mom Style recently posted..Different Concept. Similar Output…

    • carlyjcais
      11.11.2012 at 3:28 pm (3 years ago)

      I was surprised at how well the transfer worked, consider I’m not a great watercolor artist. Just one wash of color for the fur, a second layer for the face details, and it came out transferring to the shirt so much better than I could have hoped! I think these Ink Effects colors work much better on something muted and less precise, like a watercolor-look wash, since they don’t produce very bright or sharp colors. Have fun playing with them!


3Pingbacks & Trackbacks on DIY Painted Kitten Tee: Easily Transfer Designs to Clothing with DecoArt Ink Effects

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