Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hand Painted Flag Shirts

Hand painted shirts were a classic activity at my family reunions growing up. There would be 30 cousins running around in them for the 4th of July festivities, each with their own unique design.

I thought it was fun 20+ years ago and I'm still loving it. There's something about creating your own master piece that just makes my kids and me happy.

My son wore his shirt proudly all day yesterday, even with dribbles of orange Popsicle down the front. As soon as he woke up this morning the dirty shirt went back on. (Do you think he'll protest when I demand he removes it to be washed?) My 7 year old daughter keeps telling me about the many different days she can wear shirt - Flag Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day, Independence Day and every night for pajamas.

Go grab some supplies and help your kids make a shirt they can wear with pride this Independence Day! They'll love you for it.

Supplies you'll need:  

Plain white cotton t-shirts, washed and dried - no fabric softener. (I got a pack of 5 shirts in the boys section of Walmart for about $5-6.)
Paper bag or cardboard for each shirt, cut to to size if needed
Masking or painters tape
A few new sponges
Acrylic paint, blue & red, fabric paint is great too, but I couldn't find it in the right colors
Star cookie cutter or paper for star template
A few paper plates

1. Prep: First you'll need to slip the paper bag or cardboard in between the layers of the shirts so no paint will leak through. Also trace your star template on the sponge and cut it out (I printed my star off the Internet). The size of the star depends on the design you want. Our stars are about 1.5 inches wide. Also cut out several chunks of sponge for painting the lines (shown in step 3).

2. Design and Tape: Plan out your flag design. I just eye-balled my projects and laid the tape out. Be sure to make a clean vertical edge with your tape to square off those lines.
3. Paint: My kids did the actually painting. I just showed them which lines to paint in. 
Dabbing the paint on rather than spreading gives better results. Too much paint makes the shirt stiff and brittle.
5. Drying Time: Once your painting is complete the shirts need to dry. We left ours out in the sun for the afternoon and them brought them inside at night. A blow dryer can speed up that process too.

6. Remove Tape: Once dry carefully peel off the tape, remove the bag/cardboard and enjoy the beauty of your creation.
7. Heat Set: Because my paint was acrylic and not fabric paint I wanted to set the paint a little more. I tossed the shirts in the dryer with an old bath towel on high heat for 1 hour. 

8. Washing: At first my kids complained that the shirts were itchy. The paint does make them a bit stiff so I washed them in cold water with a towel and a little soap. The paint didn't bleed at all and they were much more comfortable to wear.

Your shirts are finished! I'm pretty sure your kids will be the cutest thing at your 4th of July party or parade next weekend!


  1. Aw! This is so cute... we used to do this a lot when i was little...

    your kids look darling!

  2. these are way cute and fun!! Thanks for linking up!!


    Curly Q Crafts

  3. Your children are adorable! Thanks for posting the instructions - great shirts and perfect timing since the 4th is just around the corner.

    The shirts would go really well with my crochet bangles/bracelets. Take a peek at my blog and make them for your beautiful kids!

  4. I did this with friends and cousins when I saw it on Family Fun. They turned out cute!

  5. Fabulous! I remember doing this project with my mom when I was little, and I'm fairly certain I wore it to a family reunion. A great project for kids! I'm visiting from New Friend Friday. Have a great weekend!

  6. These look great! I love the star onesie!!! Your kids are adorable, too.

    (visiting from nff)

  7. Oh, My I am sure loving this crafty project. Very nice. I have to add this one to my crafty list :) Thanks for sharing. They all look so cute in them :) Love the picture!You have a great blog! I am your new follower. Come by and visit me at http://showememama.blogspot.com

  8. How cute, we have never painted shirts, thinking we should start!

  9. I just love that picture of all the kids together sporting their creations! So cute! What a fun and festive idea.

  10. Adorable shirts!! Gonna have to try this one!

  11. Super cute! Love the pic with all the kiddos and their shirts! =)

  12. Came over from MMB- I might totally copy you for my kiddo's! Love the shirts! Have you ever used Freezer Paper to make your own stencils? I think you would love it and it's super easy. :)

  13. I love them! What a fun idea. So much more fun than the flag shirts you can buy!

  14. I saw your idea over at TipJunkie and came to have a closer look.
    I think this is a great idea! I loved the little babysuit!
    thanks for sharing.



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