DIY Project: Turn a photo into a stencil

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Another fun (but somewhat complicated) DIY project for you all ….

This is another one of the Christmas projects we spent working on all day Christmas Eve.

Backstory:

Last August (2009) Andrew’s parents got a new dog …. a little feisty and friendly guy named Buddy.

Andrew’s dad just fell in LOVE with this dog. Yes, he likes the *other* dog, but Buddy totally has his heart.

So for Christmas 2009 Andrew and I made him a personal calendar just with photos of Buddy that I had taken over the previous few months.

I can’t even describe how much he loved that calendar. He cried.

I kid you not – Andrew’s (otherwise tough and unemotional) dad CRIED at receiving a calendar of photos of his dog.

Really, how could we possibly top that?

We did our best – Putting Buddy’s face on a t-shirt!

(When he opened it he didn’t *cry* exactly ….but he was too emotional to actually read OUT LOUD what the shirt says)

Supplies needed:

  • t-shirt (and a small piece of cardboard or similar to be inside the shirt while you’re painting)
  • fabric paint/brushes
  • photo to be painted on
  • text optional of course

You can view the ORIGINAL photo here in color.

We’ve found that black and white images are the easiest to convert to stencils….

I converted this image to black and white and bumped up the contrast pretty much as high as it would go.

Andrew made SEVERAL copies of the b&w image – in case he messed up AND in case he needed to cut several versions of the same part of the image for different stencils

BASICALLY – Andrew just identified the different colors/shades of the image and very (very) carefully cut out each piece with an exacto knife.

Kind of like making your own paint-by-number.

And then he took all the pieces, and put it back together on the shirt itself.

He taped off the section of the shirt where the shape will go (this helped keep it centered AND helped keep the bottom edge of paint in a straight line)

Don’t forget to put a piece of cardboard or similar into the shirt as a hard surface before you start painting.

One by one, he traced the individual pieces onto the shirt and painted it in with the necessary color.

I think he said that using a black pen means that the pen will be visible through the paint if you know to look for it, so you might try using something lighter.

He mixed the black and white for different shades of gray

Once the BIG pieces were painted in, he used the different shades of gray to blend and smooth out the image (so it doesn’t look *as* choppy as a regular stencil or paint-by-number looks)

For the text, we didn’t want anything too big or complicated.

Andrew printed out the phrase on the computer and just used it as a guideline and kind of free-handed it

font here is American Typewriter

(his dad’s name is Andy; the dog’s name is Buddy)

A lot easier than you might think, right?

Of course, not for super strict or faint of heart. Free-handing text on a t-shirt? You’ve got to be pretty laidback to attempt it, I think.

But, if you’re willing to *try* this method I think you’ll be quite impressed with yourself!

Someday I should blog about all the tshirts Andrew has made me over the last 10+ years. …. Using every method fromĀ  screenprinting to spray paint + cardboard.

My favorite is one with Montgomery Clift‘s face on the front and The Clash lyrics on the back!

Do you ever make your own t-shirts?

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