Introduction: Use Pictures of Art to Embellish Crafts and Make Patterns

About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.

This instructable was inspired because of the Mind for Design contest. In order for me to share something I had to learn how to use a digital program to make a design for a project. I am thrilled that Hp Sprout has designed a program for makers. Not all of us can draw or paint images for our projects or can visualize how something might look with a certain design. For me, removing the background from the picture helped me decide if I liked the design and size well enough to make something from it. It saved me a lot of time and frustration. Learning just a few techniques to edit pictures has opened up a wider range of projects I can make.

It is pretty amazing how detailed children's pictures can be. I thought it would be really cool to make a dinosaur from children's artwork and a cat from altering an image of a cotton fabric sample. Later on you will understand why I chose the pictures that I did and how they might serve as a time capsule many years down the road.

For this instructable I made a few plushies by editing online pictures of artwork. I will be showing you how I transferred the designs, colored the fabric, and made the patterns using the designs.

Follow through and let's get started!

Step 1: Supplies

Here is the list of the supplies I used for the plushie but you could use these techniques to color just about any 100%cotton fabric. Solid white fabrics work the best. It has taken me years to find a good quality dish towel. I embroider a lot and too many of them are not worth sewing. If you want to know of a high quality white dish towel leave a message and I will let you know where to get some.If the fabric has a low thread count the ink will run terribly. I will share samples I practiced on later. I gave the dinosaur a water color appearance by using alcohol.

Here is what you need for the plushie:

Plushie pattern, I used a child's picture of a dinosaur I got online but if you have children it would be more meaningful to use one of their colored pictures of a family pet or creature.I will share how I converted the pattern in another step. I recommend rounder images. The points are difficult to stuff.

Pre-washed and ironed; 100% cotton fabric ( preferably white and extra to practice on)


Alcohol (for the water color appearance)

Old drinking glass (for the water color appearance)

Rubber bands (for the water color appearance)

Eye dropper with a small dish (for the water color appearance)

Needle and matching thread



Chop stick for use in stuffing the animals.

Pencil with an eraser (not shown) this will be used to push the poly- fil up into the points.

Embroidery transfer pencil (if you can't trace the design through the cotton fabric)

Permanent marker pens, ( use a good brand) I used several different kinds. I used Stained by sharpie because the colors are made for fabric. They seem to be brighter and have thick and thin lines. I also used sharpie ultra fine point for the very small lines in the design. This one was a regular marker.Cheap markers ran like crazy.

Glow in the dark paint if you desire.

Paper towels for spills and cardboard to protect your work space.

Computer and printer and some type of image editing program. I used paint and pixlr to edit the pictures.

Iron / board for ironing the fabric and setting the dye.

Step 2: Practice on Fabrics for Marker Art

If you have never tie dyed fabric or painted on fabric using markers; I recommend practicing on fabric that is similar to what you will be using. Try the different methods I mention and decide which one you like the best. I have found that 100% white cotton fabric works the best. I have tried denim and tan colored cotton and did not like the results. The ink is brighter on the white fabric. The striped fabric was good quality cotton but the marker ink smeared terribly for some reason.

Draw some designs on the different fabric samples.

Color the picture using different markers with different points.

For outlining I used an ultra fine black or brown marker and it worked very nicely.

For coloring in the larger areas I used the thick and thin stain markers.

I noticed the cheap dollar store markers were not as stable.

Dip a paper towel into alcohol and rub the design.

Place the samples over a glass and secure with a rubber band. Use the eye dropper filled with alcohol to drop a small drop over the ink. See how you like it.

Tip for storing markers: Store horizontally to keep the tips from drying out.

Step 3: Editing the Image

I edited my pictures in a long round about way through experimenting. I know there is an easier way to accomplish this but for this instructable it worked for me. I am committed to learn more about paint and other programs because I am excited to have more options available to me through photo manipulation. I would like to learn how to layer images and how to cut out a shape using the tools available without the image that I want to disappear leaving a hole in the middle of a picture. I would also like to learn how to alter the colors for special effects without using an automated program.

Things I think I learned:

Not all online pictures can be edited from my experience so far. Save the picture to your PC and then go back and make a copy and save the copy as a jpeg.Make changes to the copy and not the original. From what I understand jpeg images can be cropped and edited. When changing an image save your work as you go as not to make a mistake and loose all your work. I have not learned how to erase something when I made a mistake, so as soon as I made a mistake I would close the picture and not save it, that way it reverted to the last saved image. I am sure there is an easier way to do this and yes, I will learn how! Using the flip horizontal tool is fantastic for making a pattern like a plushie that has a front and back view. It saved me a lot of time. Outlining an image makes it easier to trace onto some fabrics. Re-sizing pictures to 4x6 can save you money on ink when you want a printed copy of your work. I used pixlr and paint for my projects.

How I edited the pictures:

Saved an online picture to my PC by clicking the mouse

Opened picture on my PC

Clicked edit and make a copy (jpeg)

Opened copy

Clicked edit

Click Create

Click more tools

Click paint

Choose pencil or eraser for erasing the background I didn't want

Choose size

Choose color

Click view

Zoom in

Start outlining

Save as you go it does not have to be perfect for some projects like this one

When I was happy I clicked save

Click print page set up

Chose size I wanted

Clicked OK

Clicked print and then chose printer

Clicked print

Now I had an outlined copy of my picture without the background, in the size I needed, and flipped the second copy by using the horizontal option

Step 4: Outlining the Image

Projects like this make great gifts for grandparents because they tend to save everything. After they pass on; their children will find a drawing or shop project they made 50 years earlier and are thankful that their parents saved it. As we get older we often regret not saving some of our memories from our childhood. This is a great way to preserve your children's artwork and memories. I recommend dating and signing anything like this. Years later it might trigger memories we might have never thought of. It gives you a good timeline especially if it is dated.

Using the red embroidery tracing pencil; outline the artwork using heavy pencil lines on both the front and back pattern pieces. If you can see a clear image of the pattern when it is placed under the cotton you will not need to use the transfer pencil. Just trace the image onto the cotton using a regular pencil. The reason I used the transfer pencil is because I wanted the pattern image to be as accurate to the original as I could get it. I will be ironing the traced design onto the cotton in the next step.

Step 5: Iron the Pattern Piece to the Cotton Fabric

If you have never used an iron on transfer pencil before; draw a small image onto a scrap piece of paper. and follow the instructions below to see how it works on a scrap piece of fabric. This will help you get the design to work the first time around.

Place the image over the fabric to be painted and position as needed.

I used the (cotton) iron setting with NO steam.

Carefully iron the back of the image being careful not to move the paper.

Carefully lift the edge to see if the ink transferred onto the fabric clearly. If it didn't, press with the iron again being careful not to scorch the fabric. You may need to copy the image again with the pencil and retry.The red ink will wash out overtime just in case you make a mistake. If the image did not take well and I will be painting the fabric; I will outline the picture again using a little more pressure to get a lot of red ink on the page so it will transfer to the fabric.

Step 6: Paint the Fabric

In the beginning of this tutorial I showed you different fabrics that I painted. Some of the images that I painted I did not alter. I used both regular markers and fabric markers. I also used both thick and thin markers depending on the designs in the art work. Some I used a cloth dipped into the alcohol and rubbed the painted sections; which gives you a little more control over the effect. Others I used the eye dropper and glass method; which is more random. If you want the tie dye look; the glass and rubber-band is the most effective way to achieve this. My husband and I liked the painted look the best. After you paint the fabric with the markers decide what look you want and if you like the painted look press the fabric over a piece of paper as not to stain your ironing board (cotton no steam iron setting). This will heat set the fabric ink and prevent the ink from fading when it is washed.

If you like the tie dye look you can do this by placing the fabric over a plastic glass and tie a rubber band around the top edge of the glass to secure the fabric. This method will cause the ink to spread. After you have the fabric in place, fill the eye dropper with alcohol and drop one drop over the painted section. The paint colors will blend together and give you an unique tie dye look. When you are happy with the design after it is dry,heat set the fabric using the iron as I described above.

You can use glow in the dark paint to outline the animal if you like. It does work. Paint it on after the plushie is completely finished. I found that the paint I had did not glow very long in the dark but I looked online and found some glow in the dark paint that advertised it lasted much longer than regular glow in the dark paint. I have not tried it though.

Step 7: Method for Making the Plushie

This plushie measures 6 X 8 inches which was kind of difficult to make because of the sharp points. If you are a beginner and have chosen a design with points; I would suggest making the image larger or cut the image out in the shape of an oval, rectangle, or circle. Although I sew all the time I have to say this was difficult for me. If I make it again I will probably enlarge it so it will be easier to stitch the points. I have included a picture of a cat that I cut out like I described. I did not want to stuff the tail.

Cut out the shapes of the animal making sure to add 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Place right sides together.

Sew around the animal leaving the back side of the animal open as shown.

Clip the corners and turn right side out.


Step 8: Stuff the Plushie

I thought it was easier to begin stuffing the points using just a small amount of fiber fill and a chop stick and pencil with an eraser. Doll makers have a special tool they use for tight areas; I believe it has a hook on the end of it, that makes it easier to grab the filler. The filler is kind of slippery and is difficult to grab to push up into the points. Stuff the animal until you are happy with the way it looks. Close the end with a needle and thread as shown.

Step 9: Art Keepsakes

I am including this step for artist who sell or give their art away as gifts. Take pictures of all your artwork. This will help you remember all the beautiful art you have created and if you want; you can create something meaningful from those pictures that you or others can enjoy using some of these techniques. I just traced the pictures in paint and re-sized them and printed out the picture. I traced the image under a sheet of the plastic and let it dry. I went back and colored it in with the marker. The horse was difficult and I need to practice a little more blending the colors but it worked great on the other images. then I followed the directions to shrink the plastic.

Children have such a beautiful imagination and using their art to decorate a dish towel, t-shirt, sun-catcher or anything would make awesome gifts for family or friends. Grandmothers will often save things like this for many years. Family members might come across a few of them 50 years later after the grandparents have passed on. I wished I had saved more than I did when my children were growing up or even when I was a kid.

If I were an artist I would make a mini journal and have all the paintings I ever created in that journal and put it on my coffee table as a conversation piece. I thought it would be neat to make shrinky dink pictures of "kids art" and put them in a bowl on the coffee table (for everyone to enjoy). Make those kids proud of their art!

My daughter in law painted the horse picture as a gift and I outlined it in paint so I could make a shrinky dink charm for her key-ring. My first one did not turn out very well because of the blended colors orange and yellow were difficult and I tried coloring the back which was not a good idea. I am still trying to figure out how I am going to make it work.

The Shrinky dink package suggest using a brown paper bag to prevent the plastic from sticking to the pan but I found aluminium foil works much better.

Step 10: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts

Art is something people enjoy for many years. I hope this instructable has inspired you to learn how to manipulate images of art so you can create something fun. The design on the back side of the kitty was my own design and idea. The shrinky dink kitty in the pocket was a fun thing to add to the kitty. It would be great fun making plushies of the animals we have had over the years. I used the tracing method over shrinky dink for my son's most cherished dog; who passed away last year. I might make my son a pair of boxer shorts with Scooby on them. He would get a kick out of it.

I wish to thank contributors for making this website the best DIY on the internet. Thanks for stopping by and do have a splendorous weekend!


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Mind for Design

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Mind for Design