DIY Graphic Leggings - Skinned




About: Specializing in sewing, soldering and snacking. More stuff I do... I teach an interactive fashion and textile class called Wearable and Soft Interactions at California College of the Arts. www.wearablesoft...

You can print your own tights at home! These tights make your legs look like the skin was ripped right off, which makes them perfect for Halloween and costumes. The graphics used are taken from photographs of a life-size, anatomically correct model used for educational purposes. Neat.

In order to print these spooky stems, you will need an ink-jet printer. Preferably one that uses dye inks, as opposed to pigment inks. There is more detailed information on what kind of inks and fabric you can use in my "How to Print Fabric at Home" instructable.

Step 1: Gather Materials

● Ink-Jet Printer

- pigment dyes, the ink will wash out unless you pretreat the fabric

- dye inks, the inks will wash out about 10%

● White Shipping Label 8.5" x 11"

● 1 Yard of White Jersey @ 56" width or more

● Sewing Machine or Overlock Machine

● Rotary Cutter

● Straight Edge Ruler

● Straight Pins

● Iron

Step 2: Print Fabric

Prep Fabric

Iron and smooth the fabric out. Take one shipping label, peel the backing off and apply to the back of the knit. Line up the longest side of you label (11") with the selvedge of the fabric so its on the straight grain. This ensures that the knit stretches in the right directions, around and down the leg.

Use a straight ruler to carefully cut around the label so what's left is a 8.5" x 11" backed piece of the fabric. You can use scissors for this step, just be careful to cut as straight as possible.

Print Fabric

Print a test sheet first, marking a corner of the top page so you can figure out if you should put the fabric side down or up. Take the fabric sheet and load it into your printer. Load one sheet at a time. Download the images attached to this step, open it in your chosen image viewer and go to "print". The file account for clipping, still make sure your printer settings look correct. Check that 8.5" x 11" is selected and that it is printing at 100% scale.

For more details check out the "How to Print Fabric at Home" 'ible.

Hit print and the page should feed in without a problem.


If you do come across feeding or printing problems here are some trouble shooting tips:

Paper isn't being picked up: Make sure the page is pushed all the way to the back of the printer tray

Colors are printing in stripes: Go in the printer utility panel and clean the printer heads. Test print until the test looks as it should

Ink is smearing or turning up in unwanted places: Make sure the sheet is flat and the fabric is smooth. Also clean printer heads

Step 3: Cut Out and Pin

Using a rotary cutter or scissors cut around the muscle shapes, leaving about 1/8" all around. If you are using an overlock machine, this 1/8" will be cut off. If you are using a regular home sewing machine this gives you a little more room for seam allowance.

To be safe, also leave the white margins a the top and the bottom of the full page prints. You should be able to see the print from the wrong side as you sew. More on this in the next step.

Iron out each piece so it lays nice and flat, this makes the pieces easier to line up and work with.

Pin the pieces together, matching up the graphics as you go.

Step 4: Sew and Press Four Leg Pieces

All the pieces should be pinned.

4 leg pieces - 2 fronts and 2 backs.

Sew up the pinned edges, making sure to sew within the graphic's hard line so when the seam is sewn and pressed, there is no white showing.

You can use your overlock or zig-zag setting on a regular sewing machine or use an overlock machine. Using an overlock will give it more stretch.

Press the seams towards the ankle.

Step 5: Pin, Sew and Press the Fronts to the Backs

Take the front pieces and line them up with the back pieces. Match up the seams and graphics as best you can and pin in place. Sew up the side seams.

Turn inside-out and you have your very own muscle tights!

From here, there are few different ways to wear them:

- They fit a 30" inseam all the way up, so you can wear them as thigh highs, but you may need to add elastic at the top for them to stay up.

- Hold them up with a garter belt.

- If you have an old pair of tights lying around, you can cut the legs off of those and sew your new muscle tights on.

If you want to make your own top. Proceed to the next step where you can download a pattern for stretch shorts that you can sew them to.

Step 6: Download, Print and Tape

Download the attached pattern and print. Making sure that you are printing at 100%.

Tape the pages edge to edge starting in the upper left corner with 01 and going clockwise, ending with 04.

Cut two.

Sew Front to Front and Back to Back along the crotch seam.

Press open, pin Front to Back and sew up the inseam.

Once the shorts are sewn, try them on with the muscle tights to see how they fit lengthwise. Cut off any excess fabric, pin and sew.

Add some elastic at the waist of the shorts and you are done!grainline



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    19 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    You can reduce the number of cuts and joins you need to make by changing the print size. By printing at legal size (8.5 X 14 inches) instead of letter (8.5 X 11 inches), you can print a larger area at once.

    Many printers also support a "custom" paper size, so you could make one that was 8.5 inches wide, and however long your design is, and just let it feed.

    4 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    One could also reduce the number of cuts to 0 by using iron on transfer paper instead, adding some off-art registration marks, and then transferring one print at a time to a finished pair of stocking.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Good point! My printer even goes to 18" x 13".
    8.5" x 11" was chosen to widen accessibility. I'm going to mention this in the instructable. Thanks for the important insight!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    In this case, you'd have to redesign the graphics to fully take advantage of 14" length, otherwise it would still be three sheets either way. For continuous-feed, you'd still need good paper backing. You won't be able to feed a knit through without very stable backing.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    That absolutely has to be the worst case of varicose veins I've ever seen! Nicely done!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This reminds me watching Slim Goodbody on TV when I was a kid. It creeped me out. Here's an example, which I hope will be inspiration for someone's costume (or maybe mine next year.)

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


    I did a vascular system print on semi-sheer white tights. They didn't come out that well so I haven't posted them. This video is amazing!


    4 years ago

    Wow. Such a GREAT idea. Great job.


    4 years ago



    4 years ago

    These looks stunning...would've never imagined they're homemade! And I love the photos at the beginning :)


    This is awesome! I bet that you could use this technique to create leggings similar to the Black Milk kinds and save lots of $$.