Handpainted Bandana




Introduction: Handpainted Bandana

About: I have been working in IT since the mid 1980's. Most of that has been database and application development. I've been working on Internet application development since the late 1980's. I've just moved back ...

I'm getting a bit bald these days ... and I'm starting to get more blisters and sunburn on my poor bald old head. I'm not all that fond of hats as they tend to get in the way when I'm doing stuff so the answer for me is "wear a bandana".

While a bandana isn't necessarily the most stylish of headwear, they are easy to carry, can be washed in the washing machine and can be put on pretty quickly.

I had a couple of bits and pieces left over from other projects such as:

  • A bolt of poly-cotton blend material;
  • Fabric paint;
  • A sewing machine;
  • Fine paintbrushes (from my days painting wargaming miniatures);
  • Time on my hands.

I bought a bunch of cotton bandanas from eBay and, while they are perfectly serviceable, they are a little "samey" so I decided to put my creativity to the task and make my own hand painted bandanas.

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Step 1: Make the Bandana

The first step is pretty straight forward.

Cut a square of your material (cotton is best, but I've used a poly-cotton blend and it worked pretty well). My basic bandana is 60 cm x 60 cm. With a doubled 1 cm hem running all the way around the bandana, that makes a 56 cm square.

I folded and ironed the hem all the way around and then sewed the hem with my sewing machine. This should be a fairly strong hem as it gets some punishment when tied up, so use a running stitch on your machine with a fairly tight stitching.

In case you're wondering ... a bloke and a sewing machine, what's that about? Well, I view a sewing machine as just another power tool ;)

Step 2: Transfer Printing

Transfer printing is a pretty easy way of getting a design from your computer onto a piece of fabric. Of course, it makes a difference when deciding the material that you can use. Transfer printing onto fabric gave me pretty ordinary results, I was hoping for clean dark lines on my fabric, I ended up with pale smudged lines. I used the same technique that I use when transfer printing onto printed circuit boards.

  1. Print out the design onto plain printer paper (mine is 80gsm unbonded paper) using a laser printer (black toner).
  2. Place the design onto the fabric toner side down.
  3. Set your iron to the hottest setting for the fabric. Mine was set to cotton.
  4. Iron the design onto the fabric. I ran the iron over the design for about 3 minutes.

At this stage, lift a corner of the paper up (being careful not to move the print) to see if the toner has been transferred onto the fabric.

As I said earlier, I got a pale smudged transfer but this was fine as I planned to paint the outline with a fine paintbrush.

Step 3: Paint the Outline of Your Design

Using a fine paintbrush (I used a 000 brush) paint the outline of your design with your fabric paint. I bought Permaset Aqua - Fabric Magic from the art supply shop. Permaset is a fabric paint that works really well for both hand painting and screen printing. Each 300mL jar cost around $8.00 AUD.

The best technique for applying paint onto your fabric is to start at one end and work your way across and down. If you are right handed, start top left and work across and down to the bottom right. If you are left handed work right to left, top to bottom. I say this as it is a good way to avoid smearing the drying paint with your hand as you are working.

When you have completed the outline, you'll want to set the paint using your iron. I had my iron set to cotton (still) and the directions on the jar indicate that it'll take 2-3 minutes of ironing to set the polymer in the paint.

Step 4: Dye the Bandana

Yeah ... do that now ... that's when I did it ;)

I should really have dyed the fabric after I had hemmed it ... but I was too keen to get going with the painting. Still, it worked out pretty well doing it at this stage.

I made another bandana and haven't applied any design to it yet. This one was dyed at the same time as the Cthulhu design and I tie-dyed the second one too. The tie-dying was fairly light and gives a great mottled appearance.

I used a cotton fabric dye (denim blue colour). You can see that I didn't really follow the directions all that well as the dye came out pretty light. Still, I'm happy enough with that.

Step 5: Paint the Design

Using the same fabric paint, I watered the paint down using about 50% water and applied the paint using more of a watercolour technique.

I applied blotches of yellow and white onto the prominent tentacles and the head of the Cthulhu design and then applied a watered down dark green for shading and a watered down lighter green for the main colour.

As I was painting I washed water over the still wet paint using a fine brush to blend the colour into the body of the dyed fabric. This was done with the dark blue shading and the green body colour.

The end result of the blending and layering is a more cartoonish design, which is what I was aiming for. I didn't want to use the paint in solid blocks of colour, as I wasn't after a poster painted appearance. The other benefit of blending and washing is that the paint does not end up in a thick layer and will endure use and washing a whole lot better.

Once the design is painted, take the bandana back to the ironing board and set the paint according to the fabric paint instructions.

The whole process took about 2 hours and I think that the result is very satisfying

Step 6: Walk Out Into the Sunlight Secure in the Knowledge That Your Bandana Will Protect You

Now that I have my bandana all painted up and ready for use, I have put it on and I'm walking out into daylight happy that my poor little head won't blister and bleed any more.

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    4 Discussions


    So cool making your own bandanas! I love bandanas, but I use to wear them on my leg :p It's a great idea to do them by myself. Thanks for sharing!