Sandpaper Iron Transfer – Custom Tee Series 2 0f 4

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So first of all, I’d like to send a shout out to the first person to sign up to follow my blog via email – go you!!! You, too, can sign up – scroll all the way to the bottom of the page – go on, do it – and there you, too, can sign up for an email whenever I post a blog update. It only takes a second, and you won’t regret it.

Okay – onto serious business. Saturday night, quiet house, and glass of wine… time to blog! I’ve got Mean Girls playing in the background for some white noise, however I’m finding that it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I keep getting drawn back into it. Is this movie still super relevant, or am I that old and disconnected that I just think it’s still relevant?

Regardless, I need to get to work before my laptop battery runs out. So – here we go! The second in my series of four custom tee shirt tutorials:

Sandpaper Iron Transfer!

This is something I’ve seen before but never attempted, so this was my first attempt. I’ll tell you how to do it, and what I thought of the results. The nice thing about this is that it is quick, easy, and uses items you may already have around the house.


For this, you will need:

  • Tee shirt! Cotton works best. In fact I’m not sure if it works on any other fabric. It may – let me know if you try it on a different fabric and how it works!
  • You want a larger grit for this. My husband taught me about sandpaper grit for this – apparently, the smaller the number, the larger the grit. I went with a 60 grit for this project. While I did have to pick some up for this particular project, check around your house first – more on the grit I chose later and why whatever you have may already work.
  • Crayons! Yay – crayons! You have these around the house, right? Sure you do. Go get them. Broken ones especially!
  • Iron & Ironing Board & Tea Towel. Not pictured, but I’m sure you have these… Be sure it’s a tea towel you aren’t attached to – it may end up colored in the process.

What you’re going to do is color the design you want on the shirt onto the sandpaper. One important thing to remember is that your image will be mirrored – so if you are putting letters on, or need it to be facing a certain way, you need to color the reverse of it (like Karen getting ready for her dance in Mean Girls…). Note the letters I have drawn are backwards. That sadly wasn’t easy.

Finished Design

What this is going to do is transfer the crayon wax from sandpaper to shirt, melting it and making the colors bleed. So, to make this work, you want to color HARD. This is why the large grit is important – you want to put as much wax on the paper as possible. Color harder than you think is necessary. And when you are done, color some more. You really, REALLY want some thick wax for this. One last time – this will look like crap if you don’t have enough wax on the paper.


Look at my little artist! Not really… she has no artistic desire to her at all. I’m really hoping she gets one someday because I’m going to have a hard time relating to the science lover in her. We will find a way! She spent about 2 seconds coloring this- after I talked up how cool it was – before she said, “I’m done. I don’t want to color anymore.”

Once you’re really done, it’s time to transfer your image to the shirt. This is where your iron, ironing board, and tea towel come in.

AH – wine glass is empty – WINE REFIL TIME!

Okay, I’m back.

Step Two

Again, we are going to use our iron on the highest, non-steam heat setting. While your iron is warming up, place your shirt down and place the transfer – color side down – onto your shirt where you want it to appear on the shirt.

Step One

Place the tea towel over the sandpaper, and begin to iron the sandpaper. Unless you are worried about scorching your tea towel, you would be best letting it actually sit over the paper for 5 – 10 seconds before moving to the next area. The idea here is to melt the crayon wax so that it transfers from paper to shirt. Make sure you iron the entire area, leaving the hot iron on each spot for 5 – 10 seconds at least. You can very carefully lift up the corner of the sandpaper to check your work. Are you happy with how the shirt looks? If not, place it back down carefully and continue ironing.

Once you feel you’ve ironed enough, double check the shirt. How’s it look? If you’re happy with it, then it’s time to finish it off. Remove the sandpaper and place the tea towel onto the shirt directly. Run the iron over this – only up to 5 seconds in each spot. This step will remove any excess wax and put it onto the tea towel. This is why you don’t want to use your fancy towels.

Side note – do you know what I mean when I say tea towel? Does anyone actually use that phrase? I’ve heard them called flour sack towels as well. Just use a towel. Thanks.

Okay – back to the shirt. Once you’ve ironed the towel on the image itself, pull it up and see how much wax you pulled up. A lot? You may want to repeat this step again with a clean spot of towel until you end up picking up nothing.


To truly finish the shirt, run it through the dryer for 20 minutes on high. There – done and done. The first time you wash this, you may want to wash it by itself just to be careful.

What do you think? Personally, I’m not entirely pleased with mine. Here is what I would have done differently-

1 – 60 grit sandpaper was too course. I think this is what made my image look like dots instead of being a connected picture. I think the tiny spaces you see inbetween the dots are the spaces between grit. A finer grit I think would have made a more cohesive image.

2- I didn’t color enough. I would have added even more crayon wax while coloring.

Otherwise, I think the technique works. My daughter loved the shirt, and really, that’s all that matters.

I think this would be a great way to have kids design their own clothes – IF you have a kid that likes things like this. Even better – this would be a cheap, easy, and relatively mess free activity for multiple children to do. Maybe a fun birthday party activity, or kids club thing?

I think that for this technique, the simpler the design, the better. So to make it even more of a kids activity, you could beforehand trace some fun shapes onto the sandpaper for them to color – a car, for example. Each kid could then customize their own shirt.

Or how about having the child design a shirt for Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Grandparent’s Day? If your spouses/others/parents are into those sentimental sorts of things.

At any rate, while this technique works, learn from my mistakes. Really, REALLY use a lot of crayon to get your design down. I feel like this may fade from the shirt after multiple washings, but if you are doing this for a child, they will likely grow out of it in that time anyhow!

2 more tutorials coming up – and I’m looking even more forward to them than I was these! Don’t forget to subscribe below for an email update when I get those posted!



Post is finished, and it took me the length of Mean Girls to finish it. Mostly because I kept getting pulled back into the movie. I know that Lindsay Lohan’s life took a bit of a turn in the last handful of years, but you have to admit – she was super cute and I would love to be able to pull off her outfits in this movie! I’m coming back to the movie again because I think it has a great message that is rarely heard over the comedy. “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid won’t make you any smarter.” So true! We forget that often in life. Not that it has ANYTHING to do with making your own shirt, but try to remember this. PSA over. Rock that new shirt!

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