Batik with Kids

[ 0 ] June 16, 2011 |

I love the look of batik fabric and thought it would be pretty cool to do with my kids, except, of course, for the burning hot wax bit. So last summer, after being inspired by a post on a (now-deleted) blog about reworking the glue batik project on That Artist Woman for t-shirts, I consulted with my kids and we decided to give it a try. (At the time, they were eight, six, and one; if we do this again this year, I’ll let my toddler do much more on her own.) I like this project because it allows complete creativity on the part of the artist and also results in some pretty cool wearable art.


  • T-shirts: You could use old ones with stains or new actual t-shirts, but we used new white boys’ undershirts, which come a bunch in a package and aren’t that expensive.
  • Elmer’s washable school gel glue (it must be gel glue)
  • Thin cardboard
  • Paper and pencil to draw your design first (optional)
  • Liquid acrylic paints, sold in little bottles in craft stores: You will need to water these down– a squirt of paint and enough water to thin it out. I used baby food jars, which also allowed me to shake it up to mix it, and to save any leftovers to use again later.
  • Paintbrushes and/or squeeze bottles, the kind used for hair dye: Look for the bottles in the hair dye aisle at the pharmacy or at an art supply store.

How To:

1. First the boys and I drew, on paper, the pictures we wanted on our shirts. I drew a line on their papers so they knew how much space they had to work with. This is especially helpful when everybody’s shirts are a different size.

2. Once we had pictures we liked, we went over them with dark crayon. I put some thin cardboard (opened-up file folders, because that’s what was handy) inside each shirt, and then we positioned the drawing on top of the cardboard and under the shirt. Because we used the thin undershirts, it was easy to see the drawings through the shirt. I held the paper in place with a smidge of masking tape at the collar. The boys practiced with the glue on some scrap paper, and then we drew in our pictures. (Because my daughter was only one at the time, I did the glue bit on her shirt.)

3. I slid the drawings out so the crayon wouldn’t bleed onto the shirt, but I left the cardboard in as the shirts dried so that the glue didn’t soak onto the back. The drying took longer than the 12 hours the original tutorial suggested–I’d say at least 24. This is probably a function of heat and humidity, since we did this in the summer. As the shirts dried I’d occasionally gently peel the shirt away from the cardboard. Even so, some little bits stuck, but no worries. They came off at the end.

4. Once the glue was dry, we painted. (This should be obvious, but the paint won’t wash out of clothing, so keep that in mind while your kids are using it!) My older son and I both used a paintbrush to apply the watered-down acrylic. He was very careful not to let the paint bleed through to the back. We made sure the entire inside was protected with cardboard. On my shirt, I let the paint run through to the back, just to see what would happen.

The younger kids squirted on their paint. Just water it down right in the squirt bottle. My younger son used “fire” colors to go with his dragon picture, and the result, at the end, was very similar to tie dye.

5. Once the paint was completely dry, I soaked the shirts in a hot water bath and scrubbed out the glue. A couple of words on that: Even though the glue is blue, by the time it had dried and we’d painted over it, it was really hard to see if the glue was gone. I missed quite a bit, and I didn’t realize until I’d already washed and dried the shirts. The missed spots of glue were much easier to see then, because I’d washed the shirts with the beach towels, and lint and sand had stuck to any remaining glue. Another soak and a go with an old toothbrush took care of it. I was relieved the dryer hadn’t permanently baked it on.

Also, the hot water bath rinsed out the extra paint (there’s quite a bit of that when it’s squirted on) and blended the edges together nicely.

6. The shirts are finished! (See photo above.)

We’ve been wearing and washing these for a year with no problems. The paint may fade a wee bit, but in general, acrylic doesn’t wash out of clothing. It makes a nice alternative to fabric paint. The color selection is huge, and it’s very inexpensive (59 cents for a 2-oz bottle at Michael’s). If we do this again, I’ll let my now-two-year-old wield the glue bottle herself. And once you’ve tried the process, think of the possibilities! Birthday banners, flags, pillowcases… so much fun!!

That Artist Woman link:

Category: crafts

Amy Hood

about the author ()

Amy Hood lives in South County with her husband and three children. A lifelong Rhode Islander, she puts up with the snowy, dark, cold months because she lives a ten-minute drive from the beach. Right now her main gig is hanging out with her youngest all day, and she thinks she has the best job around. She blogs about her artistic adventures with her children at Kids in the Studio and her own creative pursuits at Salamander Dreams.

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