“Watercolor Dresses” Top . How To-sday

July 10, 2012 separator DIY Tutorial

I recently got the opportunity to try Ink Effects by DecoArt. It’s a new fabric-transfer ink that doesn’t leave fabric feeling crunchy at all. My head is spinning with more ideas for it because I love the way it mixes just like a heavy watercolor. I also love the fact that the finished product really does have that painted-on effect, again, just like a watercolor painting! Ink Effects will be hitting your local craft store pretty soon, but if you just can’t wait, you can get it online here
 I took a hideous, billowy-sleeved, barrel of a vintage shirt, and I hacked it up and sewed it into a sleeveless blouse because I loved the fabric and the collar. I’ll be sure to show you ‘before’ pictures of the beast sometime! Anywho – it made a great foundation for this little project!


What You Need:

1.   Pick out a magazine with images you like. I started off with Nylon, but I moved on to Real Simple when I changed my mind about the look of the project. Using your permanent marker, outline the pictures you want to transfer to your shirt. You can also draw on any key lines, like pleats or belts. 
Because I used pretty small dresses, I went ahead and traced seven. If you’re using a larger image, you can adjust accordingly. 
2.   Place a piece of regular old computer/copy paper over your outlined image. You should be able to see the marker lines through the paper. Trace over them with the pencil.
3.   After you’ve traced all the images you want, you can start filling them in with the Ink Effects paint. As you’re painting, keep in mind that you need to go by the colored dots on the caps of the paint bottles. The painted on color will look far different, but you’ll end up with true, vibrant colors when you’re all done.
4.   As you’re painting, bear in mind that this stuff mixes really well to form color blends, especially if you’re trying to match colors from your magazine page. You can also layer, like I did with the yellow polka dot dress. Just paint in your base color, and then when it’s dry, you can paint the dots over it. Just make sure to let it dry thoroughly first, or your colors will run together. If you want, you can outline your designs with black, or you can go for a more washed out look. 
5.   Let everything dry for at least 30-45 minutes. Or, if you’re as impatient as I am, blow-dry the heck out it… Cut out the little paintings, leaving a bit of white space around the edges to give you something to hold onto later.
6.   Lay your shirt on the ironing board, and play around with the little paintings, until they’re all positioned how you like them. 
* If your shirt is made up of at least 30 percent cotton, then be sure to spray the Ink Effects basecoat over the transfer area first. That will help the image adhere, but keep in mind that with cotton fabrics, the design will fade gradually over many washings. On synthetics, it should stay true to color.
7.   When you’re happy with your arrangement. Flip them all over so that the painted side is touching the shirt.
8.   Cover your paintings with another sheet of paper. With your iron on its highest setting, rub it over each little painting for at least 30 seconds. I did it for 60 to make sure I got a good transfer and vibrant colors.
9.   When you’ve ironed everything, the backs of the paintings should be showing some color. If you remember from Step 7, they were mostly white before. Carefully peel up the edge of one to see if it’s transferred. If not, repeat Step 8. If it is, then you can just peel them all off. You should have a beautiful watercolor-esque painting on your shirt!
You can actually reuse your little paintings another time or two. They’ll start to get a faded look after the first time, but there’s lots of potential for different projects with the same paintings. 


Two out of two curious felines approve of this project, though I think they’d prefer if it had a laser or something slightly more stimulating. 


If you like InkEffects, you can get social with DecoArts here:

* Disclosure – This post as part of a paid campaign with DecoArt and Blueprint Social. I was provided product to review and use, the art and opinions in this post are 100% my own.. See my disclosure statement for more information.


  1. I can’t believe I found something else to become obsessively in love with! Thanks for the great tutorial. I HAVE to try this!! Your blouse is sooo cute!!

  2. OMG this is awesome! I mostly like the way you designed the dresses, I would have never thought of it! Unfortunately they don’t ship to Greece… Lovely, well done!

  3. kat and Benita – I haven’t washed it yet, but I think it’s going to hold up really well. I wish you could feel it because that’d make more sense, but it’s just part of the fabric now – almost like if you’d drawn on it with markers, not ironed on a transfer. It definitely won’t crack or flake.

    It’s definitely supposed to fade a bit with washing when you use materials with at least 30 percent cotton, but on synthetics, it’s supposed to stay really true to color.

    Jenny – I’m so glad you stopped by the blog! Wasn’t the Alt class wonderful? Keep in touch!!

  4. I love this! I have so many ideas for these! Have you gotten a chance to see how they wash? Do they crack or fade?

  5. Love this! And I love how the options are endless… I’m thinking I might try it with a saying that has a cool font. Thanks!!

    P.S. Found your blog through the Alt class last night!!

  6. That’s a really cool idea! I had no clue you could do that.I feel like I would ruin it in the wash though…

  7. This is AMAZING! Wow! I love all your little dresses! I’ve never seen fabric ink like this before! Will totally have to get some!

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