mike and sulley t-shirts

mike and sulley are two of my favorite pixar characters. with our upcoming trip to disney i decided to make t-shirts for the boys and again collaborate with expressions vinyl. they rock if you haven't checked them out yet, you should. 

i first started out with mike and sulley like colored t-shirts, jeerzy t-shirts to be exact that i purchased from, they often run a 4 for $10 special, i like to stock up. like with many sewing projects, i feel it important to pre-wash your t-shirts. personally i just feel like the vinyl holds better to them in the long run. you would want to purchase heat transfer vinyl, easyweed, from expressions vinyl for a project like this. although, i use a silhouette cameo for my cutting, i believe that you also do this project completely by hand (drawing and cutting). for my drawing i use adobe illustrator and for drawing and cutting i use the silhouette studio software. 

like i mentioned these shirts are for my boys. my oldest is 6 and but really he's a giant, so he gets to be sulley. my youngest is 4 and basically he's a smart@*$ so he gets to be mike wazowski. 

in working with heat transfer vinyl and layers which is what i did to create these shirts, you have to think about some color separation on or building up from the button (the plain shirt). my first steps were to study images of both characters and boil them down to be flat graphic colors. i also want to be accurate in what i drew. for example, many time i saw sulley horns drawn in black or blue, but really they are white, tan or grey. so i watch part of the movie and then i search online. 

i started off with sketches and worked in illustrator. what i created looked like this. a sulley, a mike and mike's scales down his back. i knew i wanted that shirt to have something on the back as well. i wasn't sure about the overall look for mike yet so i started with sulley. 

if you saw my first "travel tray" post, you would have read that i draw in illustrator. i do this mainly because that were i am most comfortable, i've been working in illustrator for almost  20 years (ouch!). i know how to convert the files to .png files and then how to trace them in silhouette studio to have them cut. i took all the same color features and cut them out. 

this is what my workspace in illustrator looked like, the eyebrows, the iris and nose were all the same color. i ganged them up on one sheet and will cut them all at the same time. this saves time and money. you can see the outside of my artboard has the other pieces already ganged together as well. once i have everything in place i save that file as the .png. then i open it in silhouette studio and trace it. it looks like this.

once i have done that step for each color, i set it on the shirt for placement. you will note that with heat transfer vinyl there is a shiny side and a dull side. the shiny side goes up (facing you). it has a plastic film on it that you peel off after it's been ironed in place. your iron should be set to a no steam setting and i set mine for cotton.

here all the pieces are loose and able to be moved around. i want to make sure i like the design before i make it permanent.

here all the pieces are loose and able to be moved around. i want to make sure i like the design before i make it permanent.

i placed all the other layer pieces to the side and was ready to iron down the bottom layer. here is an important tip. let the plastic film in place until you have ironed down all the pieces. once the film is off if will melt on your iron. once all the pieces are in place, i then go back to iron over all of it again to warm up all the piece. the film comes over better when it's warm. 

**tip, you know vinyl is "stuck" when you see the plastic film has bubbles under it. it means the vinyl has adhered to the material and not the film any longer.

*** tip, i have found it is better to not actually iron the vinyl. i rest the hot iron on top rather than moving it back and forth. i then pick up the iron and move it over. this is especially helpful with small objects and corners.

now we are ready to build some layers. i started with the horns. the white pieces are now laying on top of the black, not ironed down yet. (my favorite part of this project is it's surprise. all the white is actually glow-in-the-dark white. so during the day at the park, it will appear white, until we ride dark rides or the nightly parades. my 4 year old is obsessed with glow-in-the-dark so i know he will be thrilled. ) 

this part is essential! you have to iron your layers with something covering all the vinyl. IT WILL STICK TO YOUR IRON AND RUIN YOUR PROJECT IF YOU DON'T! i unfortunately learned that the hard way many moons ago. so i use parchment or wax paper when i iron. you could also use the transfer tape but my thought is… why waste it? 

once in place you then can peel off the film. then i just kept moving on. place, cover, iron, peel.

you can see here the film is still on the nose. even though the nose was on the bottom layer, i didn't take it off in order to protect it and not accidentally hit it with the iron.

you can see here the film is still on the nose. even though the nose was on the bottom layer, i didn't take it off in order to protect it and not accidentally hit it with the iron.

you will burn your finger tips, only hurts for a second, a more patience person could wait but not me.

you will burn your finger tips, only hurts for a second, a more patience person could wait but not me.

the last pieces to be put down are the eyebrows. they actually cover the corners of the horns. 

i ironed them into place using the parchment paper to protect the other vinyl that has already been placed.

final front design

final front design

now that the front is finished, i wanted to add sulley's scales or spike on the back of the shirt. they are purple and i just wanted to add a few. in the design world, odds are always better than evens so i went with 5 that diminished in size.

as i mentioned earlier, you can see the bubble under the film when the vinyl is adhering to the material.

final back

final back

and we are done. i can't stress enough how important the use of wax, parchment or transfer tape is. next up is mike. he's easy, almost all circles. and i drew him all in silhouette studio software because they have a circle tool.

once i had the pieces all cut out in their colors, i placed them on the shirt before ironing in place.

remove the layers and then iron down the bottom layer.

once the bottom is in place, remove the film and place the next layer on top. remember your parchment paper to cover the white that now has no protective film on it.

and mike is done. on the back i used green vinyl to make mike's spots. 

looking at this image now i can see what is about to happen. do you see my error?

aaarrrrrgh. the circle to the far right was upside down. if you look at the image you can see the dull side is up and it looks different than the others. and this is what it looks like stuck to my iron. thankful i had a metal ruler on the table and i was able to get it off before it fully melted. DON'T TOUCH YOUR IRON! (yes, i've done that too).

i recut that circle and ironed it into place. that's the back finished. we are done!

final fronts

final fronts

final backs

final backs

i'm tickled with the way these turned out. my favorite part is that all the white is glow-in-the dark, it's such a nice subtle surprise.

for care :: wash and dry inside out. on occasion you will have to touch them up with an iron. if you see something peeling up, just cover it with your parchment paper and iron again. it goes right back to sticking. 

don't have time to make these on your own? come visit my etsy shop and order them. https://www.etsy.com/shop/froglegstudios

thanks for reading and stopping by. please let me know if you have any questions.