5 creative ways to get the most out of your free printables

5 creative ways to get the most out of free printables

If you’re a fan of DIY blogs and have a few bookmarked (*ahem* Make and Tell’s one of them yes? 😉 ) you’re sure to have come across some free downloads that have taken your fancy over the years.

Maybe you saved them to your Pinterest boards for future reference. Or perhaps you printed them down, made the project that was featured, gave yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, then filed them away on your laptop.

Sound familiar? Well guess what – it’s time to pull those freebies out and dust them off because there are plenty of fun ways you can reuse those files! Read on for 5 of my go-to methods that’ll give your favourite downloads a whole new lease on life.

5 creative ways to use free printables

Turn up the heat

Iron-on transfer paper makes it so easy to breathe new life into old printables. It’s a super fast way to get printed designs onto fabric and best of all, it’s relatively foolproof (hey, if I can do it anyone can!).

All you need to get started is a good printable design. Once you have that, simply print it out onto iron-on transfer paper and cut out the section you want to use. Then stick the print to your fabric with an iron.

Printable files with medium to large sized motifs and white backgrounds are best for this kind of project. See below for some of the ones I think would work a treat!

Printables that would look great on fabric
  • These cereal bowls don’t just make great wall art – they’d also look pretty dandy on a t-shirt.
  • Cut out these swimmer ladies, iron them on the front of a canvas bag in a nice pattern and you’ve got yourself the perfect tote for your next beach day.
  • How cute would these summer fruits look printed all over a tank top?
  • Print out these candy letters, arrange them to spell your favourite quote and iron them to the front of a cushion cover for a super sweet pillow.
Want to see iron-on transfer paper in action?

Check out my latest iron-on transfer project (a hand-print pencil case), for all the details.

5 creative ways to use free printables

Box it up

Making gift boxes is a great way to repurpose desktop wallpaper, placemat printables and gift wrap downloads. The best designs for this kind of project are ones that feature plenty of pattern over a large surface area.

Find your favourite downloadable pattern and print it out onto white card. Then on the same side, print out a box template like in the example below (there are plenty of box templates to choose from online – just search google for one that takes your fancy).

5 creative ways to get the most out of free printables

Once you’ve got your box template printed over your patterned card, cut it out and fold along the template lines to assemble yourself a pretty, patterned gift box!

Great patterned printables to use for your gift boxes

5 creative ways to get the most out of free printables

Stick it good

If for some reason I was locked in a room and could choose only one material to print on for the rest of my life (making up totally realistic and likely scenarios here 😉 ), it’d be A4 label paper. Stickers guys, that’s where it’s at.

To turn a printable into a set of stickers, choose a design that has several different shapes which are easy to cut around once printed. Once you’ve found a download that you think will work, print it out onto A4 label paper and cut out the shapes with a pair of scissors. These will be your stickers.

Peel off the backing and use the stickers to make magnets, decorate your envelopes, letters and notebooks, or in fun crafts with the kids. The possibilities are endless!

Free printables that’d make great stickers
  • Seaside fun forever! Print these pastel ocean-themed straw toppers onto label paper and cut them out to use in your planner, to decorate letter paper or to stick all over your notebooks like the picture above.
  • Gahhh, how adorable are these groovy fruits? Print them onto label paper, cut them out and use them as envelope seals for your summer party invitations.
  • These floral cake toppers are soooo lovely. Once you’ve printed them out onto label paper, write your kids’ names on them and use them as ID labels for lunch boxes or school books.

5 creative ways to use free printables

Shrinktastic

Having only just stumbled into the wonders of shrink plastic, I’m a bit mad keen about this craft material. It has amazing versatility; with the power of plastic you can turn pretty much any design into a durable shape that can be used for jewellery, home decorating or parties.

To get started, find a printable that you’d like to shrink, print it out onto shrink plastic sheets (make sure they’re printer friendly), cut out the print and stick it in the oven. Then sit back and watch the magic happen.

Just remember that anything you print will shrink significantly, so make sure you find a printable that’ll still look good after being reduced in size.

Printables that would make good shrinkie dinks
  • How cheery are these printable happy shapes? Cut them out, shrink them down and glue a magnet to the back for an instant fridge facelift.
  • Shrink down the emojis in this playful bunting and make yourself a set of badges. You can choose a different badge to wear each day depending on your mood!
  • Print and cut out the diamonds in this wall art, punch a hole in each one and then shrink them down and attach them to hooks to make yourself some pretty patterned diamond-shaped earrings.
Want to see it in action?

Check out this rainbow necklace post to see just how easy it is to work with shrink plastic.

5 creative ways to get the most out of free printables

Get your stamp on

Got a printable with a strong, well-defined shape? Make yourself a stamp and you can add that printable’s silhouette to any fabric, paper or card your heart desires.

All you need are some foam sheets, glue and a mount to make a nifty stamp that you can use again and again!

It’s worth noting that not all printable files are suitable for turning into stamps; stay away from intricate outlines and complex patterns and instead to look for a file that has an easy, distinctive shape to trace like the ones I’ve rounded up below.

 Printables that would make great stamps
  • Cut out the balloon animals from these treat bag toppers and trace them onto foam to make your very own balloon animal stamp for birthday cards and gift tags.
  • Print these caramel apples out at a reduced size (around 50%), then cut them out, trace them onto foam and make yourself a sweet apple stamp to use on your tea towels, aprons or other kitchen items.
  • Got a soft spot for a bit of bling? Try turning these diamond rings into foam stamps! Once you’ve made your stamp, you can use it on greeting cards, to pattern up some gift wrap for a wedding, or even as a print on a hen’s party t-shirt.
Want more details on how to make a foam stamp?

Check out this tropical hat band tutorial for the basic how-to.

So what do you think? Have I inspired you to pull out those old printable files you’ve been saving up for a rainy day? Let me know if you get a chance to use some of these techniques – I’d love to see how you gave new life to your favourite downloads!

xx Steph

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