Once you have selected the applique design you want to use, there are several ways to make your design workable for your particular project. Here are a few considerations that I keep in mind to make sure my applique placement will look perfect.
For me the size of the applique is very important in relationship to the item that it is going to be displayed upon. A simple rule of thumb to help you keep your applique design in proportion to your project is to create your own grid. For example, if you are placing your design on your favorite T-shirt, fold the shirt in half (top to bottom) to find center. Press it lightly with an iron so you have a crease line. Now, fold the top down to that crease line and fold the bottom up to the center crease line and lightly press again. You will now have three crease lines on the front of your T-shirt basically running east and west.
Do the same thing again folding from the sides of your T-shirt. Fold in half and press lightly to form a vertical center line, now bring the left side to the center crease and press lightly, then bring the right side of the shirt to the center crease line and press lightly. You will now have three creased lines running north and south. Now you have a T-shirt grid to help you center your applique and visually see how it will fit.
I like to have my applique design extend from the center up to the top crease line nearest the neck and touching the lower crease line towards the bottom of the T-shirt. I also like it to extend from the center towards each left/right side crease line.
If using a design from a coloring book page, place the paper pattern on your shirt and see how it fits between your grid lines. Need to change the size – fold in your paper pattern from center the same amount vertically and horizontally to decrease the size or cut your pattern through the center vertically and horizontally and spread it apart the same amount. You want to be careful not to distort your design too much so you probably don’t want to decrease or increase by more than 1/2″ inch. If the design you want to use really needs more than that to fit your item, it’s probably best to take it to a print shop and have it reprinted to the size you need.
Of course, if you have used a design from the web, see if can be resized at the site or maybe copy and paste it to a program you have so you can do resizing that way. Or if all else fails, print it out and resize like a coloring book page.
You can always trace a design you have found maybe from a magazine using a light box or taping the page to a large window and use the sun as light for tracing purposes and resize it to fit your T-shirt during this process. Also, using a light box gives you the ability to redraw your design a little smaller or bigger to fit your grid area.
Making your own grid system works great for many applique projects (towels, pillow cases, tablecloths, napkins, pockets) and really insures your placement is exactly how you want it. If placing an applique design onto a small area, like a collar or cuff, I basically eyeball my placement spot.