Spray Bleach Shirts

This method of creating your own T-shirts is fast and satisfying!  Make your own shirt featuring a hard-to-find character or symbol!  Coordinate for the family by shirt color, or make each piece unique.

Please note that all shirts do not bleach the same.  Some colors will lighten dramatically while others will be more subtle, depending on the color and brand of shirt you start with.  I have had the best luck with blue, purple and green shirts.  Lighter colors like pink or baby blue do not seem to turn out as well.  I also havent had much luck with red (yet).

Here is a shirt I made for myself featuring Mary Poppins:

photo 2

Here is my creation for my husband:

photo 1

And finally, here is my son in his Tarzan shirt:

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Materials Needed:

  • Solid color shirts in various sizes
  • plain bleach
  • empty spray bottle with a nice mist (not just a jet stream!)
  • freezer paper
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife for more intricate designs
  • pencil
  • Iron
  • Cardboard like a shirt box

Start by finding or drawing a picture you want to use.  You can get an idea on some silhouettes that may work well by googling the word “silhouette” with the character you want to you.  Some will be easier to identify than others.  For this sample project, let’s use a sorcerer Mickey silhouette.  Here’s a picture on google images.

photo 1 (6)

Cut a piece of freezer paper larger than you want your design to be.  You can then enlarge the picture on your computer screen (zoom is often ctrl-+).  I then trace the image right from my computer screen onto the freezer paper, which makes a nice little light box!

photo 2 (5)

Now I have my picture drawn on the freezer paper like so:

photo 3 (3)

Carefully cut around your design, keeping in mind everything that is freezer paper will be dark, and all cut outs will be bleached.  For your first design I would use one that is outlined on a single piece of paper, though once you have experience with the process you will see how separate pieces of freezer paper can provide more depth if desired.

photo 4 (2)

Iron the freezer paper directly onto the shirt where you want it to be.  Use a hot iron but be careful not burn anything, I usually go about the “wool” setting.  Make sure all your edges are secured down, especially corners and tiny pieces.

photo 1 (7)

Now, place a piece of cardboard about the size of the shirt in between the layers, to prevent the bleach from penetrating the back.

photo 2 (6)

Mix bleach and water about 1/2 and 1/2 in your spray bottle.  Prime the sprayer and test that you are getting a nice mist instead of a jet stream.  Now, gently mist the area around your freezer paper.  You do not have to saturate it.  It is easy to add more bleach but impossible to take it away!  You will likely see the color begin to change in a minute or so, so you can add more bleach as needed.  I tend to spray a few times right around the freezer paper from a shorter distance, then back up to about 12″ or so and do a lighter mist over the front of the shirt.  You can watch the color dissolve instantly, which will help guide when you are ready to rinse.

30 seconds after spraying:

photo 3 (4)

Two minutes after spraying:

photo 4 (3)

More stubborn colors may need a bit more time, but generally within 5 min you will be ready to rinse.  Using very cold water, rinse the shirt completely.

photo 5

Gently remove the freezer paper as you are doing this.  While the shirt is wet the color differential will not be as great.  Keep rinsing until the bleach is gone.  You can now hang to dry or machine dry.

Soaking wet:

photo 1 (8)

Because I am a fan of matching shirts, I decided to repeat with a bit more complicated silhouette, Minnie Mouse!  You can see the cut outs.

photo 2 (7)

Here are the finished shirts, washed and dried:

photo 5 (1)

Hope you enjoy!

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