Picture of How to sun-bleach your own shirt
In this instructable I will show you a technique I haven't seen done before.

We are going to selectively sun-bleach a design on a shirt.
The advantages of using this method over others are mostly not adding another material to our shirt (e.g. a layer of paint) which will then change the feel of the fabric, and not messing around with chemicals which a. cost us money, and b. are harmful to us and the environment.
This method is safe, it's easy, it's cheap (absolutely free if you have a black t-shirt and a knife) and reasonably accurate - although this last one is mainly up to you.

The main disadvantage to this method is that you can really one "print" in one color, and it's just a brighter version of the color you now have. I had a black shirt, and the print came out mid-grey. I'm thinking that you can probably dye your shirt a different color after you bleach it, but I have yet to try.

Interested? Follow along...

Step 1: What will you need?

Not a lot really.

First you're going to need cardboard. I used the corrugated kind (not sure of the name - it's a three layer affair with the middle one wavy), but you can use any kind. For the backing I'd suggest a stronger kind for support, but the front can probably be a heavy duty paper as well.
You're going to need two pieces that will at least cover the shirt completely.

A good knife. I used the knife shown in the pictures, but a good exact-o knife or scalpel will work as well.

Double sided tape.

Some form of clear sheet - you will see why you need it if your design has "islands".

And that's it. Oh...

A shirt. Darker colors work best, and I'm not sure - but I think you need it to be cotton.

I also used some miscellaneous items to fasten the two pieces of cardboard together, and some staples to hold the shirt in place... Just use whatever you can find.
aperkins53 years ago
Yep, I tried this. I'm very happy with how it turned out, at least for my first attempt.
keynant (author)  aperkins53 years ago
Nice!! Did you do it the "Negative" way, e.g. pasted the tree in an just hung it outside?
How long did it stay in the sun?
Yep, I did it the "negative" way. It hung in the sun for about three weeks. Mind you, this is Texas, so it's constant, hot sun, no clouds, no rain toward the end of summer. Those in areas with less sun will possibly not have results that are quite this successful. I used thumb tacs to hold the shirt flat against our privacy fence, so the shirt was on a hanger and pinned up to keep the wind from whipping it around.
smccracken14 years ago
I recently have a leather case for my galaxy tab (http://www.lightinthebox.com/Leather-Case-For-Samsung-Galaxy-Tab-P1000_p161249.html) and I was wondering if you think that this would work for it.
keynant (author)  smccracken14 years ago
I don't think leather would work the same as fabric. What usually is done to leather is a mixture of burning and stamping.
Though I have had leather chairs become sunbleached wheb sitting next to a window. I was thinking it may have the same effect.
keynant (author)  smccracken14 years ago
Well...I'm not really sure. Best thing to do is to try, but if you find that 25$ are too much to throw on something you may end up...throwing..., try it on a scrap piece of leather and hope your case behaves the same. One thing though - if it works or not, post your results please!
wow ive accidentally bleached my clothes on many occasion and never thought of this, its great! and i just happen to have a couple old black shirts that could use some cool points, thanks. when i think of a design and actually do it ill make sure to post some pics
might actually mess with different shades after the first shirt and see if i can get some multi step stencils on it :D
I'm thinking about a way to create a smooth transition. If it pans out I'll post it. :)
ColbyCheese4 years ago
Dude this is awesome, I cant wait to try this : )
keynant (author)  ColbyCheese4 years ago
Thanks man! Don't forget to post your result...
PipPipPia4 years ago
Wait - thats insanely awesome ! I had no idea the sun could do that to clothes....
keynant (author)  PipPipPia4 years ago
just so you know, on the traditional side of things - people still use the sun to help get rid of stains and yellowing of white fabrics. Some say a healthy exposure to a summer sun is better than bleach sometimes.

Oh, and about the power of the sun:
DeadlyDad4 years ago
Nice trick! You can also 'solar tie-dye' material. I did that to a t-shirt years ago.
keynant (author)  DeadlyDad4 years ago
A story - that was actually my inspiration:

I lived in a rented apartment, and my bed was right against the window. the seal between the screen part of the window was not so good and bugs kept crawling from underneath the window.

Long story short, the shirt is stuffed in there was forgotten for about a year of rain/sun/wind etc., but because it was a northern window with little or no direct sunlight, it got bleached (pretty awesomely) in a tie-die-ish effect...
Browncoat4 years ago
Nice idea!
keynant (author)  Browncoat4 years ago
Thanks. :)

Gonna try it?
lemonie4 years ago

I suppose that you'd do as well to pop the thing in a sun-bed / tanning booth?

keynant (author)  lemonie4 years ago
Wow, now that's an idea. Please, try and show me how it went... :)