Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Black cotton shirt or pants (or even underwear, I guess). Other cellulose-based fabrics can also be used, but the closer to 100% cotton it is, the better it will work.
- Paper towels or old cloth to help clean up any spills/dry off brushes after use.
- Well-ventilated work area OR respirator rated for vapours OR both.
Things that are not necessary, but ARE highly recommended:
- Drop-sheet or plastic bag or some other means of protecting your workspace.
- Safety glasses or splash goggles. Or even swimming goggles. Just something to keep bleach from getting into your eyes.
- Rubber gloves
- Old clothes you don't care about OR new clothes you hate OR clothing made out of polar fleece, because fleece isn't affected by bleach.
Completely optional junk:
- Small container of bleach in which to dip brushes.
- Container of water in which to rinse brushes
- Fabric paint
- Glittery fabric paint
Step 2: Getting Started
Secure your sheet of plastic to your work area and lay out your item of clothing on top. Arrange the rest of your tools.
Put on your protective gear and fill your spray-bottle with bleach.
Dab a bit of bleach where you want the centre of the spiral galaxy to be, to use as a guide mark, and also to see how the bleach will react with that particular fabric. Some bleed out more along one direction than others, and the various cotton blends will behave differently. You can use a paintbrush, a small burst from the spray-bottle, or a drop on the end of a finger. It'll take a moment for the bleach to start working, but soon a lightened spot should appear.
Step 3: Painting the Spiral Arms
Using the bleached spot as a starting point, use the spray-bottle to paint arching curves out and around. The overall shape is like an S, with the guide mark in the middle, where the curves reverse direction. Again, it'll take a few moments before anything can be seen, so if you're unsure of where you've already painted, just wait a little while so the bleach can work. Don't worry about going outside the lines, as it were. Some overspray is good because it makes things look more realistic. Keep it light and misty; don't completely saturate the fabric or the effect will be lost.
For small details, like some more tiny galaxies in the background to add depth, use a paintbrush. Let things sit to develop for a little while, keeping an eye on it.
Step 4: Rinsing It Out
Once things have bleached out to your satisfaction, rinse out the excess bleach and place it somewhere to dry.
Step 5: Final Touches
All done! From here you can leave it as-is, or add some colour with fabric paints. For my space shirt I used heat-set glitter paint in gold, red and blue. Gold for the average-age main sequence stars, streaks of blue glitter for the younger blue stars, and blotches of red glitter for the clusters of red giant stars. Because scientific accuracy. I used a photo of M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, as a reference.
To see a larger version of the space shirt collage, click here.