Introduction: Bleach Patterned T-shirt With Vinyl Cut Stencil

This is a quick way to make custom t-shirts using vinyl cut stencils and bleach.

Step 1: Prerequisites

This instructable assumes you have access to a vinyl cutter and supplies for making stickers. These stickers were made from GreenStar sign vinyl cut on a Graphtec CE 6000 cutting plotter. Any hobby vinyl cutter and adhesive vinyl should work.

NOTE this is adhesive vinyl, not the heat transfer type normally used for making t-shirts

Step 2: Gather the Supplies

  • Bleach sensitive color t-shirt
  • Cut, weeded and masked vinyl sticker
  • Spray bottle filled with a 50%-50% water-bleach mixture
  • plastic barrier to protect the back of the shirt from the bleach (we used the laminated placemat shown in the picture).
  • Bucket of water to stop the bleaching process.
  • A well ventilated work space (outside is ideal).

Step 3: Apply Sticker

Apply the sticker to the shirt by removing backing material, positioning the sticker and peeling off the masking.

The masking can be hard to remove as it sticks to the fabric of the shirt as well or better than the vinyl does. It is best to move slowly and use both hands

Once the masking is removed, make sure there are no wrinkles in the sticker.

Edges of the sticker have a tendency to pull up as the masking is removed. Press down on all of the edges of the sticker to reduce the chance that bleach will bleed under the sticker.

Step 4: Spray the Shirt With Bleach

Spray the area around the sticker with the bleach/water mixture and watch for the color change.

Rate of change will vary based on the color of the shirt, the concentration of the bleach solution and the amount of bleach solution sprayed onto the shirt.

Step 5: Stop the Reaction by Diluting the Bleach With Water

When the desired color change is reached remove the placemat (or whatever you are using to protect the back of the shirt) and dunk the shirt in a bucket of water. wring out the shirt and dunk again a few times to dilute the bleach and stop the discoloration reaction.

Step 6: Finishing

Set the shirt out to dry or put it directly into the washing machine.

Step 7: Enjoy

The shirts are ready to wear.

Results can be manipulated to some extent by varying the amount of bleach sprayed on and the time the bleach is left on prior to rinsing.

It is useful to have more that one shirt of the same brand/color when starting out because different shirts respond differently to bleaching. Some shirt dyes are very resistant to bleaching while others (like the dark shirt used with the microscope sticker) change color almost immediately.

Extra bleach/bleaching time will cause more bleeding of color under the edge of the sticker which gives the design a more abstract, stylized look.

Thinner lines in the design also increase the chance of having the bleach bleed under the sticker as show with the microscope shirt.

About the designs:

The soccer stencil is an original design based on a photo of two U8 girls soccer player fighting for a ball.

The microscope stencil is based on a line drawing of an antique brass microscope made by THOs Rubergall in the early 1800's.

Both images are attached as .eps files.