Easy Custom Tees With DIY Bleached Out Designs

DIY bleach tees tshirt

Our son Ralph created great-looking bleached out tees for his siblings — each one unique and representing something he thought each individual sibling would love. They turned out super cool. And I’ve got the images and techniques ready to share. Find the full DIY below.

DIY bleach tees tshirt

Here are the designs Ralph created — there’s a wide variety and they will give you lots of inspiration and ideas. For Betty, Ralph chose a simplified flower. Cute!

DIY bleach tees tshirt

This one’s for Maude. In case you’re wondering, orange Camp Halfblood t-shirts are a major part of the Percy Jackson book series. : ) Ralph made a second one for Maude’s best friend. Maude is going to go nuts over these.

DIY bleach tees tshirt

Olive’s favorite color is green and her favorite fruit is a pear.

DIY bleach tees tshirt

Ralph made a t-shirt for himself too. He is really into skate brands at the moment, so he recreated the Electric logo.

DIY bleach tees tshirt

For Oscar, Ralph used duct tape. Ralph’s happiest about how this one turned out.

DIY bleach tees tshirt

J is for June, of course.

Ready to make your own? Let’s get started.

Gather Your Materials

– 100% cotton t-shirt in a bright or dark color (you can use a pastel, but the contrast from the bleach won’t be as intense)
– Bleach
– Rags
– Sticky vinyl to create your designs and block the bleach — we also use duct tape as bleach blocker on one of the t-shirts

DIY bleach tees tshirt

Step One: Set Up Your Tee

Spread out the t-shirt, then put a layer of rags or an old towel between the front and back — so the bleach doesn’t bleed through to the back of the shirt.

DIY bleach tees tshirt
DIY bleach tees tshirt

Step Two: Apply Your Design

Apply the design you want on your t-shirt. For most of our designs, we used sticky-back vinyl that was cut into shapes and letters using a shape cutter — perfect for a Silhouette machine or a Cricut machine.

If you don’t have a shape-cutting machine, you could still buy a sheet or roll of sticky-back vinyl and cut out the shapes you want by hand.

For Oscar’s tee, Ralph put strips of duct tape across the shirt in a diagonal pattern.

DIY bleach tees tshirt
DIY bleach tees tshirt

Step Three: Add The Bleach

Next, pour some bleach into a container and dip an old rag into the bleach. Press the rag onto and around the vinyl or tape.

When the shirt is as bleached as you’d like it to be, put your hand into the tee and lift the front of the shirt, slip out the rags and immediately rinse the front of the shirt in water to stop the bleaching process.

Be careful not to let the bleached area touch the not-bleached areas until the bleach is rinsed out.

DIY bleach tee tshirt
DIY bleach tee tshirt

Step Four: Let The Shirt Dry

Dry the shirt in the dryer, or air dry it, and you’re ready to wrap it up. Yay!

(Find a few more troubleshooting tips at the bottom.)

DIY bleach tee tshirt
DIY bleach tees tshirt

Some helpful tips:

– If the bleach doesn’t seem to be working, there is probably sizing (a chemical often found on new clothes) on the t-shirt fabric. Just wash and dry the shirt and try again. This happened to me twice and washing the shirt did the trick.

– Wider pieces of vinyl seemed to work better than thin pieces. For example, the lettering on the Camp Halfblood t-shirt was super thin and the bleach crept behind the letters. We used an orange fabric marker to correct any over-bleaching. The camp tee was the only design where this happened.

– For the pear we used a sponge brush instead of the rag. The rag makes for cleaner edges around the design. The brush made fuzzy edges. Both can be cool depending on what you’re looking for.

– You’ll probably get a few random dots of bleach on the shirt in places you weren’t planning. Don’t stress. It will look good anyway. : )

P.S. — Make sun-dye bandanas.

109 thoughts on “Easy Custom Tees With DIY Bleached Out Designs”

    1. Yes! No kids are allowed to read my blog for a month before Christmas. Luckily, everyone likes surprises so they cooperate willingly. This is also true when we’re making the actual gifts. We’ll ask everyone else to go watch a movie or play outside while one of the kids and I work on gifts. No one ever complains — they know they’ll get a turn too.

  1. So wonderful! I love that they are so personalized.

    Another tip – you can use a spray bottle for a more misty look.
    And don’t forget BE PATIENT! Don’t over apply the bleach. Sometimes it looks like it’s not “working” and then all of a sudden everything goes crazy.

    1. Thanks for this tip- I’m on here reading this while we try it and I was just thinking that it didn’t look like it was working as well as I’d like- but I guess we just need to be patient and wait and see. I did wash mine first to make sure they would work. LOVE THIS IDEA!!

  2. Super cool indeed! Oh, your children are so lucky to have you (and each other AND all the uber cool sibling gifts, of course…)! :o) :o) :o) I’m going to keep the instructions for my son who will start making his sibling gifts once his sibling arrives next May. :-) Thank you!!!

  3. What a cool project! I wonder how much fun it would be to experiment with technique and tools. How about using a spray bottle for some of it? I just might have to try it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. These turned out great! Very creative. Nice job, Ralph!

    Ashley Ann had a tutorial on bleach art t-shirts earlier this year. She and her boys used spray bottles (or was it water guns?) and had the shirts hanging out on a clothes line. The spray creates a neat affect too.

  5. Ralph is so talented! (maybe after his mom?) I can’t wait for Max to be a little be more older to star to do projects like this one…
    all turned out great but I should say that the one with the stripes is my favorite! can wait to see the other projects from Ralph’s siblings…

  6. this is really a good idea. i’m thinking back to some things that i ruined with bleach that i may have been able to turn into something great. as always…thank you for sharing our great ideas!

  7. I saw two people mention ways that we create these T-shirts with our Girl Scout troop – we use freezer paper to make the stencils (iron it onto the shirt) and we spray the bleach on with a spray bottle.

    I’m going to have one of my kids make these T-shirts for her sisters this year. We’ve only made them in Scouts with words and a few simple shapes. I love the idea of one simple shape. Fun!

  8. My daughter is drooling over that Camp Halfblood shirt too – what a great idea! I have the same question as Melissa@Halfbaked – do you think it would work with freezer paper stencils? It seems like it would . . .

  9. that is such an awesome idea.

    I think my boys are going to be old enough next year to do this, and the kids will have such a ball making gifts for each other!

  10. Love this idea! And that Silhouette machine sounds very cool. I’ll have to look into it. Regarding the question above about freezer paper, stick on vinyl letters from Staples etc. could also work: http://www.staples.com/Press-On-Vinyl-Letters-Numbers/product_SS947369
    And I love the way your T-shirts look to begin with. Did you wash them in something special first? They have a very pretty vintagey look. Thanks for this idea — can’t wait to try it out!

  11. What a fantastic idea!! They look very classy – dare I say it, not ‘craft project DIY present from a sibling’ at all (that’s a good thing).

    And I think Ralph must be pretty cool – I love the name (it was my Grandpa’s name), he makes presents for his siblings AND the presents he makes are cool. Way to go Ralph!

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