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.
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!
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.
Olive’s favorite color is green and her favorite fruit is a pear.
Ralph made a t-shirt for himself too. He is really into skate brands at the moment, so he recreated the Electric logo.
For Oscar, Ralph used duct tape. Ralph’s happiest about how this one turned out.
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)
– Sticky vinyl to create your designs and block the bleach — we also use duct tape as bleach blocker on one of the t-shirts
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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”
Love this idea — the kids are going to look great in them! Way to go Ralph!
those are really cute. I’ll have to file this one away for when my kids are a little older. thanks for sharing.
I love this but would LOVE some ideas on how to beef up all white shirts. I have a ton of those.
Hi Tanya! We had good luck with tie dye a couple of years ago. Here’s the link: https://designmom.com/2008/12/homemade-sibling-gifts-2008/
Love it! But I had to laugh b/c I clicked over to this post on twitter b/c I thought it said “bleached out TREES”! ;)
Hah! If we ever bleach trees, I’ll be sure to let you know. : )
sweet! these are great for everyone.
He should be so proud!! These shirts look awesome. What a GREAT idea!
How awesome! Love it and now I have one more project to add to my enormous list – thanks Ralph!
I am a grown up. I want one of these, especially love the pear. Do you block your children from your gorgeous blog at Christmas to avoid spoilers? :)
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.
good question. I was wondering the same thing. These are beautiful Gabi. I love the duct tape one. I can’t wait to go to Hawaii next week. Christian’s mom is crazy about tie-dye and I’m sure we’ll make a bunch.
Love this! I look here every year for ideas!
These are beautiful! Excellent idea. I’m going to try it this weekend.
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.
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!!
Ralph did an awesome job! Love the ideas he chose for each sibling.
These are awesome!! : )
What a cool idea! I have a ton of ideas now – thanks!!!
What a great idea to do with or for kids (big or little)!
Brilliant idea!! WOW. My kids would LOVE the striped shirt.
Ralph did such a great job! I’m sure his siblings are going to love them and look amazing in them too. Such thoughtful gifts!
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!!!
Such a great idea! I love how your kids make their gifts for each other.
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!
These look awesome, and I love the “Camp Halfblood” shirt in particular!
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.
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…
I’m wondering if you could use freezer paper stencils instead of sticky vinyl? (I’m always trying to use the craft supplies I already have in the house!) These look great!
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!
You have an awesome family. So many incredible memories being made.
I love how your kids make each other gifts every year. They always do such a great job. Thanks for sharing their ideas!
I’ll have to say these are really cool. I am not much for DIY projects, but I might consider some T-shirts.
Love all these projects…would love to know where you get all the ideas from!
Please can I come have Christmas at your house? These sibling presents are so amazing!
My oh my this is such a great idea! I wish you had posted it sooner since all my Christmas gifts are done. Next year, for sure!
Love your ideas!
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!
LOVE this idea – – great for teacher gifts too!
so is ralph going into the tee shirt business? these are all so cool. i think my 10 year old would love to make these for his brother and his friends. thanks ralph…..and his momma:)
I see your kids having a little side business here! Awesome work!
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 . . .
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!
eek! in my earlier comment i meant to say thank you for sharing YOUR great ideas. sorry about the typo.
Great job Ralph!! The sibs will surely love them!
These shirts look amazing! Excellent work!
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!
Great idea with the vinyl letters, Jodi. And no, I didn’t wash the tees in anything special, I just picked them up at Old Navy. Maybe it’s the camera. : )
I think Ralph needs to set up an etsy shop!
These are awesome.
I totally want Raph as my elder brother :D
Oh and may I add, you absolutely must must must have the kids wear these and take a picture together after Christmas :D
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!