How to Decorate and make designs on Your T Shirts and Blue Jeans by Reverse Dyeing with Liquid Bleach and a Bleach Pen
Have you ever accidentally spilled bleach on your shirt and thought it was ruined so you just threw it away? Well, did you know that you can also use bleach or a bleach pen on purpose to make designs on your shirts? How cool is that?
And it’s not just for your tees, either. If that old pair of blue jeans you used to love could use some help then why not pretty it up the easy way with a good old bleach pen!
What is bleach dyeing?
In a nutshell, bleach or reverse dyeing means taking color away instead of adding dye. This can be done in a number of different ways from using a bleach pen or brush for precise application to spraying liquid bleach.
In the past, I have played around with reverse tie dyeing which is basically tying or bundling your shirts (same as tie dye) and instead of adding color dyes, you actually take it away with the bleach.
This is super easy to do with watered down liquid bleach in a spray bottle. It is especially fun experimenting with different color shirts because you never know what the bleached area will look like.
For instance, a lot of reverse dyed black fabric will end up looking orange or rust color. It all depends on the original dye composition.
Since chlorine bleach is a caustic substance that should be handled very carefully so using a bleach pen is much safer than spraying a bleach solution where you also have to be super careful not to breathe it in!
Plus, there is no need to mix any chemical dye powder or make a big mess in your kitchen. All you need is a Bleach Pen! And you know how teens love to personalize and bedazzle their clothes? Teens also love this project.
Bonus, bleach pens work great for getting stains out of your white shirts, too.
Materials and Tools
- Colored Shirts (all or mostly Cotton) or Blue Jeans
- Bleach Pen
- Scrap Plastic or Cardboard
- Pencil (optional)
- Stencil (optional)
4 Different Bleach Shirt Designs
Note: For all of these pieces, place a sheet of plastic or cardboard inside to prevent the bleach from bleeding through to the other side.
1. Bleach Pen Design: Flower
I wanted to put a couple of simple designs on the front of these red shorts. For inspiration and design, I dug out one of our beach towels which has flowers and dragon flies on it.
You may want to practice your drawing on a piece of paper first. Also, it’s a good idea to draw with the bleach pen on scrap fabric to get a feel for the flow of the bleach gel.
First, with my pencil, I drew the outline of a flower on one side of the shorts. Then, I followed the pencil line with the bleach pen.
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Finally, I let the bleach sit on the fabric for 15 minutes or so. It’s hard to say exactly how long it takes as that varies depending on the type of fabric and the original fabric dye used.
Repeat with the other design:
Thoroughly rinse off the bleach and wash your shirt or jeans with laundry detergent. If the bleach pen design is not light enough for you, you can repeat the process after the shorts or shirt dries.
2. Bleach Design with a Stencil
I wanted swirls and loops along the side of the legs so I used a stencil (pink heart shape) that I found at Dollar Tree. Basically, all you have to do is follow the lines with the bleach pen. Super easy!
Again, let the bleach set on your fabric for a while, then rinse, wash and dry.
3. Bleach Pen Design on a Shirt
This is the same process as I used on the blue jeans. Again, I chose part of the heart stencil. Since this was an older shirt, it did not bleach as strongly as the other pieces.
4. Bleach Dyeing a Black T Shirt
Yes, it’s actually black. My camera is a bit colorblind….
This bleach shirt design technique is a little different. I decided to try dyeing this shirt with liquid bleach instead of the pen.
First, I picked a bunch of heart shaped leaves and laid them out on the shirt.
Then, I sprayed around the leaves with a solution of 1 part liquid bleach to 3 parts water. I let this sit a while and then I washed and dried my shirt.
To define the hearts a little better, I added heart designs with the bleach pen.
That’s all there’s to it! It’s so much fun to try different bleach shirt designs and decorations. Plus, if you get your shirts or jeans at a thrift shop, it’s okay if your designs don’t turn out quite right.
This fabric dyeing project is super easy and you can use any shape, stencil, or freehand design you want. These shirts also make a unique gift idea. Customize the design for your favorite horse lover, musician or even knitter. The possibilities are truly endless!
Have you played around with a bleach pen designs? I’d love to see your fun creations.
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How do you make a bleach patterned shirt?
There are many different ways to tie, bundle or stitch your shirt to make different patterns. These techniques are called Tie Dye, Shibori Dyeing or Resist Dyeing.
You can apply the same folding methods to reverse dyeing with bleach. This step by step tutorial shows you how I bleach dyed Spiral, Accordion Fold, Flag Fold, Pole Wrapped and Bullseye Tie Dye patterns.
What shirts are best for bleaching?
In general, you will want to chose either 100% Cotton or mostly Cotton shirts. Other cellulose fibers such as Linen or Bamboo should work but honestly, I have not tested them myself.
Stay away from synthetic fibers like Polyester or Acrylic. These materials are very unpredictable and may not work at all.
Related Fabric Dyeing Tutorials
- Iron Inspired: Printing and Dyeing with Rust E-Course
- Dyeing with Fiber Reactive Dyes (Beginner’s Guide)
- Bleaching various Tie Dye Patterns
- How to Host a Tie Dye Party
- Ice Dyeing on Cotton
- How to Snow Dye
- Shibori Dyeing Tea Towels
- Making Fabric Dye with Acorns
- Reverse Tie Dyeing with Bleach
- Tie Dye a Heart Shape
- Accordion Folding Tie Dye
- Geode Tie Dyeing Technique (Ice Dyed)