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One of my favorite summer projects is tie dying t-shirts. It’s a great project to do with a group of kids.
Using bleach on a colored shirt is a different take on the traditional tie dye project. You start with a colored t-shirt and use bleach to remove some of the color.
You can use rubber bands and create a more traditional tie dye look. But, we decided to go for a more splattered effect. We concentrated the bleach around the middle of the shirt to leave room to add a DIY screen printed design.
Supplies Needed for Bleach Tie Dye Shirts
How to Setup Your Shirts for Bleach Dying
This is definitely an outdoor project. The bleach smell is pretty strong.
We spread out large pieces of cardboard on the driveway. We also put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent the bleach from going through the back.
In a spray bottle, carefully pour your bleach. I know some crafters like to dilute with water, but I did not. The full strength worked really well.
Start spraying the bleach on your shirt. We adjusted the spray bottle nozzle for different effects. The tighter the nozzle, the more of a wide spray effect. The looser the nozzle, the more of a stream and you can get the larger splotches.
After spraying the front of the shirt, we flipped them over and sprayed a few spots the back.
It takes a few minutes for the bleach to really remove the color in the shirt. It’s fun to watch as it changes colors.
After about 20-30 minutes in the sun, I washed the shirts on a regular cycle.
The clean shirts are ready to be screen printed. We left a nice white area in the middle of the shirt to add our designs.
Supplies Needed for Screen Printing with Vinyl
- Screen Printing Frame
- Fabric Screen Printing Ink (I mixed custom colors. Check out my ink recipe guides for more help with mixing inks)
- Oracal 651 Vinyl
- Cricut Maker
- My Favorite Transfer Tape
- Painter’s Tape
- Heat Gun or Flash Dryer (optional)
SVG Files Used in this Tutorial
Screen Printing with Cricut or Silhouette and Adhesive Vinyl
My absolute favorite way to personalize t-shirts is screen printing. I use my Cricut to cut a design on adhesive vinyl. If you are new to screen printing with your vinyl cutter, you can find all of the beginner tips for screen printing here.
I transfer the vinyl to my screen printing frame and squeegee ink over the design. For more step-by-step instructions on this screen printing process, check out my guide to screen printing with vinyl.
Mixing Speedball Fabric Inks
I wanted the design color to match the color of my shirts as closely as possible. One of the reasons I love screen printing, is I can create custom colors using the inks I have on hand. With iron-on vinyl, you are limited to the vinyl colors. With screen printing, you can make any color!
For more tips on mixing Speedball fabric inks, I have several ink recipe guides available to take the guesswork out of mixing. These guides work in proportions so you can mix a small amount for one or two shirts. Or, you can mix larger batches for big projects.
Tips for Bleach Dying Shirt
- The bleach will spread a little bit after you spray it on. We ended up with larger white areas because we really covered the middle area of our shirts. As it dried, it continued to spread out.
- Wear old clothes and shoes. The spray bottle technique kept the bleach pretty contained, but we did get a little bit on our gloves. Anything you touch with the bleach will turn white!
- You’ll notice in the video, I tried using a washcloth to drip larger splotches. This worked pretty well, but the bleach ate through the Dollar Tree wash cloth pretty quickly!