Bleach Painting on Textiles D.I.Y.

Bleach paint DIY Today Jill of Lune is going to share the next part of our textile printing series, how to paint with bleach. I love the simplicity of her design and can't wait to try this. Enjoy! 

Bleach painting is a fun, easy and inexpensive way to play with fabric dying and I know you'll love the results! I chose to create a simple tank with the phrase "We are made of stars" which is adapted from a famous Carl Sagan quote. I hope you enjoy my take on painting with bleach!

Supplies Needed: Fabric safe household bleach, inexpensive synthetic bristle paint brush, glass or ceramic bowl, dark colored cotton blend top, a white towel or rag, white chalk, cardboard.

Safety: Bleach is toxic, so be careful to keep it safely out of reach of children. Always protect your eyes, abrasions and clothing from coming into contact with the bleach. If you have sensitive skin, you will want to wear thin gloves during this project. Be safe, have fun!

Bleach painting steps1. Place a flat sheet of cardboard inside your shirt. This will provide an even surface for your design to be created upon, and will stop the bleach from bleeding through to the back of your shirt. With a piece of white chalk, sketch out your design. Don't worry if you need to smudge out chalk lines and re-sketch. The chalk lines will wash out once your painting is done. 2. Secure your shirt by folding the sides under the cardboard, using elastics or clips to keep it from slipping. Prepare a small bowl with non-diluted, fabric safe bleach. Have your towel on hand to wipe up any drips. 3. It's time to make your design permanent! Dip your brush in the bleach and drag it on the edge of the bowl to eliminate dripping. Use steady strokes to trace the chalk lines of your design. For an even bleach line, you will need to reload your brush every two inches. The fabric will quickly soak up the liquid. Work in a natural position, and take it slow. You will quickly see your design appear, like magic! 4. Continue to trace your design until you reach the end. Take a break, and return in a few minutes once the bleach has had time to react with the fabric of your shirt. Are there un-even spots or light areas? No problem. Simply go back in with your bleach filled brush and even out the design. 5. Once you're pleased with how your shirt looks, let the piece sit in the sun for an hour or more. This will allow the bleach to process and lighten. Depending on the cotton content of your shirt, the color of your design will range from dark red, to orange, to pink, all the way to white. Rinse and hand wash your shirt, and hang to dry. Your design is now permanent, safe to wash with like colors, and ready to wear. 
Lune bleach paint wornThere are so many options for bleach painting. It's a great opportunity to get creative with recycled materials. Creating large paintings, a grouping of small shapes that mirror the stitching of your garment, simple patterns like stripes and dots, and handwriting are just some ideas for your new design. Enjoy! 
Lune bleach paint worn 2Thanks so much for sharing this technique with us today, Jill. Be sure to visit Jill's blog, Lune. Xoxo. elsie 
  • oh jill, i love this one! a diy im actually going to do! thank you for sharing. you are so beautiful my friend! xo.

  • This looks great. I did something similar as a teenager but I remember the bleach made holes in the fabric after a few washes. Would this happen here?

  • Such a great idea and the finished product is so cute! I’m definitely going to have to try this one out – thanks for sharing Jill! 🙂

  • Such an amazing idea!! There are so many things you could write on an old shirt to make it into something new!! Really great!

  • This is so amazing… I wonder if you did it in stages you could have varying degrees of bleaching? Like maybe do it, let it dry, wash, and then repeat?

  • How simple and beautiful! I used to make prints on shirts out of bleach, but I really love the text effect :]

  • What a great DIY, I absolutely love Jill…a pairing of Elsie and Jill certainly can do no wrong. Can’t wait to try it out! 🙂 -Lo

  • I’m thinking after a good trip to the thrift stores near by I should try this. Maybe a little less inspiring and a touch more quirky for me!

    But still, a great idea.

  • This has turned out brilliantly. The nice thing is you could go as simple or as detailed as you like with it!

  • You girls always have so many great ideas which I want to to try myself, I can hardly keep up with trying them. 🙂

  • Also, you can do a relief. I’ve put down coins on a tshirt, and then used a bleach/water spray bottle to spray over it! It was awesome!

    I like your handwriting! I’d have to use a stencil!

  • I love the idea, its simple and practical, so why not!
    Big hugs!

    Inés

    SimplyClassyMe.blogspot.com

  • Just so you know! A great alternative material to use to draw on fabric or draw lines for sewing is to use a left over piece of soap. I learned it in my sewing classes and it’s less messy than chalk.

  • You make it seem easy but I’m not so sure of myself with this one.

    I own several Lune pieces….love Jill’s blog & shop! Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi guys – Just coming to say hi, and tell you that I’m so happy to see you enjoyed my contribution to Elsies beautiful blog. Here are a few answers to some questions I saw in the comments:

    *** Will the bleach make holes in your top? ***

    I can’t say for sure, because it very much depends on the thickness of your fabric. If you are using thinner fabric for this project, only wait long enough for the design to show but rise soon after – not allowing the hour processing time. If you love your design and are still afraid it may wear and aren’t into a deconstructed look, wash by hand and hang dry instead of using the washer/dryer.

    *** Will a bleach pen give the same effect as a paint brush? ***

    I don’t know for sure. I’ve seen these in action, but I think you’ll have better control of how much bleach is being used, and how thick or thin your lines will be for your design if you use a brush. Why not try both and see what you enjoy most? A bonus about the brush method is that it’s far less expensive, and almost everyone has laundry bleach at home already.

    *** Use soap instead of chalk to mark out your design ***

    I thought of this initially but went with chalk instead of soap to mark out the design because I worried that the soap would act as a barrier between the bleach and the fabric, creating uneven processing. In my experience, the chalk came out very easily, but I agree that a little chunk of bar soap is a tried and true method to mark clothing.

  • I use Clorox bleach pens for making sure. It just feels a bit more steady for my handwriting (notoriously bad) than using a paintbrush.

  • How great! In college, my roommate accidentally had a bottle of bleach spill into the dryer while it tumbled. The “ruined” shirts were beautiful! They reminded me of American Apparel’s acid washed tees. I haven’t wanted to recreate it by dumping bleach in my own dryer, so I can’t wait to play with this technique!

  • You should neutralize the bleaching afterwards so it does not continue to eat through the material.
    All you have to do is pour 3% Hydrogen Peroxide over the bleach and it will stop it from eating away the material.

  • I used to make this all the time in high school! It was the perfect way to write band names on black tees,which were otherwise too expensive to print on.

  • Cool idea. It’s looks awesome. I’m wondering, would a bleach pen work too? It might be easier to use for people who aren’t used to painting.

  • this is great! i had a “what more can i do with bleach and clothes” phase way back in high school, but i sorta got sloppy and random. i love the idea of writing with it…so delightfully constrained!
    ~sara

  • I use to have a pair of capris by DKNY with a palm tree bleached on the leg. Now I know how it is done, & am going to give it a try! Thanks!

  • sounds fun! will definitely give this a try! 🙂
    Thanks for the idea and step-by-step!

  • Great idea! And note that it’s probably not a good idea to use a shirt that is ribbed as it will be hard to get smooth strokes and the design will go all wonky.

  • This is fantastic! I can’t wait to try it.

    Another idea is to use bleach to tie-dye a solid colored t-shirt. Tie the shirt up as if you would dip it in colors, but use bleach instead. I tried this in college – it ends up looking super cool!

  • This is such a good idea. Never thought to use bleach before in such a neat and creative way. Definitley inspired after reading this one – thanks!

  • I love this idea!

    Just wondering where you got your tank from, it looks like the perfect loose-ness. Can’t wait to give this a shot in time for some sunshine 🙂

    whitney

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  • This is so great! I can’t wait to try this.
    (Psst… When I was young, our family cat was named Sagen. So, I like this extra.)

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  • I recall doing this WAY back in the day (the 70’s) and using “something” to neutralize the bleach after reaching the desired look. This prevented the bleached areas from developing holes later. Someone with the motivation to research this may want to Google and post a suitable neutralizer.

  • oooh..i have been thinking about getting crafty with bleach..so glad i found this. “fabric safe” must be what keeps it from making holes in the fabric? thanks for the great instructions & images!
    J

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  • i tried it and the bleach didn’t do anything to the shirt, it just dried. What did I do wrong?

  • My brush got completely destroyed, but I think it was worth it. 🙂

  • What about putting the bleach in an empty fabric liner bottle. I’m going to try this.

  • I’m in the process of trying this, making a tee to wear to the Jubilee celebrations in London tomorrow!

  • I fell in love with this idea and decided to make a shirt for my sister as a birthday gift. If I have one piece of advice it is this: Don’t plan on writing out a quote if you have bad penmanship! Stick to drawing something simple, like hearts, arrows, stripes, etc. Even though mine didn’t come out as whimsical as the above example, I still think my sister will really like it 🙂

  • Thanks Natalie. Yeah, now isn’t the time to be looking into all this stuff but I might try to think/do more about it next week. One oitpon would be to use an online service like Cafe Press. Another possibility, if I wanted to keep it fairly low-key and hand-made, would be to use some kind of spray paint put the pins on the fabric, spray, let it dry, then shake them off. More labour-intensive, but also more bespoke and one-off. Must try to do one, at least, for myself.You can probably see the hacking better if you click through the photo to one of the bigger versions on Flickr. Essentially I chopped about half a centimetre down into the fabric of the neck, then followed it all the way round in a circle. Makes the t-shirt fit me better and also scruffs it up a bit in line with the painted words.

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  • Your mom was right. Allowing the cloth to dry completely helps dinsimih pathogens. It’s the sponges and cloths that stay wet around the counter and soak in bacterial soups that get gross.Put the cloth or sponge in the dish machine when it’s time to use it. This sterilizes them. If that suggestion doesn’t apply or isn’t convenient, boil them in a pot of water on the stove for three minutes. Soap or detergent in the pot is not necessaryBleach works too, but bleach isn’t only toxic to pathogens on rags and sponges, it’s creates toxic fumes that humans shouldn’t be breathing. I stopped using bleach in my laundry, I found substitute items to use that work just as well without the toxic effects.

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  • I love the safety-pin disgen you could get that printed onto a t-shirt from a high-res digital image (lots of fast-print places on the high street are doing this from photos etc).Go for the fevered fantasies!The bleach one is cool too. Can’t see where you hacked away at the neck?

  • Great post! Also I was wondering….where did you get your cardigan? I love it!!

  • I add baking soda to the bleach to form a paste its easier to work with! HAVE FUN!!!! L.O.V.E.