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

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

  • Thank you for this information. Theh are so useful. I like your web sites.

  • 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?

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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.

  • jennsmom / Thats hysterical, you are no loengr in Kansas Dorothy. Had a great time with your men last night. Poor Kev watched the oscars I am sure out of pure kindness. Dad and I took over cheeseburgers and I fixed polk adot baby scrambled eggs. Nice fire and the whole nine yards but we missed you. It was not as good as I had hoped. Jon Stewart had afew funny things to say, but not great. Did not see one good dress except maybe Katherine Hiegle. Everyone had red on. Hope you are having some fun and enjoying your element. Do you remember always saying that your job would be on the East coast? Funny how things turn out. Be safe and stay out of any funky parks, no jogging with ipod on, and stay away from Bill Clinton. love Mom

  • 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.

  • 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 🙂

  • Very coll idea in designing for your own top. I also love the phrase you’ve used for it.

  • I’m in love with this tut! Decided, this will be my next project!

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

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

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

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

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  • 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

  • This is so awesome Il be sure to make it
    Check out my blog-http://natureisflowers.blogspot.ca/

  • 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.

  • Ahh!! This looks like so much fun and it’s cheap, easy and one of a kind. Great post, thanks for sharing!!

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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 love this idea…I need to do it, asap. I also love sayings like these<3

    Delaney

    xx

  • Great DIY!!! Simples and beautiful!

    xoxo from Brazil,
    Gabi Barbará
    http://www.blogbarbaridades.com/

  • This is such a brilliant idea, no more having tops that are almost what I’m looking for, I can just make it!!

    http://the-makingofthings.blogspot.com.au/

  • 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

  • Yes! I have many a black shirt waiting for this project… thank you!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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!

  • This rocks! I just got the supplies needed for this project and I can’t wait to do it myself!

  • 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

  • This is my favorite guest-DIY project you’ve ever featured here, Elsie! I’ll definitely be checking out Jill’s site. And I can’t wait to try this.

    xo, Alison
    http://findtruenorth.typepad.com

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • hey,

    i like this a lot, I’ll try this. thx for the idea.

    http://sanja-tosamja.blogspot.com/

  • 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’m discovering your blog…. I love it!

    http://www.afrenchinlosangeles.com/

  • beautiful writing. love it, I’d definitely wear it!

    grace
    http://herumbrella.com

  • I am obsessed with this and SO going to try it!! Thanks for the idea!
    http://annadeloresphoto.blogspot.com

  • 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!

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

  • 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.

    • If you dive into the bleach clothing, beware. 100% bleach will destroy clothing. You cannot simply wash it out either. It will eat at your garment and create holes over time. You have to neutralize it with bleach stop from dharma crafts or using a 1/10 ratio of peroxide to water. Soak the garment in the peroxide solution for 10-30 minutes. We have been selling bleach shirts that are hand painted and had to remake a ton of them because they developed many holes after a couple washes. Don’t fly too close to the sun y’all, water it down and neutralize!

  • Such an adorable idea! Having your own hand writing on a piece would be adorable! Might just have to do this one!
    xo Heather
    http://ahopelessnotebook.blogspot.com/

  • Yet another project to add to my list– would a bleach pen work too?

    http://aclosetintellectual.blogspot.com/

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • I’ve been wanting to do this! Awesome

    http://www.loganmakesamess.com/

  • I must try this out without using my horrible handwriting! It looks so cool:[

  • SO cute! I love this idea, definetly going to try!

    http://vivikstyle.blogspot.ca/

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

    Inés

    SimplyClassyMe.blogspot.com

  • this is so simple and yet brilliant! I will definitely try it, thanks so much for the inspiration xo

    http://petersthimble.blogspot.com

  • This is a great idea I have used bleach in my textile designs but never on clothes before that will now change
    I am very jealous of how beautiful Jill’s handwriting is

    Take Care
    Nicolette
    xo

  • Oh, man. This is awesome. Weekend project here I come!

    http://viennawaitsblog.blogspot.com/

  • So cool! Would be great with illustrations, too! xo
    boyswithbanjos.com/blog

  • I can’t wait to try this! I’ve done it with jeans before but not with shirts!

    Amanda Rose
    http://sewmuchtosay.blogspot.com

  • I love Lune Vintage! Jill is stunning.

    xoxo – http://cachecloset.blogspot.com/

  • This is amazing! I want to try it as well!

    xoxo
    ida

    http://asplashofida.blogspot.com

  • I did this once for my husband, and I must say it’s quite fun!!

    Girls that glitter love the dark
    xoxo

  • 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!

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

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

  • Amazing! I’ve never thought of trying bleech tye! I’ll be giving this a try for sure!

  • This has nothing to do with your tutorial, but I saw this on another site and thought of you.

    http://www.modabakeshop.com/2012/03/sliced-audition-tutorial-lonely.html#more

  • Jill you are full of such wonderful ideas!!!

    Thank you for sharing this!

    Anna

  • This is Great and so simple! love it!

    http://girlwiththeskullscarf.blogspot.co.uk/

  • That’s awesome. If only my handwriting wasn’t awful lol

  • Clorox sells bleach pens, which would be handy too! http://www.clorox.com/products/clorox-bleach-pen/?gclid=CKzd7qn39a4CFVO9tgodzCSVMA

  • 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.

  • 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

  • This DIY is excellent!
    I just tweeted about it and my friends are all abuzz about it lol I would definitely give these out as a gift/present 🙂

    xx

  • OH MY GOODNESS! I love love love this!! I wish that I had your artistic ability to write like that:)

    Love,
    Stephanie May*

    http://www.maydae.com

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

  • Wow this is so cool! What a fun and easy DIY!

    Brooke

    thebebebirds.blogspot.com

  • 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?

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

  • 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! 🙂

  • What a wonderful, simple idea!

    Looking forwards to trying it!

    Amy
    Live-aboard boater,
    Narrowboat Lucky Duck
    www.nbluckyduck.blogspot.com

  • 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?

  • Great idea guys. Love a personalized tee DIY!

    xoxo
    www.natashafatah.blogspot.com

  • oh jill, i love this one! a diy im actually going to do! thank you for sharing. you are so beautiful my friend! xo.

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