There was an episode of Prison Break where they bleached their PI (Prison Industries) uniform from navy to white in order to get into the psych ward. About a month later, I was thinking about it. If I wanted an all-white wardrobe, I could just bleach everything, right? And then I started searching how the bleach worked and everything, and came across BLEACH DESIGNS. People have already been doing this: bleaching clothing for an absence of dye to make really cool designs. And so my brain started exploding with ideas.
Now, I've always been a fan of T-shirts. They are the one thing I've always felt that's worth buying because 1) The designs represent my favourite things and 2) I can show the world how proud I am to be a fan of this very thing. But see, money was always an issue. I think one time I bought a shirt for $20 because I had lots of reasons going for it, but most of the time, I decide against it. So now I find out that all of these years, I could've just made my own T-shirts??? I mean, I could always make them, but it would be like ironing paper on shirts which isn't very nice. Yes, the designs are limited to different shades of one colour, but STILL. A lot of T-shirts are only one colour too. PLUS, I can put the design anywhere and as big as I want, so that makes up for the limited colouring.
How does it work, you say? You can Google it or I'll just tell you!
- Clothing/Fabric (100% cotton works best. Polyester does not bleach so any Cotton/Poly blends will not work as well)
- Photoshop & printer or pen & paper
- Xacto Knife
- Freezer Paper or Shelf Liner (I buy Con-tact Paper Shelf Liner on Amazon)
- Spray Bottle with 50% bleach and 50% water
- Designing: Create the design in Photoshop, on paper, etc. It should be a stencil, so each part of the design is either positive or negative. If you're doing multilayer, then each part is a layer is a single shade of colour.
What I do is get an image in Photoshop, erase negative areas, overlay with white, then add a black stroke. I end up with all of the lines I need to cut.
- Cutting and Applying: Once you have the design on paper, you can trace it or cut directly on top of it. What you will use is something that is both waterproof and will stick to the shirt - freezer paper or shelf liner. Most people recommend freezer paper, but that requires ironing so I haven't tried it. I use shelf liner and the stuff works great. Once your stencil is on your shirt, you should have any parts you want to turn lighter exposed and any parts you want to stay the same covered. If you are doing multiple layers, the lightest layers are exposed first for bleaching and the darker layers are exposed later.
Tip: When working with shelf liner, because you have to peel it with the design already cut and then place it on the shirt, it can be difficult to work with. Parts will start ripping or sticking together. I recommend not cutting parts entirely so that when you peel it, the whole thing comes off without little pieces not agreeing with you. Once you have it placed on the shirt, you can then cut those little uncut bits.
- Bleaching: Get a spray bottle with 50% bleach and 50% water. Then, not too close, spray the shirt. Dab with a paper towel to prevent the bleach from bleeding under the stencil. Spraying farther away will create a mistier effect. Do a couple of layers of this and the shirt will turn lighter due to the dye being removed from the bleach. If you're doing multilayer, you'll have to remove parts of your stencil in the middle of bleaching.
Heat will speed up the bleaching process. So do this in the sun or use a hair dryer/iron.
- Washing: Dump it in cold water to stop the bleaching. Then wash it. I like to hand wash it and then wash with other bleached shirts so I don't bleach my regular clothes.
(I recommend doing this outside as the bleach is smelly and intoxicating. Although bleach on skin is apparently bad, I have never had any problems with bleachy mist landing on my bare feet. Maybe because I am now immune to bleach.)
The Finished Products
So here are all of my bleachings. If the particle accelerator were to explode near me, I would become a bleach metahuman.
(Sorted by reverse chronological order.)
[Aug 2017] HEY MR. SCOTT, WHATCHU GON' DO? WHATCHU GON' DO? MAKE OUR DREAMS COME TRUE!
After a successful first spray paint shirt, did this one. I wanted to get it darker faster, but ended up spraying too close causing it to bleed. Also, the stencil was not cut very well so the edges of the letters aren't crisp.
[Aug 2017] First non-bleach shirt. Bought some Tulip Color Shot spray paint. Turned out looking pretty great except I didn't tape down the newspaper on the edges. (Mother Mother)
[Aug 2017] J'onn J'onzz. I had cut it out a long time ago and when it finally came to bleaching it, I kind of rushed it. A huge cloud blocked the sun and I had to wait for it to pass. It took a long time to get the body to be so light and then I didn't spend the same amount of time for the cape and text. I also accidentally left a paper towel drenched in bleach on the collar...
Mr. Robot - fsociety
[Dec 2016] Made this when I was only on episode 3.
[Dec 2016] Robbie Reyes' jacket. (Agents of SHIELD)
[Jul 2016] Saw The Purge: Election Year the day before it officially came out. First time at the movies all by myself. I loved it so I decided to spend all of Canada Day (the next day) making this!
[Jul 2016] The back of my awesome Purge shirt.
[Jul 2016] On the left sleeve like a sticker.
[Apr 2016] Mose is my favourite minor minor character on The Office. Of course I'd make a shirt with him on it! This is one of my favourite results. The brown shirt resulted in a nice yellow poo colour.
[Apr 2016] My friend is a big fan of Childish Gambino. Originally promised her a friendship bracelet with Kauai colours on it, but I'm so slow at making those. This was also my first experiment dealing with different layers. Turned out pretty awesome. Unfortunately, I had nothing planned for the back so it's just black.
[Apr 2016] One of the first designs I saw. Showed my friend and she wanted one, and so I made it. Very easy to do!
[Apr 2016] This one was the first one where I decide to bleach the negative space, so the back is bleached as well. I've been told it looks like mold on the back.
[Apr 2016] I've seen this design a couple of times on different t-shirt sites. I love designs where it's like you ARE the character. Gave this one to my mom.
[Apr 2016] Grant Gustin looks so good in one of those Star Labs navy sweaters! Had to make one of my own. I forgot to cut out the square in the middle of the logo, so I tried to fix it the day after. Actually made it worse.
Superstore - Cloud 9
[Apr 2016] Front.
Superstore - TEAM GOLD
[Apr 2016] Back.
[Apr 2016] This first in my batch after getting a new spray bottle and shelf liner. I sprayed way too close and the bleach just bled everywhere.
[Apr 2016] Cardstock again. I thought this was 100% cotton, but it wasn't. 60/40 cotton/poly. It took so many layers to get it to be so light. I originally stopped when it was brown, then decided to do it again the next day. I also went over unwanted bleached spots with a black Sharpie.
[Apr 2016] Very proud of this one. I decided to use cardstock for this one. Although a bit of bleach did seep through the cardstock, it turned out pretty awesome. Possibly because it was a towel, it needed a lot of bleach in order for you to really notice a difference. I really love Charlie Cox and the black mask costume.
[Apr 2016] My very first bleached shirt. When I found out this was a thing, I immediately got right on it. I have ~5 of these shirts so decided to spice one of them up. I've always wanted an Agents of SHIELD logo shirt. I used a pizza box for the stencil, emptied a Febreze spray bottle, and clearly didn't know what I was doing.