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DIY Fashion: Bleached Stencil T-Shirt

Updated on February 23, 2014

So I've taught you before how to make your own spray painted t-shirts, and I'm here to tell you now that it's not the only way! Using the same concepts, you can create a design on a shirt using bleach.

I'm actually doing my design on a patch of fabric that I've cut out of a black t-shirt - I want a patch for my leather vest! The design I'm using is the logo for my radio show, The Vinyl Countdown.

Sorry dance force. I need your fabric!
Sorry dance force. I need your fabric!


This is actually a bit simpler than the spray painted shirt, and you'll probably have the materials you need at home.

Dark t-shirt - Like I mentioned earlier, I'm not making a full t-shirt - only a patch. The same concepts apply.

Stencil - I'll tell you how to make one using cardboard and a box cutter.

Double stick tape

Spray bottle



If you're also making a patch, cut a rectangle of fabric that is slightly larger than the stencil you'll be using. my stencil takes up a pretty sizable amount of space, so I cut a rectangle using the bottom half of this old long-sleeve shirt.

How to connect the space inside of the letters to the space outside of them.
How to connect the space inside of the letters to the space outside of them.

Making a Stencil

I free handed my stencil onto the back of a flattened mozzarella sticks box. I made my stencil to utilize positive space, meaning that the spray paint will fill the positive space of the letters I've cut out.

If you're not the best at freehanding, you could print out the logo or design you're trying to replicate, and tape it to the cardboard. Then, just use your boxcutter and cut out the design - like carving a pumpkin!

Keep in mind - any letters that close (A, B, D, O, P, Q, R, a, b, d, e, g, o, p, q) need to still be connected to the stencil somehow. As in, the negative space on the inside of an "O" needs to be connected to the negative space on the outside - or else you'll just have a giant, filled in circle when you go to bleach. You can do two different things in this case: 1) cut out a middle piece for the "O" and place it on the shirt when you lay down the stencil, or 2) leave the middle piece connected to the stencil by a thin line of cardboard.

Getting Ready To Bleach

So first you need to mix the bleach. I mixed bleach and water 50/50, putting it into a spray bottle. Shake it up, and give the bottle a few squirts to get the mixture spraying properly. Most squirt bottles range from spraying a thin stream to a fine mist. You'll want to set your bottle to misty mode!

If you're bleaching a t-shirt, grab a piece of newspaper and lay it flat inside of the shirt. Place it underneath where your design will go - so the bleach doesn't bleed through to the back of the shirt. If you're working with a patch like I was, just put a piece of newspaper underneath the fabric.

Lay your stencil down. Use double stick tape to secure it to the shirt. Additionally, you'll want to apply the tape in places where the stencil may not lay flat. My Vinyl Countdown stencil has lots of detail, so I used a bit of tape between some of the letters to make sure that the design would come out sharp. The better contact between the stencil and shirt, the sharper the image will be.

Once your stencil is taped down, use the rest of your newspaper and cover up the exposed parts of the t-shirt/patch.


Spray a mist of bleach over the stencil. You'll have to spray quite a few times - I did about 10 sprays. The droplets may only be sitting on top of the shirt, but they need to be absorbed. Take a piece of tissue or paper towel and dab the bleach into the shirt. Now, let it sit for about 10 minutes.

If the shirt isn't light enough when you come back, spray and dab another time. Be careful not to soak the shirt - you don't want the bleach to bleed outside of the stencil.

When you're satisfied with the lightness, remove the stencil and lay the shirt/patch out to dry. The longer you let it sit, the lighter it gets - and once it's as light as you want it, rinse it out quickly. Then, you can throw the whole thing in the wash to get the smell out.

Which method do you prefer?

See results

More DIY Fashion

As you can see, the bleaching worked with all the detail in my stencil. It bled through a bit on mine, but that's because I went spray-crazy.

All in all, I'd say this is a wonderful method for making t-shirts! It'll never fade either. If you enjoyed this DIY and you're hungry for more, take a quick look at some of my others.

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DIY Costumes Through the Decades
How to Stud Clothing
Make a T-Shirt Into a Tank Top
Spider Web Cut Shirt


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    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 4 years ago

      The bleached stencil t-shirt looks very nice as can be seen in the images. This doesn't seem all that hard to do and it's a good way to make and design shirts yourself instead of just buying them.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 4 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Beautiful Hub, Voted up.