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Easy Stenciled T-Shirt Using Bleach

There are many ways to make a custom shirt yourself using stencils, but this one is by far the easiest! We’re going to be using reverse stencils for this, so let’s learn all about them.

Reverse stencils are essentially the part of a traditional stencil that gets cut out. They won’t have a rectangular border around the design.  

Reverse stencil diagram

While they aren’t always as widely applicable as a traditional stencil, they still have plenty of uses! If you would like to make your own reverse stencil, you can order a custom one. 

This method can be used with either type of stencil, but for this project we will be using a reverse stencil. 

Materials:

  • A reverse stencil (we used these pumpkins from our Halloween collection)
  • Bleach
  • Dark-colored cotton t-shirt
  • Water
  • Spray Bottle
  • Smaller cup for easy pouring (optional)
  • Cardboard for inside the t-shirt (optional)
Materials for bleaching a shirt with stencils

Step 1). Preparing the shirt 

This project is safest to do outside to save yourself from the smell of bleach as well as protecting any fabric you have inside. Bleach will instantly change the color of most fabrics it touches. Play it safe and wear clothes that you wouldn’t mind getting permanently discolored if you happen to spill. 

We used a rectangular piece of cardboard inside the shirt to protect the back of it from getting bleached. Lay the shirt flat on your work surface and smooth out any wrinkles. 

Step 2). Mixing the bleach solution

We will be using a mix of bleach and water for this project. Mix a 1:1 ratio of bleach and water and pour it into a spray bottle. Instead of pouring directly from a big jug of bleach, you can use a smaller vessel to pour the liquid into first (like a measuring cup). 

Give your bottle a few spritzes to make sure it is working correctly. We are looking for the spray to be misty. 

Step 3). Place stencils

Placing reverse stencils

Arrange your stencils in your desired pattern on your shirt. Note that wherever a stencil is placed, the fabric underneath will remain the original color. If you would like ultra-crisp lines, feel free to use some spray adhesive on the back of the stencil. 

Step 4). Spray bleach

Simply spray your bleach and water mixture over top of the stencils. Take it slowly, as the bleach staining can take a moment to fully develop. If your shirt is completely black, you will see the fabric turn into an orange and then into a lighter cream color. 

Spraying bleach onto a black t-shirt

Once you are satisfied with the results, leave the shirt out to fully dry and for the color to finish developing. Wash and dry before wearing. 

Final Bleached Pumpkin Shirt

Just like that, you have a new t-shirt featuring whatever design you choose! This method is easily applicable to any fabric project, as long as the fabric is mostly cotton. Bleach is less likely to penetrate synthetic fabrics. 

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