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Jun 14, 2024

How to Create a Custom DIY Bleach Shirt. Full Process.

I’m excited to share all my tips and tricks for creating this custom DIY Bleach Stenciled shirt. Let’s get into it!


Step 1: Measure Your Shirt

Grab a ruler or measuring tape and measure your shirt. I go from top-to-bottom and side-to-side. This step is crucial to ensure your design fits perfectly on your shirt. 


Step 2: Design the Pattern

I start by creating just one-fourth of the design and then in Illustrator I flip the design, then flip it over again. This creates a pattern tile, which will allow you to create an infinite graphic pattern. Once you’re happy with your design, throw it into a mockup in Photoshop to get a rough idea of how it will look. Remember, it’s important to get your ideas out quickly to keep your creative momentum and flow going.


Step 3: Scale the Design

Once satisfied with how the design looks in context, use the measurements you took earlier to re-scale your design and t-shirt mockup in Illustrator. This will let you know exactly what size you'll need to print it out as. My design looked good at 20x20” for a medium shirt, so I sized it up to 22x22 inches to ensure it also looks good on larger sizes too.


Step 4: Print Out the Design

Print out your design to scale using the tile-imagable-areas technique. This will let you print out large-format designs even on regular-size printers. Make sure you trim off the excess margins your printer leaves and stitch everything back together using some tape.


Step 5: Assemble the Stencil

When using bleach, you either want to use super heavyweight paper or ideally something waterproof. Originally, I used watercolor paper, but that totally flopped! I had to recreate the stencil. I ended up using a plastic film material instead, which was thin but didn’t absorb any liquid, making it very durable in this case. If you’re only planning on making a one-of-one, then you probably don’t need to worry about this.


Step 6: Prepare for Bleaching

I recommend doing this outside with nitrile gloves, eye protection, and a mask if possible. Inhaling bleach spray is not the move! I used a 50/50 mix of bleach and water in a chemical-resistant spray bottle—this is key. I also highly recommend placing a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent bleach from seeping through to the other side. It also adds some stability to the shirt, making it easier to move around and handle.


Step 7: Apply the Stencil and Bleach

First, make sure your shirt is as flat as possible and you pat down any wrinkles and folds. Check your mockup and line up your stencil accordingly. Getting the spray down is tricky, but this is where all the fun is! I recommend being at least one foot away and doing really light passes. Make sure to also mask out any open areas of your stencil to prevent overspray.


Step 8: Final Touches

After each application, I used an old cloth to absorb any bleach from the top of the stencil so it wouldn’t drip down onto the shirt. Be careful with this! After that, I let it dry out in the sun. This helps the bleach evaporate and activate much faster!


Lil Something Extra ;)

If you’re interested in owning one of these hopefully I still have some available in my shop HERE.





Overview of Tips for Creating Your DIY Bleach Shirt

  • Use Non-Absorbing Paper: ensures stencil durability.

  • Chemical-Resistant Sprayer: prevents bleach from damaging the sprayer.

  • Nitrile Gloves: protects your hands from bleach.

  • Use a Mask: stops you from breathing in bleach! 

  • Cardboard Insert: prevents bleach from seeping through the shirt.



Cheers! 



Creating a DIY Bleached Stenciled Shirt: Full Video Process 








What is the Coachella Art Trashcan?

Launched in 2004, the Coachella Art Trashcan or officially know as TRASHed (Trash Education) Recycling program is a Global Inheritance original initiative that has sparked a recycling revolution at festivals around the world. What began as a nonprofit’s passion project to help keep festivals clean has evolved into a staple program that has graced many of the biggest events in sports and music.



How did I get this opportunity? 

Everything started almost ten years ago when I received a text from a good friend of mine. It said, "Hey, I saw these trash cans at Coachella and I think you should totally do one. You'd kill it." I told them I’d for sure look into it, and while I did, life got in the way. I procrastinated and let my own thoughts get in front of me… Fast forward a few years later and I finally applied in 2020. I made it to the final round, but unfortunately, I wasn’t selected. It was honestly discouraging, but as time went on, I realized it wouldn’t have mattered since, well, we all know what happened later that year…


Finally, in 2024, yet another few years later, I was accepted!



Coachella Art Trashcan


How did I paint it? 


STEP 01 — Preparation

  • I started by sanding the whole surface. This is a critical step to ensure you give the smooth plastic material some tooth for the paint to grab onto; otherwise, it will just chip right off! 

  • After sanding, I applied a white primer to ensure the best adhesion between the paint and the surface, and to ensure the colors would pop. 


STEP 02 — Transferring

  • I initially planned on using stencils to transfer the design, but after realizing how bumpy and wonky the surface of the trashcan was, I decided that a projector was going to be the best move.

  • I made sure to take measurements and get my design as close to the real proportions as possible, which made everything a lot easier.

  • I did have some issues with getting the geometry to line up on the corners since there was such a strong bend, so I decided I would have to wing some of it.


STEP 03 — Painting 

  • Once my design was transferred, I masked off the areas I knew I wanted to keep white.

  • I then applied my base color coat with this fluorescent spray paint. 

  • Using a Posca Marker, I outlined all the edges of the blacks. This helped tremendously in getting through most of the details with speed.

  • Once I had things outlined, I then went in with the brush to achieve some of the larger fills.

  • Once I finished with the blacks, I moved onto the pink. I made the mistake of not thinking about how dark the color would end up drying (always make sure to test a dry sample), so I ended up mixing it and having to repaint what I had. It wasn’t a huge deal, but take it as a lesson!


STEP 04 — Final Touches 

  • Once everything was in place, I had to correct some minor details, clean up some smudges, and overall make sure everything was as tight as possible.



See the FULL process in video form here





What did I learn? What would I have done differently? 

I learned not to ever underestimate the preparation stage. It’s the least exciting, but arguably the most important. If you don’t have a solid foundation then everything else, no matter how good, will crumble. Take your time here, do things right, and ensure you’re giving yourself the best possible starting point.


I also learned the projector was the absolute move in transferring the design. For some people, I’m sure free-handing it might be enough, but since my work is so geometric, I really couldn’t see it working another way. Shoutout to my friend for letting me borrow his projector.


Using the Posca marker was also a huge time-saver in getting all the outlines in, especially getting those sharp corners nice and crispy.




What do I conclude? 

Quite honestly, getting to see my work at Coachella (one of the largest music and arts festivals in the world) was a dream come true. I know it’s just a trashcan (lol) and a small blip in the grand scheme of the festival, but it really felt like an honor being there, even in that capacity. I truly thank the people at Global Inheritance for selecting my work!


Cheers. 




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