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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.


Creating a DIY Bleached Stenciled Shirt: Full Video Process 

I'm excited to take you through my process of transforming digital art into a real painting. Let's dive into the steps, tips, and tricks to bring your digital creations to life on a physical canvas! 

How to Paint Digital Art

Step 1: Priming

I’m using a wood panel because I prefer it over canvas, but you can use any surface you’d like. I start by priming my panel with a light coat of white spray paint. I use spray paint because it’s faster and dries quicker, but you can, of course, use regular primer or gesso. After the first coat is dry to the touch, I make sure to do a light sanding with high-grit sandpaper (300-400). This ensures a super smooth surface (that’s the goal here). After the first coat dries, I apply a second coat to get nice even coverage.

Step 2: Transferring the Design

Once the base coat is dry, I use a projector to transfer my digital design onto the panel. To get everything lined up, I found the best method is to open your design in Photoshop and use the Transform tool to manually drag the corners of your design in line with the corners of your panel. This ensures everything is nice and straight. I also make sure to set my display to never-sleep so I don’t have to worry about any interruptions. 

Step 3: Tracing the Design

With everything lined up, it’s time to trace the design onto the panel. This step involves outlining all the major elements to create a solid guide for painting. In this case, I’m just using a regular pencil, nothing fancy here. (If you don’t have a projector, see below on how to use the graphite transfer method as an alternative.)

Step 4: Laying Down the Base Color

Next, I apply my base color using fluorescent spray paint. In my case, my paint is transparent so I can still see my line work just fine, but if yours is not, you’ll probably want to do this BEFORE you trace your design. Depending on your work, you might not even need this step altogether.

*Important Note

Yes! This IS the same design I used on the trashcan I painted for Coachella. I was NOT able to keep the trashcan unfortunately and I really liked the design + had left over paint. So, I decided I'd make myself a little something just for me to keep and hang in the studio.

Step 5: Outlining with Posca Markers

Using my trusty Posca marker, I start tracing all the main outlines. Depending on your work, you might want to do this step at the end. I like to do this first since it helps me get the details and tough spots out of the way first, and then I can focus on painting in the larger fills.

Step 6: Transferring Complex Designs

For more complex parts of the design, I’ll use the graphite transfer technique. I’ll print out the design to scale, then using a soft 6b pencil, rub the graphite on the back of the design. After that, I’ll flip it over and align it on my panel. I’ll trace over the design using a ballpoint pen and like magic the design is transferred. This ensures I get super nice and crispy lines. I also make sure to mark my positive space to avoid confusion when I start the painting process. 

Step 7: Painting the Larger Fills

At this point I’ll speed through all the larger fills using an appropriate size brush. I’ll switch to a tiny one if need be to get any last details in as well. 

Final Touches

The final step involves going back over the design to catch any missing details and cleanup any smudges or mistakes. In this case, I had painted over some areas, masked them off a bit, and re spray painted them to ensure everything was nice and clean! 


If you've never painted your digital work before, DO IT! — you won't regret it! The transformation from digital to physical is truly something magical. It’s a feeling I’ll personally never get over and hope you won’t too.


How to Paint Digital Art Full Video:

How to Paint Digital Art
How to Paint Digital Art
How to Paint Digital Art
How to Paint Digital Art
How to Paint Digital Art


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