Bleach pen t-shirts are an easy and inexpensive way to create personalized t-shirts for all ages and occasions. 

4th of July Bleach Pen T-shirtBleach Pen T-shirt


I tried my hand at designing my own t-shirts this weekend using a bleach pen. These are for the 4th of July,  It was such an easy project and relatively inexpensive, so I see more bleach pen projects in my future. The red one is for my son and the blue one is mine.


I wanted to make my son a t-shirt to wear to the 4th of July Parade. I picked up a 100% cotton t-shirt from Target and then made my own stencil on my Silhouette Cameo. You could easily make this with pre-bought stencils though since it’s only numbers and shapes. First I applied the stencil to my t-shirt. It was made from vinyl so it adhered to the shirt. I found this helpful so the stencil didn’t shift. Contact paper also works well.

Bleach Pen T-shirt suppliesBleach Pen T-shirt supplies

Then I traced the stencil using the bleach pen. After I traced each letter or shape, I spread it around a little bit with my finger to even out the bleach. I chose to work on this outside so the bleach fumes didn’t bother me at all. Then I let the bleach dry for a few hours. i was concerned at first that it would end up pink instead of white, but once it was dry, it was white. i touched up a few spots after I removed my stencil. It’s difficult to make the color come out completely even, so it has a vintage-y look to it, which I really liked!

Bleach Pen t-shirt - trace stencilbleach pen t-shirt - drying

After the shirt dried fully, I rinsed it in cold water and then washed and dried it in the washing machine. I tried to get my son to model the t-shirt for me. I got one halfway decent picture and the rest he was being super silly. I have a feeling we have a class clown in our future.

Bleach Pen T-shirt for 4th of Julybleach-t-shirt-usa-silly

For the blue one I made for myself, I also bought a 100% cotton t-shirt at Target. I had this Martha Stewart stencil already, but I hadn’t used it yet. I thought it looked kind of like fireworks. On a side note, I really liked the stencil – high quality with an adhesive backing. I used the same technique as above. With an intricate stencil though like this one, you need to make sure you’re not too heavy handed with the bleach gel.

Bleach Pen T-shirtBleach Pen T-shirt -stencil

By the time I had traced the whole stencil. you could already start seeing the change. I let dry for 2-3 minutes after finishing before removing the stencil. Because I was using the stencil several times to create my pattern, I had to rinse and dry the stencils in between each use. This was very easy because of the quality of these stencils and didn’t lengthen my project more than about 10 minutes total.

bleach pen t-shirt - changes almost immediatelybleach pen t-shirt - wash stencils in between

I didn’t completely plan out my design before starting, I had a general idea, and thankfully it turned out pretty well. I didn’t let this one dry as long towards the top before rinsing it out because I liked the ombre effect it provided. I didn’t think about the fact that the bleach would turn out reddish on the blue shirt, but it actually works out perfectly for the 4th of July. What I like even better is that the shirt isn’t really that holiday-ish and I can wear it after the 4th.

bleach pen t-shirt -  combining stencils to make a larger designBleach Pen T-shirt

I’ll try to get some pictures of my son and I in our shirts on the 4th. My husband thought they turned out great, but he wasn’t keen on wearing a homemade shirt, so I didn’t attempt to make one for him. 🙂

UPDATE 7/5: Here’s a picture of us on the 4th of July as we were waiting for the fireworks. Carter and I are proudly wearing our bleach pen shirts. He’s such a cheese!

ready to watch the fireworks



  • Jei @ Cutey Patuty Crochet
    Posted July 1, 2013 9:20 pm 0Likes

    pinned this! found your link at pin it monday 😉

  • iamdw10
    Posted July 2, 2013 2:40 pm 0Likes

    Have you washed your shirts yet? I’m wondering if the bleach ran in the wash and faded out anymore of the shirt. These are super cute. Hoping to do this with my youth group girls!!

      Posted July 2, 2013 2:50 pm 0Likes

      I’ve washed them once so far. I rinsed them first in cold water and then ran them through with half the amount if detergent on cold the first time. The designs faded slightly but the bleach did not run. I think the key is letting the bleach dry for a few hours and then delicately rinsing first. Post a link if you try it! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Julianne
    Posted July 2, 2013 5:25 pm 0Likes

    I’m really impressed at how sharp the bleached edges are! Your shirts turned out very nice.

  • Toni
    Posted July 4, 2013 10:58 am 0Likes

    Your shirts turned out great! I tried to make one of these just the other day, but forgot to check the label. Turned out that my shirt wasn’t 100% cotton, and the whole image just washed away. Major duh moment!

    Just a tip: I’ve read that vinegar will neutralize the affects of bleach, so if you’re worried about ruining other laundry, rinse the bleached area with vinegar before tossing it in the wash.

  • Michelle @ Ya Gotta Have a Hobby
    Posted July 5, 2013 1:30 pm 0Likes

    I absolutely LOVE the flower shirt–that turned out really cute! I keep meaning to try this, now you’ve inspired me to really do it.

      Posted July 5, 2013 11:03 pm 0Likes

      Hi Michelle – thanks for stopping by! It was easier than I thought it would be. Definitely more in my future!

  • Bethany the ngnrdgrl
    Posted July 6, 2013 12:05 pm 0Likes

    Turned out wonderful! I’ve pinned it. I really like the vintage-y look on your sons shirt.

  • Emma
    Posted July 6, 2013 12:18 pm 0Likes

    Very cute. I love the flower shirt!!

  • Shannon@Hoybycrafts
    Posted July 6, 2013 10:57 pm 0Likes

    These look great! I have tried this method before, but yours look so much cleaner than mine do. Any pointers on how I can do it differently next time? Stopping by from Hoyby Crafts

      Posted July 6, 2013 11:06 pm 0Likes

      Hi Shannon – hopefully it wasn’t just beginners luck for me. What seemed to work in my favor was adhesive stencils. I went around the outlines first and the rubbed it in lightly with my finger. This created a “seal” between the fabric and the stencils. Then I let dry for 2-3 hours before rinsing then washing. Good luck, and let me know how it goes if you try again!

  • Stephanie
    Posted April 16, 2014 1:16 am 0Likes

    i’m curious as to why the bleach bled under my stencil. any thoughts?

    • Erin @
      Posted April 16, 2014 10:08 pm 0Likes

      Hi Stephanie – I had this happen once. Two thoughts on why I thought it happened . 1) I used a magazine inside my shirt instead of parchment. There was some sliding around underneath most likely that smeared my bleach from behind. 2) I left it on too long (overnight). The next time around I changed both, so not 100% sure which was the culprit. I’ve done 3 or 4 successful projects now with this method.

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