Materials and Supplies:
A black or navy blue, COTTON shirt.*
Spray bottles (check in the Healthy and Beauty department or in the chemical isle at your local Big Box store. Do not reuse an old chemical bottle!)
Fabric paints in: Dark Blue, dark purple, white, silver, and gold.**
Newspaper or Cardboard
Large bucket, Tote, or tub
Small/medium dot-sponge brushes
Plain sponges, cut in half or fourths (optional)
Latex/Nitrile gloves (optional)
*A note on fabric and shirts: Cotton works best in my experience as it's easy to find and is a general favorite for t-shirts anyway. Different blends may have different bases for the black dye. Some leggings for example may actually have a blue base for the black dye instead of orange or red which is what you will find in most t-shirts. That base dye will also vary from brand to brand. For example, Hanes brand tends to be more orange. Fruit of the Loom will actually be quite red. GAP brand is also very red. I heartily encourage you to play with brands and clothing choices.
**A note on paint: I use the small bottle acrylic paint you find at Michaels or Joannes, such as Apple Barrel or CraftSmart. You can use, for example, Tulip brand fabric paint as well, but I think it's a bit pricy. I'll describe the painting technique itself later, but these core colors are what I would start with. The silver and gold aren't essential, but look cool. You can also use gray in place of silver, and a mustard yellow instead of gold. All up to you!
1. The Bleach Mixture and Prep Your Shirt
First, you'll need to make your bleach mixture. We did a roughly 3:1 water-bleach ratio. You want enough bleach to change the color of your shirt but not enough that it will eat through the fabric. As you do this project more, you can play with that ratio.
Once you have your bleach mixture in your spray bottle, you're ready to go! ...Almost
You may want to wash your shirt before you do this. I'm not sure if all participants did. Mine was because it was an old shirt, but I've done it on fresh-bought shirts without much difference.
Otherwise, unless you're doing both the front and back of your shirt (or a variation, such as the Star Burst mentioned in the next step), you'll want to insert newspaper or cardboard in between your layers. The bleach will otherwise soak through the layers of your shirt and you'll get the discoloring places you may not want it. I think cardboard works a little better in general, but for us the newspaper was an easy alternative.
2. The Bleachening!
Afterwards, your shirt may look something like this, and you want to let your bleach dry. It shouldn't take more then 5 minutes or so unless you really saturated your shirt.
In case of the Star-Burst boys, they let their first bleaching sit for a few minutes then unbanded the shirt to see what they had. Then, if you feel it's necessary you can add to the burst. This may mean some color variations due to strength and amount of the mixture you're getting due to the mist vs. direct spray, but can look pretty cool!
The bleaching can also be done by dribbling with straws or dropper, liberally pouring, and so forth. I haven't played with some of the other techniques, but there may be variations in the links later.
3: Rinse that bleach!
Then, you need to rinse your shirt. I, unfortunately, completely forgot to take photos of the rinsing portion, but basically: Big bucket of water (we used a tote box), tub, or large sink.. Dunk shirt in water. This step is to basically deactivate the bleach, so that it won't continue trying to eat your shirt. The water will turn orange. Some bleaches are even kind of fizzy or soapy. We had a big tote box, so it took about four shirts worth before the water REALLY turned orange, and that's OK. I had the girls at the end of the line rinse their shirts twice, just to be on the safe side.
If you're using a small bucket or using a sink, you will want to rinse two or three (or more) times. If at home or able, maybe just toss it in the washer for a rinse and spin cycle.
Wring out the shirt (or: washer spin cycle) and allow to dry. If you're at home and can toss it in the dryer: go for it. Be aware that if you're only doing one or two shirts that they tend to "stick" to the side of the dryer and don't actually tumble due to the water-log effect. I suggest just hanging on the clothes line or on a hanger somewhere for about 30-60 minutes (dependent on the weather, heat, fan, etc). I have also read you can use a hair dryer to speed this up, but we didn't test that today. If in doors, place in front of a fan if you want to speed up drying.
4. Paint that shirt!
Let me first say that: you might just like the bleach effect and you don't need to add color to your shirt! Plenty of people have made super cool bleached t-shirts without this step. If you like how your shirt looks with just the bleach effect, go on and wear it with pride. We did, however, decide to embellish further with the paint step.
Now, once your shirt is dry (or at least moderately dry. Alyssa and Bailey's shirts were still a bit damp when we started, but it didn't seem to hinder the paint at all), you'll need fresh newspaper between your layers, regardless of whether you're doing one side or two. Otherwise, you could possible end up painting your layers together. And that's not good.
I also suggested wearing gloves while painting, just for easy clean up. They are totally optional.
You always want to start with your darkest color: blue. Blot, blend, and smear your blue paint to create comets, nebulae, and stars. Start with a dot-sponge or a quartered regular sponge (not the kind with the harsh scrubber side). The sponges actually worked great! You could cut them smaller if you wanted, but the quarter worked pretty good for us. Big enough to work multiple colors, but small enough to fit in our hands.
You can see the blending effect a bit on my shirt on the table. I tend to dot the color in the general direction I want, and then sort of rub it into the fabric. Then, I layer on the next color (purple) in the same way, then work in some silver, and so forth. I also like to do the splatter-paint star effect with the toothbrushes. You can pull little solar-flares out of larger globules of paint using a toothpick after doing that as well.
I let the kids do theirs however they pleased after giving them some basic tips and showing them how I did mine. I've described some of their techniques below.
Here's his finished product, to the right. Looks pretty snazzy, Isiah!
While both Isiah and Justin did the Star-burst twist, Isiah left his plain as it ended up mostly on the back of his shirt. Justin decided to embellish the burst. He concentrated more on the center and then created a smaller blue burst, and also used the splatter paint effect.
His finished product, down-left, also looks fantastic and unique!
Alyssa and Bailey were a bit late to the party, so their shirts were still a little bit damp when we started painting. It didn't seem to hider them at all though!
Alyssa focused on using the blues and purples with one of the dot-sponge brushes. Can you see the face she put in her shirt?
Bailey decided to outline some of the comet-like lines that ended up on her shirt. She used just about every brush type, including the sponges. She blended the blues and purples then used the toothbrush to send some silver flecks onto her shirt.
You can see Bailey's just-about finished product below. She wasn't sure how she ended up with a sort of triangular pattern, but like I told her: every shirt is going to be different!
Once you're happy with your paint job, simply allow your paint to dry. Some may suggest to toss the shirt into the dryer to "heat set" the paint, but that's up to you. Let the paint sit for at least 24 hours before you wash it (you'll want to wash it before you wear it --it will still smell of bleach at least a little). Go forth and wear your shirt whenever you can!
Want a slightly less wordy tutorial? Check out these bloggers and websites. I mix-and-matched their techniques to make it work (and be affordable) to do in the library.
Unicorn Parade: Going to Space, BRB
iLoveToCreateBlog: Galaxy Twist Bleach Tie-dye Shirt
By Hand London: Galaxy Print T-Shirt
Wikihow: How to Make a Galaxy T-Shirt
CollegeFashion/DIY Fashion: Painted Galaxy Shirts
If you make one, make sure you share it with us on Facebook or here on the blog.
For the library folk, or others who may do this project for large groups:
Some things I noticed after we did the program that I would change to improve the next time we did it, and therefore would suggest to keep in mind while doing this at home:
1. Have a cup (or two) of water for rinsing your brushes. We did this project outside in the heat, which dried our paint pretty fast --and therefore we ended up loosing a couple of (albeit, old) brushes.
2. If doing this outside, wear sunscreen! I have my first minor sunburn in over 10 years. Obviously you want to do the bleach and maybe the drying outside, but the painting, if done carefully, can be done in doors. Make sure you lay down the newspaper or plastic on your work space if you're doing the splatter effect.
3. Make sure you communicate about wearing old clothes in case of bleach over-spray and of course: paint always ends up everywhere. Alyssa now has a nice Azeala shade paint splotch on her dress. Luckily, she didn't seem to mind.
Lastly, I'll share a few of the shirts I did in preparation for the program so you can see the variations in colors and painting technique.
You can totally do this project with other items too. Hats, leggings, jeans, house decor like curtains or pillow cases, backpacks...possibilities are endless!