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Reverse Dye T’s February 25, 2012

The boys and I found this really cool ‘reverse stencil’ T-shirt technique in the June/July 2011 issue of Family Fun magazine. (I love, love, love Family Fun – here’s a link to their site: We had a few problems, though – we didn’t have any fabric paint on hand and I didn’t see the need to purchase new white T-shirts when I could barely close the boy’s dressers all the way (due to the fact, that they each had an enormous T-shirt collection).

I am constantly stressing to the boys to use the resources they have on hand. We don’t always have to run out and ‘buy’ what we need – sit down and think how you can make it work, utilize what you have. Here’s what we came up with:

You will need:

  • T-shirt (darker colors worked best. If T-shirt is new, prewash.)
  • Spray bottle
  • Bleach
  • Con-Tact paper
  • Pen, marker
  • Cutting utensils (scissors, X-Acto knife)
  • Newspapers/cardboard/plastic bags (something from your recycling bin to use inside the shirt as a barrier, so the bleach mixture won’t soak through to the other side of the T-shirt)


  1. You or your child draw the T-shirt design onto the Con-Tact paper or borrow our free templates: skull guitar, shark.
  2. Cut out the design and adhere it to the shirt, rub over the Con-Tact paper to make sure it is attached well (especially the edges).
  3. Slip a piece of cardboard/newspaper/plastic bags inside the shirt (this will act as the barrier). Lay shirt face up on the grass, driveway, sidewalk, picnic table (wherever you want your work surface to be – you may want to lay down newspaper to protect your work surface).
  4. In a spray bottle, I mixed about 1/2 bleach and 1/2 water. You’ll have to experiment to see what consistency you’re looking for.
  5. Spray the bleach mixture onto the fabric all around the cutout template. A light spray is less likely to seep under the template.
  6. You should start to see the reaction to the dye in the shirt, it should be fading. If the reaction is too harsh or too slight, adjust your bleach to water mixture. Our reaction was quick, within less than 30 sec-1 minute we could see the dye bleaching out. At this point, quickly remove all of the Con-Tact paper template and launder the shirt in the washing machine to stop the reaction.

Tip: When we were working on the guitar design – after we had the skull cut out from the front of the guitar template, my oldest placed the cut-out (which I was going to toss out) onto the sleeve. It worked great!

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