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Sharpie T-shirts

July 10, 2011

The latest nifty idea for decorating t-shirts came from here.  You do a small design on a light colored t-shirt then use rubbing alcohol to make it bleed outwards.  The original idea was to mimic fireworks but I thought they looked like flowers so I made a bouquet.

this is what the t-shirt looked like BEFORE I washed it

Now the problem with this is what happens when it washes. I did heat set this in the dryer for at least 20 minutes and then with a hot iron.

after it was washed

It is slightly, very slighly, paler than the original.  The major problem was bleeding on to other parts of the shirt despite the heat setting.

now this shirt didn't fare too badly but there are pink and yellow marks allover the shirt (upper right of shirt in this picture).

I do not know how to prevent this.  I’m trying a few different ideas and I’ll let you know if I figure anything out.  But being impatient, I wanted to try another idea with this method.  So I drew a design on a t-shirt with a black sharpie, then heat set it.  I then colored it and added the rubbing alcohol.  Yeah…while the black heat set marks did not completely bleed, they did bleed enough to effect the whole  picture.  Not badly but not what I had in mind either.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before I washed it but did get one afterwards.  It did lighten up a bit more from the original than the flower t-shirt.

It looks kind nifty but again I had problems with the bleeding despite the heat setting measures.

At about 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock you can see the bleeding.  Also the back of the shirt had the mark of the circle upon it.  I’m trying to use more rubbing alcohol to see if I can rinse out the bleeding with it.  I’ve only done it once and while it faded it some, it will probably take several more applications before (IF) I get it completely out.

I’m going to try rinsing newly colored and heat set shirts in water and/or vinegar before washing to see if that will minimize the bleeding.  I drew a fish on my son’s shirt that he has yet to decorate to test this technique out.  Hopefully it will do the trick as this decorating method is too fun not to continue to use.

So my recommendations for this t-shirt decorating technique so far:

  • definitely do this as it is a lot of fun.  Don’t expect to still have a “nice” shirt after washing (at least until I figure out how to prevent/minimize bleeding).  This will be a shirt for camping or hanging out around the house or just getting dirty in.  🙂
  • Use a 100% cotton t-shirt, pre-shrunk preferable.  If it is a brand new t-shirt, wash it first before decorating.
  • the darker a line or a dot, the farther the color will spread.  Dots spread farther than lines.
  • If doing a piece that has been outlined and heat set, first add rubbing alcohol to the places you want the most spread or the most detail.  I did notice that spreading seems to stop once it hits an area that has already gotten wet with alcohol.
  • experiment!

If you’ve tried this and have any other insights please comment!

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