Hi guys! I hope you’re READY 4 CRAFTIN’, because I’m going to show you how to do The Simplest and Fastest Fashion DIY On Earth. We won’t need pins, measuring tape, needles, thread, scissors, snaps, or $34 worth of just-obscure-enough crafting supplies we’ll never use again (but need to special-order online.) None of that for us! It’s summer, we’re hot, and we are going for an easy DIY experience. Today, we’re gonna decorate our everyday wearables with a bleach pen to give plain or old clothing a new lease on life. BLEACH PEN CRAFT DAYYYY!

Bleach pens are handy little squeeze-pens filled with a gel bleach solution. They’re designed to remove stains from your white clothes, but they also happen to be great for artistically wreaking havoc on your closet. You can draw and write with a bleach pen just like you can with a regular pen; the customization possibilities are endless. This ain’t a new idea, but everyone’s stuff turns out different! Check out these plain black leggings I turned into dripping-dagger-of-death leggings using just a bleach pen!

Dagger Leggings

Look at this all-purpose shirt I made for my friend Tawnya for when she is forced to attend sporting events! Bleach-pen crafting is the easiest!

Tawnya Sports shirt

What you’ll need:

  • A bleach pen. They are usually between $3-$5 and last through multiple projects.
  • Something wearable and made of mostly natural fibers (cotton, silk, or a blend of those fibers, like cotton-spandex or cotton-viscose.) This isn’t a hard and fast rule—I’ve had some success using a bleach pen on all-nylon black tights, but natural fibers or a blend of natural fibers produce the most dependable results/consistently good results.

    Note: Make sure the item of clothing you’re going to draw on is something you wouldn’t be upset to lose—mistakes can happen! I recommend a cheap cotton T-shirt in a solid color or a pair of old, tired leggings.

  • Something to put underneath the clothing while you draw to protect the surface you’re working on. A paper grocery bag, a magazine, or several folded layers of paper towels would all work.
  • A sheet of paper or a few more paper towels to keep off to the side for bleach pen testing.

Here’s my setup. I’m going to decorate a 100 percent silk scarf from a thrift store. I’ve put the folder underneath the scarf while I use the pen to protect the table I’m working on.

You will need

Step One

Iron or steam your chosen clothing item if it’s wrinkled so you have an even surface to draw on. Lay the item out flat on top of your paper bag, cardboard, or folder. (If you’re decorating a shirt or something like underpants, slip the paper bag or folder inside the shirt/underpants so the bleach pen doesn’t bleed through to the other side of your item.

Step Two

SHAKE THE PEN. Ya gotta shake it! Otherwise you’ll get a spurt of pure bleach that isn’t fully mixed with the gel the first time you try to draw. Learn from my first (ruined) trial pair of cute blue cotton underpants: Shake tha pen.

Step Three

DO A TEST on the paper towels or piece of paper next to you. Try drawing a few lines or writing a few words on the paper, just to get a feel for how the bleach pen writes. I get the best results when I’m squeezing the pen gently and also dragging the tip of the pen on the surface of whatever I’m drawing on.

Step Four

Go for it! Write something, draw an intricate design, or use a stencil to bleach-pen a design into your clothing. Look out, though: bleach pens tend to bubble at the tip; make sure you have your paper towel or piece of paper handy to wipe the tip off as you go.

This is a line from a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sharon Olds.

This is a line from a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sharon Olds.

Step Five

Go over your design if necessary; fill in thin spots or weak lines if you’ve got ’em.

Step Six

Set a timer. The timing varies for whatever material you’re using. For this silk scarf, I left the bleach on for 30 minutes; for the black leggings, I left the bleach on overnight. For Tawnya’s “Sports” T-shirt, I let the bleach sit for an hour. Basically, it’s up to you—the best way to tell if the bleach is working is to gently lift up the fabric and look at its underside. Does it look like the bleach has colored the fabric? If it does, your item is probably close to ready.

In general: Sturdy cotton stuff takes a longer time to bleach and can usually handle sitting overnight with a design; delicate fabrics like silk can get holes burned in them if the bleach sits for longer than an hour.

Step Seven

Rinse the bleach off in cold water. Don’t worry—the bleach won’t spread all over the rest of your item. The “damage” to the fabric is already done by the time you rinse the bleach gel off!

Rinse the scarf

Step Eight

Wash your item’s fresh design with hand or dish soap. This “locks in” your design.

Step Nine

If necessary (like for a T-shirt), wash your item in a washing machine, dry, and wear! Or hang up! Or give to someone you love! (This scarf is going to tie my hair up all summer long.)

Finished scarf

Look how clear this reads! Man, using a bleach pen can be completely addictive. The designs never wear or wash off, and there’s so much you can do! Add polka dots to dark blue jeans, write funny shit on your underwear, make a decorative hem on your shorts, fancy-up your yoga pants, bleach-pen your canvas shoes…watch out, all your clothes! ♦