Stenciled Shirts, Part 1: Bleached Mockingjay


I saw something cool on Pinterest and decided to make some myself. You may have seen shirts that have a design bleached onto it-I found lots of different versions- it’s actually pretty easy to pull off!


Blank t-shirts, bright colored or black

Exacto knife or other method for cutting out a stencil design

Spray bottle

Bleach (and equal parts water)

Paper, cardstock, or vinyl

Acrylic spray (optional depending on the material you use for your stencil)

Double sided tape

Cardboard and/or a large shoebox and lid

A well-ventilated area

And of course, you’ll probably want a printer for whatever design you want to use for your stencil- unless you’re talented at drawing (I’m not).

Note: If you can, you should really do this project outdoors. I brought the shirts inside to use the hairdryer on and the smell became overpowering by the time I was working on shirt #3. I definitely had a headache when I was done.

I’ve wanted a Hunger Games shirt since I read the books, but honestly, I’m an “adult” and couldn’t justify paying for a shirt I couldn’t wear to work. So I decided to make one.


I had a large shoe box lying around because I just ordered fall boots. I used the lid for cutting out my stencil-

Cutting out

My little finger exacto is perfect for this kind of stuff. Make sure the surface you are cutting on is thick enough that you’re not going to cut yourself or whatever surface you’re cutting on.

Tape your printed design onto cardboard or your shoebox lid, then use your exacto knife to cut along the edges. I have a cool little tool (it’s kinda hard to see) that you can slip your finger through that has a teeny tiny blade on the end.

Since I made my stencil out of paper, I decided it would be best if I used some acrylic spray I already had on hand to give it a coating to keep the bleach mix from soaking into the paper and basically making my stencil useless. I did two coats on the front and one on the back.

Good thing I haven’t taken out the trash or recycling yet this week, or I wouldn’t have had this handy pizza box to spray on.

Next I rolled regular tape and stuck it to the back of the stencil. After a few uses, my tape needed to be refreshed because my design wasn’t coming out as crisp. I realized I had double sided tape somewhere and changed over to that instead. Either one works though.


Tape up the back. Tape needs to be close enough together that it will lay semi-tightly on the shirt. You can also buy spray adhesive, but meh.

Now, mix equal parts water and bleach in your spray bottle. I tested out how it would spray with just water before I added the bleach, this way you can adjust the nozzle to spray how you want it to before you really start.

The shoebox itself was perfect for slipping the shirts over like so-


For smaller shirts, you might need an average sized shoebox.


See, proof that my tendency to hold onto things “because they might be used for a craft” isn’t totally off base!

I also had some thin cardboard around which I kept ready to slide inside the shirt when I was ready to take it off the shoebox and put it on a hanger so I could move on to the next shirt.


Ready?? I also brought a butterknife out in case there were areas where I needed to hold the stencil in place without sticking my hand in bleach.

Transform with bleach

You can see the color changing almost immediately. I used some paper towel to dab off the excess bleach on top of my stencil since I wanted to use it for several more shirts.


Now GENTLY peel your stencil off- make sure that your hands are free of bleach, because you don’t want to accidentally get bleach on the area you worked so hard to keep black.

My first one was pretty successful. Now I was ready to try a different color shirt- and I had no clue how it would turn out.


As you can tell, this one didn’t have such an immediate reaction.

The pink one at first seemed like it wasn’t turning out very well. However, I took the blow dryer to it to be sure before I decided whether or not to switch over to fabric paint- glad I trusted my instincts, because it looks pretty cool.


If you can’t tell if it’s working, take a blowdryer to your shirt to speed things along.

I recommend drying from the inside if you need to do so- heat on your stencil might warp the shape a little bit. Keep it on low!

You’ll notice the second to last one I made, blue turning green (far right), the design bled quite a bit. It’s not nearly as crisp as the others. After that I refreshed my tape, and it worked again (black one on the far left is the last one I made).


Blue for my sister (sorry about the bleeding, sis) pink for Amanda, the original black one for Carolina, and the last black and green are for me!

I can’t decide if I like my green one or my last black one better for myself. It seems a little greedy to have two. I’ll have to gift one to someone else once I decide!

Last but not least, you’ll probably want to rinse these- ALONE- in cold water after they have dried completely. You should also be careful to wash them alone after your first wear, so that any leftover bleach doesn’t ruin other things in your wash load. Bleach and I generally speaking don’t get along.

Enjoy your shirt! I’m planning to try this with some other designs some other weekend – these could make great custom gifts.

Stay tuned for stenciled shirts part 2 tomorrow. This time it doesn’t involve bleach.


9 responses »

  1. Hey, very cool!!!! I didn’t see the tape at first it blended into the background but when I took a second look there it was.

    • I made it- if you click the link to view the entire post, there’s some description about how I did it. Basically I found an image on google (silhouette, not color), printed it, and cut it out.

  2. You could actually cut this out of freezer paper (shiny side down) and iron it on to your shirt before bleaching, it sticks perfectly, and peels right up when you’re done 🙂

  3. Pingback: 13 Hunger Games Crafts + Giveaway | Crafty Chica

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