I thought I would throw out a few pointers for those wanting to try their own bleach stencils.
Choose something simple for your first stencil, something that cuts out in one piece so that you are only placing one piece of acetate down and not having to align little bits that get cut out separately. For instance, in my previous post, the heart on the Companion Cube had to be glued down separately. Also, little details are more difficult to keep from bleeding, so the more simple the design, the more likely your stencil will come out.
• a well ventilated area
• wear old clothes you don't mind ruining should you get bleach on them
• rubber gloves if you don't want bleach on your hands
• towels to cover your workspace and to protect areas of your shirt not blocked by the stencil
• chlorine bleach
• spray bottle - as fine of a mist as you can find
• X-acto knife (a utility knife or box cutter won't do it for details)
• spray adhesive
• lots of paper towels
• a hairdryer
• stencil material - I use acetate transparencies. You can get printable overhead projector sheets at Wal-Mart. I have also used Dura-Lar acetate, which is super heavy duty. Makes a more durable stencil but is a PAIN to cut out.
1) Cut out your design. Careful not to over-cut corners because the stencil may tear at these points when removing it from your material
2) Lay out your item to be stenciled as flat as possible. It may be a good idea to insert a stiff, flat object to keep the item stretched flat (I used cutting boards) and to prevent the item from bleeding through to the other side in the case of shirts and the like.
3) Spray the back-side of your stencil with a light coat of adhesive and place your design. A little goes a REALLY long way so don't overdo it or you will have a hell of a time trying to remove your stencil from your shirt. Make sure to get any detailed areas as those are the most prone to bleeding.
4) block off any areas of your material that you don't want to get bleach on. If your design goes pretty close to the edge of your stencil, you may want to extend the border of your stencil with wide tape to prevent overspray.
5) Bleach away! Go one 'layer' at a time, don't saturate your material. Pat off excess bleach with towels/paper towels, especially on detailed areas, to prevent bleeding. The bleach will take a minute to fully "develop" so be patient - it is slower on materials such as denim or Carhartt so give it a little time. Blow dry your design between 'layers' so that the material doesn't become over saturated and bleed under the edges of your stencil. The more bleach you lay down, the lighter the design.
7) When you've got your design the way you want it, dry your design as best you can, then carefully remove your stencil. Tumble dry your material to beat out the crystalized bleach. Failing to do so and then washing your item can cause the bleach to re-activate and ruin your design.
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Those are the basics! Keep in mind that bleaching fabric also makes it weaker and prone to wearing out faster than the rest of your material. This method of decorating clothes is not good for items you want to last a long time, its more for raggy stuff you have lying around.
This is the link to the original article I read that got me to give this all a try. In the comments you will find a whole slew of ideas that other people came up with to help you get inspired. If you try it out, too, comment with a link to your design so I can see what you made. :D