Swim Team Shirts

sharpie tie dye shirts

In honor of the final swim meet of the season, Mr. Star Wars and his teammates decorated shirts after swim practice this morning. The coach brought acrylic paint and brushes, each swimmer brought an old white t-shirt, and I felt compelled to up the decorative quality of the shirts and brought materials for Sharpie tie dying.

I learned about this so cool but so easy technique 10 years ago when my oldest niece attended a summer camp near my parents’ house. My niece was 5 or 6 at the time and came home with this t-shirt that had multi-colored sunbursts all over it. Lately, I have seen samples floating around on Pinterest. The Pinterest sample I saw looks a little different than my way, but it is roughly the same procedure. The best thing about the Sharpie tie dye is the minimal mess!

sharpie tie dye supplies

The Materials

  • Sharpie pens, variety of colors (we used shades of green and black for our team colors)
  • medicine droppers (purchased at CVS)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • coins (quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies)
  • cardboard squares (about 8″x8″)
  • cup or jar

sharpie tie dye before

The Directions

  • Put the cardboard piece inside the shirt to prevent the Sharpie from leaking through to the other side. Move the cardboard around as needed, so it is always beneath the area where you are working.
  • Place a coin on the shirt. Draw an outline of dots with a Sharpie marker around the edge of the coin. You want the dots to be fairly close together to make the effect better. You can alternate color dots if you wish.
  • Remove the coin from the shirt.
  • Pour rubbing alcohol into a cup, so it is easy to get the alcohol into the dropper. Fill the medicine dropper about 1/3 full and begin dropping rubbing alcohol into the white center of the Sharpie dot circle.
  • Add drops a little at a time, always directly in the center of the Sharpie dots, until the Sharpie begins to bleed out.

sharpie tie dye sample


  • Our white cotton t-shirts from Cherokee (Target line) and J. Crew worked better than the Hanes men’s cotton undershirt. There is a difference in the weave of the cotton. It was kind of interesting how the material changed the effect of the stain.
  • If you alternate colors, you can create new colors. For example, alternating blue and red dots creates purple. This is a great learning tool for kids about the color wheel.
  • The sun burst size changes depending on how close the dots are to each other, so experiment with that too.
  • You do not have to use the coins. Kids can create any dotted outline (like a heart or a star) and discover different results.
  • Unfortunately, I have not figured out a way to set the Sharpie marker well when washing. If you run the shirt in the dryer before the first wash, it helps hold the color. When you do wash the shirt, wash in cold water on gentle cycle. You may want to hang dry.
  • Black Sharpie marker looks like purple when it spreads.

sharpie tie dye sample 2

On the Fourth Day of Gift Ideas

I love anything personalized! After seeing a designer on Project Runway wear monogrammed t-shirts a few seasons ago,  I purchased a stack of Gap t-shirts for all of the women on my holiday gift list. I stuck with basic colors (black and white) and had monograms added. I probably should have included my pre-teen niece too because she is a preppy girl, and this is a great gift for girls ages 10 and up. I will monogram just about anything. What would work well for my shopping list this year?

What to Do: Find cotton t-shirts that are a good weight. I like the Gap Essential Crewneck Ts because they are a little thicker and can hold the stitching of the monogram machine. I took my shirts to a local monogrammer. You may want to ask about having a fabric stabilizer added to the back of the shirt, so the monogram is stitched in evenly.

Styles: I chose 3 letter monograms for all of the shirts. Some shirts had the fancy cursive and some were more tailored. It just depended on the person receiving the shirt. I think 2 1/2 inches is a good height for the largest letter in the center.