Homemade Bookmarks – Tie Dye technique with Sharpies

Grab the Sharpies and rubbing alcohol!  We’re making homemade bookmarks for Mother’s Day, using one of my favourite art techniques for kids.  It’s a cool Sharpie-alcohol. tie-dye technique that’s simple, beautiful and quite fascinating. If your kids love easy science activities, they’ll want to try this one for sure.

Don’t you just love a kid-made gift that you can actually put to good use?

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, the hooligans have been working on some simple Mother’s Day crafts here in my home daycare.  For our most recent project, we made these gorgeous homemade bookmarks that the kids will give their moms on Sunday.

I’m so excited to share this cool art process with you!

Homemade Bookmarks for Mother's Day - Happy Hooligans

I couldn’t live without my Sharpies.  They’re one of my most prized items in my craft room.  There are SO many cool crafts to make with Sharpie markers. 

If you know about the Sharpie alcohol art technique, you can probably guess how we made our bookmarks.  If you’re not familiar with the process, let me explain:

When you colour with Sharpie markers and then drip rubbing alcohol on to the ink, something very cool happens.  You create an awesome tie-dye effect.

A lot of people colour tee-shirts this way, but I wanted to know if we could create the same effect on a plastic surface, so I experimented with an empty vinegar bottle.  I was completely impressed with the results, and so the idea for homemade bookmarks was born.

Let me show you how to make some of your own.

To make our homemade bookmarks, we used:

supplies for sharpie tie dyed homemade bookmarks

For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links.  When you shop through these links, I receive a small commission from any purchases you make.

 Cut out your bookmark:

To remove the label from the vinegar jug, I filled the jug with very hot water, and let it sit for 10 minutes.  The heat from the water softened the glue, and the label was easy to peel off.

To make our bookmarks, I traced one of my own, store-bought bookmarks on the plastic with a pencil, and I used a pair of kitchen shears to cut it out. I managed to get 4 bookmarks out of one vinegar jug.

Colour your bookmark:

Next, we coloured our bookmarks.  Using a variety of bright colours, cover your entire bookmark with your Sharpies.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this.  Just fill in the whole bookmark with blocks of colour.

Plastic bookmark coloured with sharpie markers

Now for the magic!

The Sharpie and rubbing alcohol tie-dye technique:

Fill a dropper/pipette with rubbing alcohol, and drip small drops on to your bookmark.  You can tap your dropper against your bookmark – that will deposit tiny amounts of alcohol on to the plastic, or you can just drip the alcohol randomly over the ink.

rubbing alcohol and sharpies on a plastic bookmark


Then let it your project sit.  Do not tilt your bookmark or the colours will all run together. Just observe, and you’ll see the colours blend and fuse together.  It’s so magical and beautiful.

dripping rubbing alcohol onto sharpie art

You can experiment with the amount of alcohol you use.  If you’re not happy with the way things are going, you can wipe the bookmark clean with a paper towel, and start again.

Isn’t it amazing?  I love watching this process!

sharpie and rubbing alcohol dyeing process

Let your bookmark dry completely.  It doesn’t take too long because the alcohol evaporates fairly quickly. 

Setting the colour:

To prevent your Sharpie tie-dye from rubbing off, you’ll need to give it a shot of spray varnish.  Do not brush on a liquid varnish as it will dissolve your artwork.

When spraying the varnish, spritz lightly and quickly. If you apply too much, the Sharpie ink will be activated, and your design will begin bleeding together again.

homemade bookmark made with sharpies and rubbing alcohol

Allow your varnish to dry, and spray with a second coat if you like.

Once your varnish has dried, punch a hole in the top of your bookmark, thread a ribbon or some cording through, and embellish with a pretty button or a few decorative beads.

homemade bookmarks tie dyed with sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol

What do you think?  A beautiful homemade bookmark, perfect for Mother’s day.

If you’d like to try this process on a shirt, head on over to Mama Pea Pod, and check out their Sharpie-dyed tees!

homemade bookmarks kids can make and give

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Looking for more cool art ideas?  Try our:

Sharpies and Photo Paper Art

Starry Night with Melted Crayons

3-Ingredient Puffy Paint

“Stained Glass” Painting with Bottle Lids & Wax Paper

Scrape Painting with Credit Cards

Wax Resist Art


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  1. Sharon Oaks says

    I love this idea! I’ve been looking for the perfect thing for my grandson to make for his mom for Mother’s Day and this is it. Thanks for the great instructions. You didn’t say you could but we’re going to try doing the back after the front is completely set.

  2. says

    Jackie, these are incredibly beautiful! I’m so happy to see you made them from recycled plastic too! Sharing them :)

    • happyhooligans says

      You could give it a try, Kim. We only tried it with the plastic. It works on fabric though, so I would think it might work on paper.

      • happyhooligans says

        Mod Podge might work. I’m not sure if the colours would run when you brush it on, but you could give it a try!

    • happyhooligans says

      I’m guessing it would as long as it’s an aerosol, Marie, and just spray it very lightly for the first coat so you don’t re-activate the marker ink.

  3. Jenny says

    My son’s pre-k class did this for Easter presents. Instead of bookmarks they made tile coasters. They came out so nice I’m thinking of framing them instead of using them! Going to try the bookmarks too. Thanks!

  4. says

    These are really cool. I wonder if fabric or something easier to cut would work for this! I think I shall try it with some white fabric, or even some card stock paper! Thanks for the idea!!

  5. Mansi says

    Hey Jackie,

    I tried this on photo paper with normal Faber Castle sketch pens. But did not get the same effect. I can order the sharpies , but we dont get such plastic bottles here in India…. Please help!!!

    • happyhooligans says

      We’ve only tried it on the plastic vinegar bottles, Mansi, and only with the Sharpies. I’m really not sure what else to suggest because I don’t know what products you have in India. You could try a clear plastic bottle perhaps. We’ve only tried it with the opaque bottles though. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Perhaps another reader will jump in with a suggestion for you.

  6. Nicole says

    Just came across this and think it is a great idea. We are going to give my daughter’s teacher a gift card to a book store as her end of year gift and I thought how nice if we add a home made bookmark. Do you think that we could skip the varnish step and laminate? or would the two plastics blend too much as heat is applied when laminating? And I wonder what other materials others have used instead of the vinegar container? I also was thinking of adding a picture before laminating.

    • happyhooligans says

      I think you could probably laminate it, Nicole. I think you may be able to do the process on paper too. I’ve seen it done on fabric, so that might be an option, then you could laminate that. As for the container, any opaque container should work – I’m not sure where you’re located, but in the US, milk is often sold in opaque jugs.

  7. Marie says

    Love this idea!! Will any kind of spray varnish work? Or is there anything else that would work in sealing in the Sharpie ink?

    • happyhooligans says

      I think it would have to be spray varnish, Marie. You can’t use a sealer that you brush on because it will smear the ink. You can’t leave it unfinished because the ink would rub off. All I can think of is the spray varnish, and I *think* any kind would work.

  8. Donna Detty says

    Cut tops from bottles and use this technique to make plant pots, pencil (or sharpie) holders, tooth brush holders, rolled wash cloths, cotton balls… The possibilities are endless!!! Use the rubbing alcohol bottle for the tooth brush/pencil holders! Of course you will have to decorate one side at a time and completely dry before moving on to the next side.

  9. Nicole says

    We tried this but it didn’t really work for us? The colors ran but You could still see the sharpie pen lines clearly. Not sure why? Certainly not as pretty as yours! Just looks a bit of a mess! :)

    • happyhooligans says

      We’ve made them a few times now, and haven’t had that happen. Were you using 99% isopropyl? There’s a weaker one which I don’t believe will work as well. Or, is it possible that you used to much? That will dilute the colours and they’ll kind of puddle and run away. One tiny drop at a time, or even just tapping the plastic with the wet end of the dropper worked for us.

    • says

      I’ve tried this twice and it’s still not working!
      I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.
      If someone could give tips that would be very appreciated.

      • happyhooligans says

        Are you using full strength (99%) rubbing alcohol, Sara? I’ve just edited the post, and added that. Apparently, there is a weaker strength (approx 60%) that won’t work for this project.

  10. Shawna says

    How long does this project take from start to finish? I have a 55 minute art class and would love to do this! Thanks so much!

    • happyhooligans says

      It’s not a very time-consuming activity, Shawna. It can definitely be done in las than 55 minutes. You don’t mention the age of your students – that does make a difference. When I make them myself, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to decorate and drip. The drying time takes a while, and then once the ink is dry, you spray it with varnish, and that takes a while too. In a hot, sunny spot, they dry quite quickly though. When I’m working with toddlers, of course, the process takes longer, but I do think you could still have it done in the amount of time you’re talking about.

  11. mellisa says

    can you use modge podge instead of varnish? I hate to spend 10$ on varnish ill only use once. What are some other uses for varnish?

  12. Sharlene says

    These are absolutely beautiful. I am thinking about making these for Valentine’s Day. If I don’t want to use the plastic bottle to make the bookmarks, do you suggest anything else? I need it for a classroom of preschool children (ages 4-5). Thanks!

    • Nancy says

      i have used very heavy cardstock and I have also used leftover laminate from the laminator at school (the trimmings). Both have worked well.

  13. Karen says

    As a quilter & crafter, I thing the plastic I buy to make templates for patterns would work. There are different weights & sizes. Available at craft & fabric stores. Has anyone tried this?

  14. Pam says

    love the idea and look!! will be trying this, thank you so much for sharing. I also must confess I LOVE BOOKMARKS!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Rhoda says

    Loved the look and ease of this & thought it would be a great thing to do with seniors! Ive tried twice & it didn’t bleed & blend like yours :-( Once on a juice bottle & today on a milk jug.

    I’m using Sharpies & 99% as suggested. 1st attempt was spraying from a mini mister, and 2nd was dropping drops. Am I being too impatient with the drying times or???


    • happyhooligans says

      Hi Rhoda, I’m not sure what’s causing it not to work for you. I’ve heard folks say they have problems when they use the lesser strength alcohol (I think it’s in the 60% range), but if you’re using full strength – the 99%, the colours should spread the second you put the alcohol on them. All I can think is that maybe it’s the plastic. I tried doing this on CDs, and the colours didn’t run at all.

  16. Meg says

    i tried a sample of this project before attempting it with a classroom of 2nd graders. The concave shape of the bookmark caused the alcohol to puddle in the center, so I wiped it off and tried it on the other side. Same result, except the colors ran off the edge of the bookmark. I checked my alcohol after reading other comments and it is only 70%. Do you think that’s the problem?

    • happyhooligans says

      Hmmm, yes, I can see how a concave shape would result in puddling. You’d definitely want to use a flat surface, as it’s liquid you’re dealing with here, and I can’t see how you’d get liquid to stay put on a slope. Also, as I mention in the post the 99% is definitely required. The 70% isn’t strong enough to have an effect on the ink.

  17. says

    There was a time delay of 30 minutes between marking the plastic bookmarks (I used a milk jug) and the use of alcohol (70%). I don’t know if it was impatience on my part, the fact that Sharpie had dried considerably or the fact that I used 70% alcohol (it’s what I had on hand), but the ink did not bleed. I used my finger to mix the lifted ink colors I saw, but instead of the tie-dye effect I was wanting, part of the ink stayed put on the plastic (stained) and the other just lifted off. Any suggestions as to what I can do to make it turn out like your pictures?

    • happyhooligans says

      Well, I do mention that 70% alcohol will not work, so I think that’s likely the culprit. Try with the 99% next time. :)

    • happyhooligans says

      I’ve never tried it with fabric, Shawn, but I’m not sure that varnish and fabric would be a successful combo. That’s just my guess though.

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