Homemade Bookmarks – Tie Dye technique with Sharpies

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

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 been working on some simple Mother’s Day crafts here in my home daycare.  Our most recent project was these gorgeous homemade bookmarks that the kids will give their moms this Sunday.  I’m so excited to share this cool art process with you!

Homemade Bookmarks for Mother's Day - Happy Hooligans

If you’ve ever seen the Sharpie tie-dye 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 your drawings, something very cool happens.  You get this awesome tie-dyed effect.  A lot of people colour tee-shirts this way.  I wanted to know if we could get that same tie-dye effect on plastic, so I grabbed an empty vinegar bottle and experimented.  I was completely impressed with the results, and so the idea for homemade bookmarks was born.

These bookmarks are so simple to make, and the supplies are minimal!  You gotta love that!

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 softens the glue, and the label peels off easily.

To make our bookmarks, I traced one of my own bookmarks on the plastic with a pencil, and used a pair of sharp scissors to cut it out. I repeated the process, getting 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.

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  on to the plastic, or you can just drip the alcohol randomly over your art.

rubbing alcohol and sharpies on a plastic bookmark


Then let it sit.  Do not move the bookmark, or tip it, or all of your colours will run together.  Just watch it, and you’ll see the colours start to 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 swipe the bookmark clean and start again.  A paper towel is good for this.

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 art from rubbing off, you need to give it a shot of spray varnish.  Do not brush on a liquid varnish as it will likely dissolve your art.

Lightly spray your bookmark with the varnish.  If you use too much, it will activate the Sharpie ink like the alcohol did, and your colours will start to bleed again.

homemade bookmark made with sharpies and rubbing alcohol

Allow your varnish to dry, and spray with a second coat if you like.  You don’t have to be quite as careful with your second coat of varnish because your art has been protected by the first coat.

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

homemade bookmarks tie dyed with sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol

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

And, if you want 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

      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.

  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!

  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.

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