Make gorgeous Sharpie tie dye bookmarks with this easy Sharpie and rubbing alcohol technique. The result is a beautiful, handmade gift that kids can give to a parent, grandparent, teacher or neighbour.
Do your kids love making art with Sharpie Markers? Well, grab the Sharpies and rubbing alcohol! We’re making homemade bookmarks for Mother’s Day, using one of our all-time favourite art techniques. It’s easy and fascinating, and the results are simply gorgeous! If your kids love easy science activities, they’ll want to try this one for sure.
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 and we decided to give the Sharpie Tie Dye thing a try to make bookmarks for the kids to give to their moms this Sunday.
The results were gorgeous! We made bookmarks unlike any we’ve ever made before. There’s no way these will be stashed in a drawer like so many other kid-made gifts. They’re so pretty, you’ll want to show them off!
P.S. You may also like 20+ Creative Sharpie Art and Craft Projects
How does the Sharpie and rubbing alcohol technique work?
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. Steve Spangler can tell you why Sharpie ink dissolves in rubbing alcohol.
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.
It worked! I was so excited with the results! There’s not a whole lot you can make out of a vinegar container, but bookmarks came to mind.
Let me show you how we made them.
To make our Sharpie Tie Dye Bookmarks, you’ll need:
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Supplies & Tools:
- a plastic vinegar jug (or similar opaque jug i.e. milk jug, juice jug)
- Sharpie Fine-Tip Permanent Markers
- rubbing alcohol (It must be 99% isopropyl. A weaker strength will not work.)
- spray varnish (I use plolyurethane)
- medicine dropper or pipette
- ribbon, twine or cording
- button or decorative bead
- hole punch
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
What do you think? A beautiful Sharpie tie dyed bookmark, perfect for Mother’s day.
How-To: Tie Dye with Sharpie and Rubbing Alcohol
- Colour with Sharpies
On a surface like plastic, ceramic tile, tin foil etc., colour blocks of colour with Sharpie markers.
- Drip the Rubbing Alcohol
With a dropper, drip 99% isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) over the Sharpie ink. Keep your piece still while the colours blur together and until the alcohol has evaporated.
- Varnish your piece
To protect the ink from scratching or rubbing off, spray lightly and from a distance, with spray varnish. Do not apply too heavily, or you’ll activate the ink again and risk the colours running.
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!
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!
You may also like:
- 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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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.
I love this! Would the same effect work on paper? Then it could be laminated?
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.
can you use anything else besides a vinegar jug..milk perhaps???
Absolutely, Sarah. Any plastic jug similar to the one I used should work.
Renee @ CreativeMamaMessyHouse
This is so cool, and a lot less messy than using alcohol inks!
Jackie, these are incredibly beautiful! I’m so happy to see you made them from recycled plastic too! Sharing them 🙂
These are such a wonderful idea! I would love to tuck one into a book to give to my mom!
Would this work with card stock paper instead of plastic jug?
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.
Would we be able to use anything else other than varnish? Mode lodge perhaps?
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!
The varnish, would clear coat work?
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.
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!
Thank you for this great project! Pinning it to do with my daughter this summer!
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!!
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!!!
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.
Faber Castell is water-based and will not work like Sharpie. Bic, Prismacolor, Copic, and any other marker that is labelled to be alcohol-based will work.
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.
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.
As a teacher, I love getting handcrafted gifts from my students and one can never have too many bookmarks!
Love this idea!! Will any kind of spray varnish work? Or is there anything else that would work in sealing in the Sharpie ink?
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Hi can you please tell me what number recycle plastic it is, the vinegar bottle I have is a 2 the same as our milk bottles
We made these using uncut stencil plastic. It worked very well.
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?
If you brush the varnish on, your ink might run. That’s why I used the spray varnish, Melissa.
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!
I don’t really know what else to suggest, Sharlene. I’ve only used the opaque, plastic bottles for this.
i have used very heavy cardstock and I have also used leftover laminate from the laminator at school (the trimmings). Both have worked well.
That is GREAT to know! Thank you, Nancy!
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?
love the idea and look!! will be trying this, thank you so much for sharing. I also must confess I LOVE BOOKMARKS!!!!!!!!!!!
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???
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.
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?
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.
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?
Well, I do mention that 70% alcohol will not work, so I think that’s likely the culprit. Try with the 99% next time. 🙂
Is rubbing alchohol okay?
Im curious, if you do this on fabric do you still need to use the varnish?
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.
how long does it take to dry?
Not very long because the alcohol evaporates quite quickly.
I’m using uncut stencil, sharpies and 91% isopropyl. Everything works until the alcohol dries. Meaning the colors blend and tie-dye when the alcohol is dropped on it but when it dries, the tie-dye effect disappears and I just see the sharpie marks again. Anyone have any ideas why?
Yes, it’s because you must use 99% rubbing alcohol, Robyn. Anyhing weaker will not work.
Where did you find your 99% alcohol? I can’t find it anywhere locally.
In the pharmacy section of Walmart, the grocery store or at an actual pharmacy, Miriam.
I love the jug idea but I need to make a large volume of these and don’t have access. Would glossy cardstock work? It’s stiff enough and then has the gloss to repel the water….
It might work well, Tammy. I’ve never tried it with paper. The paper will be more absorbent than plastic obviously, but people do sharpie tie dye on tee shirts and shoes, and those are v. absorbent. Give it a try with one, and let me know how it goes!
Would anything else than varnish work?
I haven’t tried anything else Dua, because I think it needs to be varnish. If you were to brush on a water-based sealer, I *think* the colours would liquify and run together. I should really try it though to see if that’s what would happen. Sorry I can’t say for sure right now.
Love the bookmark idea. Wondered what you used to punch the hole? A hole punch? Maybe a silly question but I have hole-punched plastic before and it wasn’t pretty.
Yep! Our hole punch went through the plastic easily, Patricia. 🙂
Cool idea…one I may use to make a mobile instead.
What a great idea!
I wonder how that would work on vellum
Hey how long do you let the bookmark sit?
Just until it’s dry, Paige. It will likely only take a couple of minutes to dry.
Do you think this would work on shrink dinks?
I don’t know, Rachel. We’ve never used those. Sorry!
Phyllis A Rabbers
I just saw this on Pinterest and I’m wondering if anyone tried it with resin.
This is really a good idea, it can be gifted to anyone who love to read books.
Along with this, I have made 12 more bookmarks. Thank you, keep up the awesome work,
Wonderful! I’m glad you’re enjoying this idea, Mayank! You’ve made so many! Good for you!
My son and I tried this for Christmas gifts that are easy to mail, but we’ve run into trouble. The polyurethane varnish has made the surface sticky, even when it’s fully dry. And it hasn’t even kept the colours from rubbing off. Any advice on this problem?
Hmmm. I’m sorry, Julia. I’ve never run into this problem, and we’ve made them several times over the years. Was your spray varnish old or new? Have you tried spraying it on a different surface to see if it dries properly?
I used 70% alcohol and it worked perfectly. The project is Great for all ages of children. You can even hold a baby’s hand to help them color the plastic strip. I put a pair of small knit gloves on every child to keep the Sharkie marker off their hands. One adaptation could be to cut the plastic into other shapes like a flower shape for a Mother’s Day suncatcher, a heart for Valentine’s Day, or an ornament shape to hang on the tree.