It’s art, it’s a craft, it’s a science activity too! Kids will be fascinated by this fun and easy project. All you need are Sharpies and Rubbing Alcohol to turn a piece of plastic into a gorgeous tie dyed Christmas ornament!
If you’ve never heard of making tie-dye with Sharpies and Rubbing Alcohol, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of our favourite things to do with Sharpie markers. You just drip rubbing alcohol on Sharpie ink, and the ink liquifies! The colours blend together, and you end up with something that looks just like tie-dye.
We first used the Sharpie and rubbing alcohol process to make these Mother’s Day tie-dyed bookmarks, and we’ve since used the process to dye Easter Eggs and make Valentines.
With Christmas not far off, the hooligans have been making loads of Christmas crafts, and it occurred to me that we could use the Sharpie and rubbing alcohol process to make Christmas tree ornaments!
I had a 5 and a 7 year old with me today, and they were more than happy to give the idea a whirl.
I’m happy to say, the results were awesome!
To make our Sharpie and Alcohol ornaments you’ll need:
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- opaque container or jug (i.e. vinegar container, milk jug etc)
- pencil, scissors
- stencil (whatever shape you decide on)
- Sharpie Markers
- small bowl
- 99% Rubbing Alcohol
- pipette/medicine dropper
- hole punch
- ribbon for hanging
*NOTE: you must use 99% rubbing alcohol. A weaker strength will not work.
To start, you’ll need to cut your shapes out of an opaque, flat piece of plastic. A vinegar jug or a milk jug is perfect for this.
We were making stars today (and we used our scraps to make diamonds), so I traced stars onto the largest panels of a vinegar jug with a pencil and a star stencil.
Then with a sharp pair of kitchen shears, I cut out the stars. It’s easiest if you cut a big circle aound your shape, and then when you have that cut out, you can cut along the pencil lines of your shape.
Now that you have your shapes cut out, it’s time for the fun to begin.
Hand out the Sharpies, and have everyone colour their shape. Your results will be best if you scribble blocks of colour.
And now for the fascinating, scientific part of the activity – turning the marker ink into tie-dye with the alcohol.
Pour a capful or two of rubbing alcohol into a small bowl.
Dip your pipette (dropper) into the alcohol, and then tap it or drip it over the Sharpie ink.
You don’t want to over-do it here, or your ink will wash away. Just a few drips or taps, and then observe. Then add a few more drips, stopping again to observe how the ink activates and blends together.
Continue in this fashion until all of your ink has blurred and blended together.
Now you’ll need to let your ornaments dry. It won’t take long because the alcohol will evaporate quickly. Just make sure you keep your ornaments on a level surface so the colour doesn’t run off the edges.
When you ornaments are dry, punch a hole in the top of each one.
Varnishing your ornaments:
The final step before attaching your ribbon is to give your ornaments a light coat of varnish. This will prevent the ink from scratching off. This step is simple but you need to use a spray polyurethane. Don’t use a brush-on-liquid varnish because you’ll pull the Sharpie ink off of your ornament. Give your ornaments a quick, light spritz with the polyurethane. Go easy or your varnish will liquify on the ornament, and activate the ink again, causing it to run. A light, quick spray does the trick.
Let the varnish dry completely, add your ribbon, and hang your beautiful tie-dyed ornament on your Christmas tree.
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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.
If you write on them with a black sharpie after it’s completely dry will that ink get smudged?
No, once it’s dry, any new ink will not smudge, as long as you don’t add more alcohol. You’d want to varnish to protect the black from scratching off though, and that could cause it to run so I’d go with a very, very light spritz of varnish.
I’m just wondering if you could use the cheap, thin, plastic cutting boards you can get at the dollar store?
I would imagine you could, Melissa!
Clinton Kelly, who is on The Chew, used this same process to make coasters. He used ceramic tiles instead of the plastic. They came out beautifully.
Do you think using a pouch laminator would work, or would the heat do funny things to it? Seems like it would be more durable in the long run.
It might, Jenn. I really can’t say for sure, as I’ve never used one.
Have you tried this on fabric? Or, would it just wash out?
Yes! You have to set the ink with the heat of an iron. Here’s a tutorial, Sarah: http://www.marthastewart.com/892787/sharpie-tie-dye-t-shirt
How long do they take to dry?
Only a minute or so. The alcohol evaporates quickly.
Where do you buy 99% alcohol? I have 70%. Can I buy this at a store Ike CVS???
Yes, I would think CVS would have it, Cathy. Most pharmacies carry it. Walmart even carries it in their pharmaceutical aisle.
Where did you get your paper?
We cut our shapes out of plastic containers, Melissa, and then coloured them. The instructions are all in the post if you’re interested in doing this.
Does other permanent mrkers wprk just the same?….eg. .Bic permanent markers.. there all I have
They might, as long as they’re alcohol-based, and not water-based.
Has anyone tried this with Yupo paper?