Tie dye not only looks great, but it’s a fun activity for the whole family to get involved in!
However, if you’re new to the concept of tie dye, you might be curious to know how to tie dye shirts in the comfort of your own home.
In this article, I will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to tie die shirts.
Keep reading to find out more.
How to tie dye shirts
Equipment you’ll need
- Plastic sheeting or garbage bags
- Cotton t-shirts
- One bucket for every color
- Squirt bottle
- Soapy water
- Paper towels
- Rubber or plastic gloves
- Fabric tie dye colors
- Soda ash (a dye fixer)
- Rubber bands
- Marbles, coins and/or strings
- Sealable plastic bags
Step 1: Pre-wash your shirt
To prep your shirt, you’ll want to place your shirt on a hot wash before dyeing. This ensures that any potential residue, oils, dirts, or other chemicals that may resist the dye are completely washed out before you start. After all, you don’t want them interfering with the process!
Step 2: Prep the space
You need to choose an area, preferably outside, and cover the ground in plastic sheeting to protect it. This is also a good time to put on clothes that you don’t mind staining or a smock that covers your clothes underneath it. You’re going to be using dyes, so you don’t want to stain your favorite pair of jeans.
Set up your dyeing area with the tarp, plastic sheeting, or garbage bags to completely cover the table you’ll be working on.
Have a bucket of soapy water and paper towels nearby. You’ll want this close so you can easily wash your hands or clean up any mistakes or spills before the dye has a chance to set in.
Step 3: Choose your tie dye technique and tie up your shirt
To create different tie dye designs, there are a variety of different dyeing techniques out there. To achieve these designs, you use the rubber bands, string, marbles and coins to create a variety of looks.
Twisting the fabrics into different shapes and patterns allows the ink to seep into the crevices and creating textures.
By pinching the fabric around certain areas and tying the rubber band around it or adding string, marbles or coins to get creative, you can design your perfect tie dye shirt!
There are copious methods to do this, but below are three popular techniques to get you started:
Starting in the middle of the t-shirt, twist the t-shirt until it’s tightly wrapped up into a dense, spiral shape. Place 3-4 rubber bands around the shirt so they create 6-8 pie shapes of equal sizes.
Add a different dye onto each “slice” of the pie. Make sure that you do this on both sides to ensure each side of the “slice” is the same dye color.
Pinch your shirt where you want the center of the bullseye to be and pull upwards. Next, you need to place a rubber band about 3-4 inches below where you’re pinching. A few inches below that, add another rubber band.
Continue this process until you run out of shirts and basically make a long, fabric tube. Within each section, add a different dye color.
Start at one end of your flattened shirt and slowly scrunch up the fabric. The messier the better, but try to keep it in a pancake shape, not a ball shape. This comes down to the fact that a balled up shirt makes it harder for the ink to reach the inner areas of the shirt.
Add one color of ink on one side of the shirt. Make sure that you don’t over do it or you risk losing that tie dye texture. Turn the shirt over and repeat with the same or a different color.
Step 4: Prepare the dyes and shirt
Begin by popping your gloves on both hands. Any contact of skin with chemicals (even if non-toxic) should be avoided to ensure your safety. This is especially important if you’re tie dyeing with kids.
To help the dye adhere better to your shirts, soak the tied up tees in a mixture of soda ash and water for around 20 minutes before adding colors. While you should follow the specific instructions on the soda ash, the ratio is usually about ½ cup soda ash to every gallon of water.
While the shirts are soaking, start mixing together the dyes in their buckets. Remember, one bucket for each. Always prepare the dyes according to the directions on each bottle.
Step 5: Begin dyeing
Now it’s time to start dyeing! Dunk sections of your shirt in the different dyes. Make sure that you avoid mixing dye colors together in the buckets and on the shirt itself. When too many dyes mix, the colors can seep together and make the overall result smudgy.
To be precise, use squirt bottles to apply some of the dyes. Some dye kits come with them already, but if not, grab some on your own. This is a great way to add dye more precisely rather than just dunking.
Step 6: Allow your shirt to sit
Have patience! Once dry, allow any excess dye to drip off the fabric. Avoid the temptation to unwrap the shirt.
Step 7: Rinse out
While running the shirt under warm water, fully rinse it while untying. After you’ve unfolded it, run it under cool water. Once the water runs clear, wring the shirt out and take a good look at what you made.
Step 8: Wash it and allow it to dry
Once you’ve rinsed it, place your new tie dye shirt into the washing machine and put it on a hot wash. However, make sure that you wash it alone!
If you wash it with anything else, expect that those other clothes will get dyed. After this first wash, though, you’re good to wash it with other items of clothing.