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How to Tie Dye

Tie Dying is a fun introduction to working with dye and is virtually mistake proof –making it an ideal project to do on your own, with kids or in a group. Preparation is minimal, just choose dye colors that you like and that work well together, grab a few basic materials and a t-shirt, and get ready to dye.

If you are using a tie dye kit, you’ll find everything you need inside, including the solution to pre-soak your T-shirts. If you are using a fabric dye from the craft or grocery store, you only need to soak your shirt in water before beginning.

The best candidates for dyeing

  • Plain white cotton or cotton blend T-shirts
  • Cotton fabric in white or light colors
  • White socks, baby onesies or scarves
  • Use a white or light colored base when you tie dye, since the dye will not show up well on a darker color


  • Tie Dye kit or fabric dyes suitable for cotton (RIT works well)
  • Rubber bands
  • Plastic coverings for work surface
  • Plastic gloves
  • Bucket
  • Pressure washer


  1. Use rubber bands to tie off sections of the shirt. You can accordion fold, twist or just bunch the fabric into a puff and tie it off with a rubber band. Any portion covered will remain white. Evenly space the rubber banded portions to make a balanced design.
  2. If you want a large, central medallion, gather the center of the shirt into one bundle and secure with a series of rubber bands. If you prefer a more allover design, use single rubber bands to secure small bunches of fabric all over the shirt.
  3. Soak the tied shirt in water if using RIT or cotton dye, or in a solution of soda ash and water if you are using a tie dye kit. Tie dye kits come complete with soda ash, so you won’t need to purchase this separately.
  4. Cover your work surface with plastic or work outdoors. Wear old clothing when you dye –the color will permanently stain your clothes if you are splashed. Wear plastic gloves unless you want to sport blue or pink hands for the next few days.
  5. Mix the dyes with water if instructed, and pour into plastic bottles if desired. The plastic bottles used for condiments work well for this project.
  6. Drip, drizzle and splash the dye onto your tied shirt; you can also dip portions of the shirt directly into the dye. If you want a shirt that is just one color, mix the dye in a bucket and just drop the tied shirt inside.
  7. The longer you leave the shirt immersed in the dye, the darker and more vibrant the color will be. Leave the piece in for several minutes for pastels, and about a half hour for brighter, more concentrated colors.
  8. When you are happy with the color, use a pressure washer to wash away excess dye, take off rubber bands, and hang to your shirt to dry. It is very important to remove all of the excess dye so that your shirt doesn’t bleed dye the first time you wash it.

About the author: Danielle, who blogs on behalf of Sears and other prestigious brands, enjoys creating custom tie dyed wearables and accessories. Read her work at artroommelody.com.

Photo by aegidian on Flickr.

One Response so far.

  1. Emily Christopher says:

    I saw some videos about tie dying and the result was definitely wonderful and amazing. I can’t believe that tying and dying could create something magnificent work. It was really adorable!

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