Tricks and Tips to Tie Dye

Tie Dye tips

Tie dye is such a great craft activity because you can experiment with so many different colors and patterns. There are different methods that you can use to get different techniques, but the most common is using string, rubber bands, and even zip ties. Below we share tips and tecniques for a succesful tie dye project!

How to Be Successful with Tie Dye

My experience with tie dye is that natural fiber fabric will hold more dye, leading to a brighter, longer lasting result. You can use 100% cotton shirts or even other fun items like scarves, bandanas, and draw string bags.

We suggest pre-washing the materials if you can, for sizing and to remove any dirt so that the dye saturates better (do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets, which can leave a residue). There is no need to dry your garment. You want the fabric to be wet (but not dripping) when you tie and dye.

Helpful tips:

Wear gloves and to make sure that you secure all folds, regardless of which method you use, with rubber bands or one of the above tools. Also make sure you tie tightly. Material will expand when it is wet, so making sure to tie each fold will secure the dye in place. Get it – tie dye!

The two most important factors for a successful tie dye are 1) color choice and 2) color saturation. In order to avoid a large amount of white on your finished product, the trick is to squirt enough dye into the folds. Squeeze the area saturated with dye to insure color penetrates the inside layers of fabric for a bold result. When choosing colors to place adjacent to each other, remember the color wheel. Do not place “opposite” colors next to each other, such as red near green, blue near orange, or yellow near purple: the results would be a brown, muddy mess. If you really like bright colors avoid placing a color with red mixed in it, such as purple, near green.

Once your items are pre-washed, you will choose your tie dye design or technique! See below.

Video Tutorial

Tie Dye Design Techniques

Vertical/Horizontal Stripe: Fold a piece of fabric in vertical pleats, and you’ll end up with horizontal stripes. Horizontal pleats result in vertical stripes. Diagonal pleats are an option for diagonal stripes.

Bullseye: For concentric circles, grab the cloth where you want the center to be, and pull, until you’ve more or less made a long tube of garment, then apply rubber bands at intervals along the fabric.

Classic Spiral: Lay the garment on a flat surface, smooth out all the wrinkles, then make a small pleat right across where you want the center to be. Grab the very center of that pleat with a clothespin, and begin to twist. As you twist, pleats appear farther away from the center; as these pleats get too large, split the pleats with your hands, keeping each fold the same height above the table, no more than one to two inches in height.

Circles: Another technique is to use small rubber bands to pinch and bind fabric in several places all over the garment. This will make circles of color.

tie dye instructions

See our Color Splash Easy Tie Dye Kit for even more detailed information on tying tips!

tips for tie dye

Color Combination Fun:

  • A lot of fuchsia and a little yellow make red
  • Red and yellow make orange
  • Yellow and turquoise make green
  • A lot of turquoise plus a little fuchsia makes blue
  • Turquoise plus fuchsia makes purple

Now that you have chosen your design, you are ready for the tie dye process!

Tie Dye Method #1 – Easy Method

Our Easy Packs contain bottles of dye, premeasured packs of soda ash, and rubber bands!

Tie Dye Materials:

Have a very large group? Our Color Splash® Cold Water Tie-Dye Factory pack that makes over 1500 projects!

*Remember, before folding and tying your project, rinse or soak in warm water and wring out so the item is not dripping. Damp fabric will absorb the dye much more easily.

Step 1) Place a plastic table cover to protect your work surface/floor/anywhere you might drip dye as it will stain.

Step 2) Choose your tie dye design technique. For example, stripe, bullseye, spiral, or circles. No matter how you decide to tie, make sure you use the elastic bands bound tightly to hold the folds together for best results. TIP: To make folding t-shirts easier, simply tuck the sleeves inside the shirt and out of the way!

how to tie dye

Step 3) With gloves on, cut the corners off the soda ash packets one by one and carefully pour into the dye bottles. Try not to breath in the loose dust. There is no need to pre-soak your cotton garments in soda ash as our Easy Pack comes with small pre-measured packets to mix directly with the powdered dye for your convenience.

Step 4) Fill each bottle with warm water. Replace the caps tightly and shake until all of the powdered dye is dissolved. For best results and bold colors, use mixed dye within 48 hours of preparation.

Step 5) Now you are ready to add the dye! Place your tied garment on to a flat surface protected by plastic. Hold the tip of the dye bottle directly up to the fabrics surface and gently squeeze the dye into folds making sure it has penetrated in to all of the layers. Flip the garment over making sure you dye the opposite side as well. You want to use plenty of dye so the colors are rich but not so much that the dye is dripping from the underneath side of your tied garment creating a pool. Tip: Wipe off your gloves and work surface with paper towels between colors.

tie dye techniques

Tips: Avoid mixing complementary colors that will create muddy brown tones by keeping the following colors away from each other: Red/Green, Blue/Orange, or Purple/Yellow. Some colors (especially yellow and green) may resist mixing completely with the water causing small speckles of dye to collect on the fabric surface. Don’t worry, the dye will still cover evenly and work great.

Step 6) Squeeze the area you just applied dye with your fingers, helping the dye penetrate into all the folds. Again, wipe off your gloves and work surface with paper towels between colors to avoid unwanted mixing.

Step 7) Once you’re done applying the dye, check to make sure your garment is not dripping excess dye. To avoid unwanted color mixing; place your finished garment on a stack of paper towels to absorb some of the excess.

how to tie dye

Step 8) Place the garment into a plastic bag. Tie the plastic bag tightly (or use a zip top style bag) making sure the dye stays wet while it sets into the fabric for the next 12-24 hours. Let it set undisturbed at least overnight so the dye and fabric can work their magic. It’s worth the wait!

Tip: You can drop each fabric item into its own re-sealable plastic bag and label it with person’s name and time to wash out.

Step 9) With your gloves on, remove your garment from the plastic bag and place under cold running water (do this one garment at a time). Cut the rubber bands with scissors, allowing the bundle to unfold being careful not to cut the fabric. Continue to rinse by hand in cold water until the water runs clear to release excess dye from the fabric. Then rinse again in the hottest water available to remove any trace of the un-reacted dye until the water runs clear.

Step 10) Wash the rinsed garments in washing machine on the warm/hot cycle. Hang or machine dry. Wash and dry separately for the first few washes.

Have a very large group? Our Color Splash® Cold Water Tie-Dye Factory pack that makes over 1500 projects!

tie dye tutorial

Tie Dye Method #2 – Soda Ash Pre-Soak

Tie Dye Materials:

Step 1) For this method where you don’t already have the soda ash mixed into the dye, you would pre-soak the garments in a solution of sodium carbonate (soda ash) for fifteen minutes to one hour. Soda ash helps prevent color bleeding. Mix one cup soda ash per 2 gallons of water.

tie dye soda ash

Step 2) Add powder dye to empty squirt or spray bottles first, and then add water.
Be careful when you measure out the dye. Leave the jars open as short a time as possible and use a face mask. Don’t breathe in the dye powder!

Step 3) Replace bottle cap and shake until dye is fully dissolved.

Step 4) For best results, apply dye to fabric within 30 minutes of mixing. Follow steps above for how to tie dye for techniques and tips!

Congrats, you’ve just created your first tie dye item! Share your photos with us so we can see your creations!

View all of our great tie dye products here!

tie dye


More Great Blog Posts

56 thoughts on “Tricks and Tips to Tie Dye

  1. Hi,
    I’m having a problem with getting the colors right. Even when I put the colors that can go next to one another, it still seems to look off. I’m not sure why, but almost every shirt I do they don’t look right. Do y’all have any ideas or can you tell me something I may be doing wrong? Thank you!

  2. I have used the 2- minute Tie Dye kits that you microwave, and the one step Tulip kits, that you leave for 6 to 8 hours and then rinse.
    Can both kits be used like the microwaved ones, or used the other way, where they sit for 6 to 8 hours?
    I’m asking this, because I noticed the bottle were exactly the same with the Tulip dyes. I bought more packets of dyes and don’t know if it matters.

  3. Pingback: DIY Tie-Dye Tip for Beginners – World Wide Marketing

    • Hi Mary, yes this is recommended. In our blog, we added a tip “To help ensure the dye stays on and help preventcolor bleeding, you can pre-soak the fabric for fifteen minutes to one hour in a solution of sodium carbonate (Soda Ash), mixed one cup per 2 gallons of water – unless you are using dyes that have the soda ash pre-mixed in.”

  4. Thanks for the great guide! We learned the hard way not to put opposite colours next to each other – my son thought orange and green was a great combo and it was a disaster.

  5. Thank you for this! I have been trying to dye my clothes by myself for so long, this should help.

    For people like me, who haven’t had much success till now, there is SeamsFriendly ( These guys have the cutest collection of hand tie-dyed clothes. The fabrics are natural and they use chemical free dyes on clothes. There are so many other Indian Crafts for everyone to choose from.

  6. I did. Red and yellow combination after pre soaking in soda ash several times . Each time the red turned to pink and the yellow washed out . What am I doing wrong??

  7. Pingback: New Hobbies to Try: Quarantine Edition | Buzz

  8. This is super helpful! I ordered colour catcher sheets to wash with my shirts the first time after dying. By “wash and dry separately for the first few washes” do you mean each individual shirt has to be washed and dried separately, using one sheet per shirt? Or do you mean wash and dry the tie-dye shirts together, but separately from other laundry for the first few times?

    • I now see your answer to the post just before me, wash each individually. Have you ever used color catchers or heard of it? I hear it will catch the bleeding colors so the white stays white.

  9. I just dyed my fabric and let it sit for at least 8-10 hours, should I wait for it to dry completely before rinsing the fabric off for the first time? or is it okay if it’s still a bit damp. Also after rinsing, can I wash it along with other fabrics that I have just died? or should I wash each of them individually? Lastly for the first was after rinsing out the fabric should I use detergent? or can I put salt in along with it to help the colors soak up more?

    Thank you so much!:)

    • Hi Sandra! You do not have to wait until the fabric dries completely. We recommend waiting 12-24 hours before rinsing. So it can still be damp. After rinsing, it is best to wash each individually – otherwise, you may risk some of the dye getting on your other designs and changing the colors. You can use soap as you normally would!

  10. Love all these! Quick question- we just did a bulls eye design on a bag and somehow we missed a big spot so in the middle of pattern is a big white glob- so would u suggest just putting some color on that spot or tying it back just like it was and then put the right colors where they go in hopes to fix the design., basically question is how would you suggest going back to fill in the blanks that u missed .. we have not washed it yet so I’m hoping that is in our favor

    • Hi Hannah, yes that is great you have not washed it yet. If you missed a pretty big spot, I would recommend tying it back up again like you did originally so that the color is in the right places to follow your design, and soaks into the shirt as it is tied up. Then follow the same steps as if you were doing it the first time. I hope it comes out well! We would love to see some finished photos if you’d like to share them and have them featured on the blog!

  11. Hi! I’ve seen people hang their shirts on a clothes line to spray off, which seems to work well, I’ve noticed when I do this that the colors fade. I thought air drying them outside before washing would help the color last, do you think this is probably why my colors get pale?

  12. I have tie dyed some tshirts, removed the elastic bands and left them to dry but i didnt use soda ash and i dont have any soda ash! If i wash or rinse the tshirts will the dye come out?

    • Hi Martha! Soda ash helps the dye adhere to the cotton in the shirts, and it gives you brighter colors. If you don’t have soda ash, you can use salt as an alternative. When you rinsed the shirt after dying, did all of the color run out?

  13. Hi we wanted to dye a white hoodie with pink, purple & orange dye. We did the swirl spiral pattern but we washed it in the washing machine after rinsing in cold water first- and the whole white hoodie is now a pretty pink colour (with the coloured tye dye pattern too). What made the white hoodie turn pink? Thanks for any help.

  14. Pingback: How to Tie Dye ANYTHING Without a Huge Mess •

  15. I read somewhere to leave the rubber bands/ties on the garment until the first wash is done before removing them. Is that true?

    • The longer I let the dye sit in the fabric the brighter the colors. We let ours sit for a week rinse out then was in cold with a cap of white vinegar.

  16. I bought a store kit before I saw this post. My kindergarteners and pre k er had a great time doing shirts for spirit week. But the very first time I washed the t-shirts they faded a lot. After sitting in bags for 6-9 hours I rinsed in cool water till ran clear. At this point the colors were bright. Then washed in cold water with tide. Now faded like last year’s shirts. Any ideas?

    • Hi Maria, we would suggest you leave the shirts in the plastic bags to sit over night or at least 12 hours. Also what dye did you use? Did it have soda ash? That is an important step to keeping the colors bright, sometimes it’s already in the dye and others you need to buy it separately and soak the shirts ahead of time.

  17. Pingback: Top 10 DIY Craft Blog Posts from 2017 - S&S Blog

  18. I have also found that if you rinse and squeeze your item under cold running water with the rubber bands still securing your shirt, this will rinse a lot of the excess dye away before it has a chance to get on the white parts of the shirt. I usually rinse until I don’t see very much color coming off when I squeeze the water out, and then I remove the rubber bands or ties and rise a few more times. It also helps, if you are doing a large batch of shirts, to only wash a few at a time – there will be less loose die in the water to re-attach to the un-dyed parts of your fabric.

  19. Pingback: DMCI Homes Communities | Weekend Condo Project: How to Revive Your Closet with Natural Dyes

  20. Pingback: A Dandy Bouquet for Mother's Day! - S&S Blog

  21. My grade level team just did blue and red tie dye and the red ran and now the white is pink, is the above reply the only way to prevent the red from running? I read something about vinager.

    • you might have used too much dye. after a thorough cold water rinsing and a hot water rinsing, they should be immediately washed in a washing machine with synthropol. it keeps excess dye particles suspended in the water and helps remove any dye that runs during the rinsing process.

  22. My mom used to help us tie dye shirts as children and I would love to provide this entertainment to my kids as well. Thanks for the fun tips. I remember the classic spiral method being successful. Another thing to think about would be ensuring that all needed materials are present before starting the project.

    • It’s going to be my first time doing this. Now I have powder dye blue light blue and liquid dye as well. Do they have soda ash in them ? It’s a baby shower and tye dye is awesome! So it has to sit up to 24 hours before rising off.please what dye would you suggest to be the best to use in tye dye. Thank you Molly Margaret Los Angeles California

  23. Pingback: 8 Back to School Themed Activities For Senior Residents - S&S Blog

  24. No matter how much cold water rinsing I do after 24 hrs of dye setting, the whites do NOT stay white, but pick up some of the red, usually, and the whites are now a dull pink.

    • Hi Mike, are you soaking the items? That could be why the red dye is getting onto the white areas. You want to be sure you are rinsing the items under running water. I usually rinse in the bathtub so I can hold the items under the faucet. It can take a while to rinse clear but you will want to hold the item under the running water, then squeeze the water out and continue this until the water squeezes out completely clear. Let me know if this helps!

    • you might have used too much dye. after a thorough cold water rinsing and a hot water rinsing, they should be immediately washed in a washing machine with synthropol. it keeps excess dye particles suspended in the water and helps remove any dye that runs during the rinsing process.

    • I have done the same thing! I washed with cold and hot water under the faucet and waited until the water appeared clear, then I put it in the dryer and my white parts of my shirt turned a little pink ish purple. Does anyone have any ideas if it is possible to take out the color from the white parts without having to strip all the color from the tie dye?

  25. Pingback: Tie Dye Bandana Craft for National Dog Day - S&S Blog

  26. Pingback: Design Your Own Pet Leash & Collar - S&S Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *