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How to Tie Dye: Easy Step-By-Step Tutorial for Beginners

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Tie-dye shirts are a popular trend that is fun to make and wear! Today I am going to show you how to tie-dye shirts in this easy step-by-step tutorial for beginners. 

different colored tie-dye shirts

There are many different types of techniques and dyes available for tie-dye. 

If you are just starting out as a beginner, I would suggest keeping things as simple as possible for your first few times.

How to Tie Dye

One of the easiest tie-dye kits for beginners is the Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Kit. These kits come with pre-filled dye bottles and everything that you will need for tie-dying your shirts. 

These Tulip Tie-Dye Kits are alo easy to find, affordable, and come in many different colors. In this step-by-step tutorial I am going to be showing you how you can tie-dye shirts using one of these kits. 

Supplies: 

  • Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Kit
  • Water
  • Cotton T-Shirts
  • Plastic table cloths (optional)
  • Cookie drying racks (optional)
tie-dye kit, cookie drying sheet, white shirts, gallon zip lock bag

One thing that is nice about the Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Kits is that they come with pre-filled dye bottles, rubber bands, gloves, and a drop cloth. This makes gathering all the supplies needed much easier. 

what is included in set on back of tie-dye box

If you are using this kit, then all you will have to buy extra are the shirts.

I would also suggest buying a plastic tablecloth to use as an extra drop cloth and some cookie drying racks. 

While these are not required, they will just make it much easier to tie-dye your shirts. 

If you are not using the Tulip One Step Kit, and you are using a different tie dye kit, you can still follow this tutorial, but you will just need to make sure that your kit includes gloves, bottle for the dye, rubber bands, and a drop cloth. 

Where to Get Your Supplies

You can purchase your supplies from stores like Walmart, Amazon, and most craft stores such as Michaels or JoAnns. 

I purchased all my supplies from Michaels because they seemed to have the best selection of different sized shirts in stock. They also have a large selection of the different sizes and colors of Tulip Tie-Dye Kits.

Here are some links on Amazon to the exact supplies that I used. Of course, you don’t have to have these same exact things, you can choose to purchase anything similar. 

1. Pre-Wash Shirts

This is a very important step. For the tie-dye to soak into the fabric of a shirt, it should be damp.

The easiest way to achieve the perfect dampness is to just wash the shirts in the washing machine right before you are ready to tie dye. 

When the shirts are done washing, they will be perfect for tie-dying (not too wet, or too dry). 

If you don’t have time to wash the shirts, you will need to at least get them wet and ring out as much water as possible. 

Tie-dye will not soak into the dry fabric of brand new shirts. To demonstrate this, I have included a photo below of a shirt that is half wet, and half dry. 

As you can see, the tie-dye easily absorbs into the fabric of the wet side of the shirt, but on the dry side, the dye doesn’t absorb into the fabric but instead just lays on top. 

white shirt with tie-dye on the wet and dry sides

2. Twist Shirts

Now that your shirts are wet, you are ready to choose the tie-dye designs that you would like and twist your shirts. There are so many different types of tie-dye techniques that you can use. 

Two of the easiest ones, and the ones that I choose to use in this tutorial are the swirl and the crumple designs. 

white shirts with rubber bands ready to be tie-dyed

Swirl Technique

Make sure that your shirt is damp for this step. For the swirl method you will want to lay your shirt flat. Then, you will pinch the middle of the shirt and start twisting. 

As you are twisting you can use your other hand to help guide the outside parts of your shirt into as close to a round circle as you can get. 

After it is twisted you will place your rubber bands onto the circle. I used four rubber bands to cover my swirl design. 

If parts of the shirt are sticking out after you put on the rubber bands, you can just tuck them under the rubber bands.

Crumple Technique

Start with the shirt laying flat and suse your fingers to start scrunching the fabric starting from the center of the shirt. Once it is all scrunched, bunch it together and add the rubber bands. 

3. Prepare Tie-Dye 

If you are using the Tulip One Step Tie-Dye kit, all you have to do is add water to each of the bottles. You just fill the bottle up to the fill line and then shake to dissolve all the dye powder.

If you want intense colors then use-the full strength. If you want your colors to be lighter, you can just add more water to dilute the dye. 

Next you will want to use the included drop cloth, a plastic tablecloth, or even some large trash bags to set up your tie-dye space. 

I would recommend doing this outside as it is really messy and the dye stains surfaces very easily. 

You will also want to set out all the included gloves, the cookie drying racks, and the bottles of dye. 

Here is a photo of how I set up my tie-dye space. 

shirts on cookie drying racks next to tie dye bottles

4. Apply Tie-Dye

There are many different ways that you can apply the colors depending on what you want your designs to look like. 

You can apply a few different colors, or just use one color on the entire shirt. If you are using multiple colors, make sure you think about how the colors will mix. 

Keep color theory in mind when you are choosing what colors to put next to each other. If you are not sure what colors might go good together, I would suggest testing them out on a paper towel. 

I put all my colors onto a paper towel and it gave me a better idea of how the colors look out of the bottle and it gave me a better idea of how they might mix together to create other colors. 

paper towel with different colors of tye-dye

If you are dyeing your tie-dye shirt with just one color, then you will just saturate the shirt, flip it over, and then saturate the entire side. 

When using a few different colors, like on a swirl design, you should saturate each section with color. I would suggest trying to keep the colors in between the rubber band section. 

Once you put the dye onto the shirt it will start to spread, so I found that it was easiest to start by applying the dye in the middle of the rubber band section and work my way toward the sides so that the dye didn’t spread past the rubber bands. 

In this photo below you can see an example of starting in the middle to allow the dye to spread more evenly. 

putting blue tie-dye onto a shirt

Continue applying all your colors, making sure that you saturate the shirt. Then you will flip it over and repeat the process on the other side. 

Keep in mind that the closer you apply the colors next to each other the more that they will mix and create a new color. 

In this photo you can see how the pink and blue mixed together to create purple. 

tie-dye shirt with pink and blue

Pro Tip: Make sure that you have a towel or washcloth nearby so that you can wipe off your gloves in between each color, or when you are touching the shirt. If you have just a little bit of dye on your glove and then touch it, you could accidentally get dye where you don’t want it. 

Applying the dye with the shirt on a drying rack helps to keep the colors from running together. 

5. Cover Shirts and Let Dye Set

Once you are done applying your dye, you have to give it time to let the dye set into the fabric. The best way to get your dye to react to the fabric is to keep the shirt wet and warm. The warmer your fabric, the quicker the dye will set. 

You should do this by placing your shirts into zip lock bags, or wrapping them with saran wrap and then setting them out in the sun. 

tie-dye shirts wrapped in zip lock bags

It is recommended that you let your shirts set for 6-8 hours. For the brightest colors, you could leave the dye on for up to 24 hours. 

Also, if you want your colors to be lighter, then don’t let them sit as long. 

6. Rinse & Wash Shirts

Don’t rush through rinsing your shirts. To get the best colors, and to not have them wash together, you should take your time with this step. 

Also, make sure you wear gloves when rinsing out your shirt, or your hands will get covered in dye. 

rinsing tie-dye out of a shirt

First, you will leave the rubber bands on your shirt and rinse it under cold water until most of the dye is rinsed. Be sure to flip it over and completely rinse both sides. 

Once the water is almost clear, you can start rinsing the shirt in lukewarm water and remove the rubber bands. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear. 

After the water is clear you can then wash your shirt in the washing machine and dry. For this first wash you should only wash shirts that have been dyed with the same colors together. 

You should not wash shirts that are different colors the first few times together, because the dyes can spread and mix together and dye your shirt a muddy color. 

Also, the first few times that you wash your tie-dye shirts you should not wash them with your regular laundry. You want to keep them separate just in case more dye bleeds out in the wash. 

After a few times of washing your shirts you can then just start washing them with your regular laundry. 

Here is a photo of the swirl design that was dyed with blue and green.

green and blue swirl design tie-dye shirt

Here is a photo of how one of the crumple design that was dyed with purple.

purple crumple design tie dye-shirt

I hope that this step-by-step tutorial helps you to learn how to tie dye and that your shirts turn out perfectly!