Tie dye is a resist dyeing technique that includes bold and bright colours along with different tie dye patterns. There is a whole process when it comes to ‘how to tie dye’. The process includes folding, pleating, twisting, or crumpling a fabric before the fabric is bound in rubber bands and the dye or dyes are applied.

Being one of the oldest and most popular methods it is followed till today. It was one of the most popular trends during the 60’s as a symbol of free expression and an era of happiness. This unique design technique never went out of style and is widely used all over the world for decades. Many designers have created their collections by applying the tie dye method as well.

1) How to Tie Dye: Step by Step

Tie dye is one of the simplest processes used commonly for designing fabric. The result of the method depends on the tying process that has been used for the same. Tie dye can also be combined with fabric paints and other mediums. For the tie dye method, it is suggested to first fold or crumple the fabric and tie it using rubber bands.

Moving forward, prepare a dye bath and dip the chosen fabric in the taken utensil. To apply the dye squirt bottles can also be used. The folds and ties applied to the fabric act as a resistance and hence prevent the dye to saturate the whole fabric. Thus, all the area of the fabric where the dye can not reach stays white by creating a design.

The step-wise preparation of how to tie dye is mentioned below:

1.1) A Perfect Workspace:

Select the area after thinking twice as the process is highly messy. If tables are being used in the process then cover them with plastic wrap and if the floor is used then cover the same with plastic wrap too. Try choosing an open area to get the best tie dye result.

1.2) Dye Mix

Always prepare the dye mixture after following the given instruction on the packet or sachet being used. Many dyes just need warm water or cold water added to the squeeze bottles. If larger packs of the dye powder are being used then use any bucket container to mix the dye.

1.3) Fabric Preparation

In the process of tie dying, it is very important to prepare the fabric. If the piece of fabric used contains starch or any kind of chemicals then the fabric should be pre-washed as it prevents the dye to penetrate completely. Many dyes work best with a wet fabric.

1.4) Tying the Fabric

Try starting with the basic and simple design in the beginning. Select a tying method that needs to be followed for the process. Use rubber bands around as rubber band is considered to be best when a tie dying. Twine can also be used in place of a rubber band as well. It is done to avoid the string to absorb the dye. This part of the tie dye process creates tie dye patterns. The use of candle wax makes the dye more resistant.

1.5) Dye Immersion

After tying the fabric for tie dye put it in the bucket or container of dye. Wear rubber gloves to pick and check the colour. If the intensity of the colour remains less then continue to dip it for a longer period. Follow the instruction on the dye packet and sachet for the timing and the amount of water that needs to be used. Now, wrap the dyed fabric in wet condition using a plastic bag to set the colours.

1.6) Rinse & Rinse

Once done with the colour then bring out the fabric from the plastic bag and rinse it well in cold water. Continue this step until the water runs clear.

In the case of using the new colours for tie dye repeat the dyeing process using other colours. However, proper planning is needed because colours change when dyed together.

1.7) Wash and Dry

Remove the rubber bands once the process of rinse is done. Now, using the hand or machine wash the tie-dyed fabric. Try washing the fabric separately to prevent the dyes to come out. Afterwards, dry and iron the fabric.

2) Different Types of Tie Dye

how to tie dye
Image by Karol Olson from Pixabay/Copyright 2018

There are different types of tie dye technique categories. Some of them are listed below:

2.1) Traditional Tie Dye Method:

This method comes under one of the most common tie-dye techniques. It is all about vibrant colours and different patterns. It was trendy during the 60s and 70s and still is in use on a global basis. This is done on plain t-shirts and tie-dyed with more than one colour of liquid dye.

2.2) Bleach Tie Dye

It is also known as reverse tie dye and is very popular in modern times. This tie-dye method is usually applied on a black and dark-coloured shirt. It is tied and lightened using bleach. The bleach helps to lighten the colour resulting in creating the tie dye design.

2.3) Ice Dye

This tie dye method shares similarities with the traditional tie dye method. However, the process involved in this method is slightly different. It begins with the same use of light-coloured garments tied with rubber bands.

Afterwards, the garment is covered completely with ice cubes and it is sprinkled with powdered dye. Once the ice melts, it dissolves the dye powder and ends up saturating the fabric.

3) Basic Tie Dye Supplies

Before thinking about how to tie dye, it is important to have an idea about what comes in tie-dye kits. These tie dye kits include the supplies and materials needed to achieve colourful tie dye designs. Along with the fabric and dye, there are few tools and safety materials.

These are a few basic tie-dye materials needed for any tie-dye project.

●     Dyes with fibre-reactive dye in assorted colours.

●     Few fabric items such as t-shirts, socks, and so on.

●     Soda ash and Synthrapol.

●     Rubber bands with a strong grip.

●     Containers or buckets

●     Squeeze bottles and plastic bags

●     Plastic wrap along with rubber gloves

4) Best Dye to Use for Tie Dye

The best-suggested dye to use especially on cotton fabrics for any tie dyeing is known as fibre reactive dye. This dye can be used as an all-purpose dye, which is brighter, easier, and longer lasting.

Fibre-reactive dyes form a permanent bond with the fabric using cold water. This helps the dye to stay for a longer period on the fabric. However, there are few dyes available in the market with pale colours that get washed away when coming in contact with hot water.

Different Types of Fibre Reactive Dye are:

4.1) Procoin MX Dyes

This dye is used mostly by professionals for the tie dye method. It is colourfast and very easy to handle. It comes in a different range of dye colours.

4.2) Tulip One-step Dyes

This dye powder could be a good choice for those who want to learn how to tie and dye. This tie dye kit does not require pre-soak fabrics in soda ash solution. Here, one needs to only add water and shake it well before applying.

5) Different Tie Dye Patterns and Folding Techniques were Used:

how to tie dye
Image by Julia from Pixabay/ Copyright 2017

There are different tie dye patterns and folding techniques used in tie-dying. There are many steps involved while preparing for folding techniques.

5.1) Nebula

This technique is also commonly known as Scrunch. For this, lay the shirt flat, scrunch and gather it together in one tight disk. Rubber bands are used to wrap around the disk. The tighter scrunch will be, the higher number of white areas will appear on the final t-shirt.

5.2) Bullseye & Sunbursts

Pinch and hold a section of the centre point of the t-shirt and pull the fabric to a point to bring out the skinny cone shape structure and secure it with the rubber bands.

5.3) Swirl

Pinch and hold a section of the centre point of the t-shirt and twist it in a clockwise direction. Twist until the t-shirt appears flat. Crisscross them over the centre and secure them by using rubber bands. The tighter the t-shirt is bound, the more amount of white spaces get appeared and hence rainbow swirl pattern could be achieved.

5.4) Stripes

This begins by laying the shirt flat and taking the bottom or one side section of the t-shirt. Fold the shirt in a series of small numbers and wrap it with rubber bands every 1 to 2 inches.

5.5) Triangle & Square Box Folds

Start folding the shirt in a lengthwise direction with folds at each section of about 3-4 inches. Press it hard to acquire the sharpness in the crease of folds. Do the same by folding it width-wise and lastly secure it with the rubber bands.

The triangle fold technique is the same as the Square box technique, where the only difference is that of the shape used.

5.6) Mandala Pattern

Two lines of symmetry designs are required for the mandala pattern. For this, lay the shirt flat on the surface and fold it half in both lengthwise and width-wise directions. Once it is folded into quarters, secure it with the desired pattern.

5.7) Heart Tie Dye

For this technique, fold the shirt half in lengthwise and draw a heart shape on the fold with the temporary marker. Make the small pleats from the drawn line to make them look straight on top of the folds. Secure all the pleated fabric with a rubber band and place it on the line as well. For this, more rubber bands can be added too.

6) Other Tie Dyed Items:

Many garments can be tie-dyed, which include hoodies, sneakers, and so on. For this, it is better to choose natural fibres.

6.1) How to Tie Dye Hoodies?

To tie dye the thicker fabric used in the garments, the organic technique works the best. It includes the crumple technique, swirl pattern, and stripes. However, more complicated designs could be applied but the process becomes difficult.

6.2) How to Tie Dye Socks?

To tie dye socks use the mandala pattern. This is one of the easiest and most fun ways to achieve the desired pattern. It can also be dyed together at the same time.

6.3) How to Tie Dye Sneakers?

The cotton canvas sneakers can also be tie-dyed. For tie-dying sneakers, the laces and liners have to be removed as a starting procedure. The second step is to soak them in the warm water upside down. A little bit of Synthrapol is also to be added to “pre-wash” the sneakers.

They cannot be scrunched and tied with rubber bands but they need to be dipped in buckets of dye or the dye can be applied with sponges, squirt bottles, or paintbrushes.

7) How to Wash a Tie Dye Shirt?


To wash a tie-dye shirt or any fabric and stop it from fading the most important thing is that they should be washed on their own. If they are washed with other colours or whites then the result would be dye transfer and ruining of clothes.

7.1) How to Wash Tie Dye Shirts Minimising Dye Transfer:-

The shirt should not be washed until it is drying for at least 24 hours.

A bucket with warm water and half a bottle of white vinegar should be the arrangement for the first wash. This will help to stop the dye bleeding.

8) How to Tie Dye Varieties:-

There are different shapes and designs of tie-dying to do on fabric. Some of them are as follows with the procedure to do so:-

8.1) How to Tie Dye Hearts for Loved Ones?

The first step is to draw the heart shape on the fabric. The fabric should be folded in half to get perfect and symmetric hearts on the fabric. A large running stitch is to be used around the heart and after that, the stitches should be pulled out very tight so that the heart will gather up. Now a rubber band is to be put on the top portion of the stitching area. This running stitch will give the heart a more accurate shape. When the fabric dries the stitching can be removed.

8.2) How to Tie Dye Multi Colour Spiral Shape?

For creating a rainbow spiral wooden spoon handle is needed. This works best with adult-sized t-shirts as the kid’s shirts are harder to twist.  At first put the fabric out flat and insert the stick into the fabric’s centre. The stick should be repeatedly twisted to create a circle.

When the circle is complete remove it from the table and put elastic bands. Use the colours such as yellow, red, and turquoise for the basic colours. Use a sponge applicator for easy printing. The dye is to be painted for getting more control over colours. As the final step rinse and open the fabric to see the beautiful rainbow tie-dye.

 8.3) How to Give Dye Two Similar Images?

The fabric is to be folded in half and marble is to be inserted. With the marble, the fabric is to be tied into a double layer. Then follow the same procedure of how to tie dye normally. When the fabric is opened up fabric will be having two mirror images as a result. In tie-dye, there would not be the same images printed but the printed images will be similar in some properties.

8.4) How to Tie Dye Amazing and Beautiful Stripes?

Fold the fabric like that of a fan or like pleats. The fold can be as narrow or as wide as the one tie dying likes. After that rubber bands should be put over the fold at different locations at specific intervals. Twine can also be used in place of rubber bands for tying and getting the tie-dye effect.

8.5) How to Tie Dye Circles?

For creating small circular patterns, marble or stones are to be used. The fabric is to be folded over marble or stone and twisted a little bit. The marble is to be fitted underneath using elastic bands. Space should be allowed in between the marble or stone so that the dye penetrates the fabric.

If no marble or stone is available then the process can be completed by pinching the fabric and tired with the band. If you are using the technique without marble then there will be a size difference in the circles so better to use a marble or stone.

How to tie dye stuffs, be it your clothes, shoes, sneakers or any other article has been on of the most surfed topic recently. People have been spending loads of money to get tie dye stuffs. However by following the above mentioned procedures on how to tie dye, one can get these trendy and amazing stuffs at a reasonable and cheap rate. Possessing a tie dye product in your wardrobe has become ‘a must’ in today’s world.  One can make different designs of one’s one choice and can find oneself standing out of the crowd. So just follow the above-mentioned steps and create a fashion statement.


Last Updated on by riyaspeaks



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