Let’s Tie-Dye: 6 Techniques to Try at Home

What are some tie-dye techniques?

  1. Spiral
  2. Crumple
  3. Bullseye
  4. Sunburst
  5. Box Folds
  6. Mandala or Kaleidoscope

Elevate your basic t-shirt into something cool, trendy, and groovy — through tie-dyeing! This artsy technique is incredibly easy to do at home, and you can try all sorts of designs, too.

Want to give your shirt some swirls, stripes, polka dots, and more? Here are a few tie-dye techniques    that can help you do that:

What You Need To Tie-Dye At Home:

While there are tie-dye kits you can get online or from a craft store, you probably have everything you need at home. You need:

  • White or lightly-colored shirts made of cotton (or cotton with 20% polyester. Any other type of fabric will be harder to dye). We don’t recommend darker-colored shirts for your first few tries at tie-dyeing, as they’re harder to color.
  • Dyes from a tie-dye kit or water with food coloring mixed in.
  • A plastic squeeze bottle.
  • Rubber bands, hair ties, or plastic cable zip ties.
  • Gloves.
  • Large resealable plastic bags.
  • Trash bags.
  • Some techniques need a ruler, plastic wrap, and small beads or dried beans.
  • Soda ash (also known as dye fixer). Buy it here if you want to do these tie-dying methods. This is used to prepare your clothes to better absorb the dye, and minimize the blurring of your chosen tie-dye pattern!

Once you have your shirt, dye colors of choice, and all the miscellaneous tools you need, you’re ready to try these techniques at home.

The Basics Of Tie-Dyeing:

Here’s what to do to get started on tie-dyeing:

  • Set up your work area and prepare your supplies. You can do this outdoors to avoid spilling or staining any of your furniture.
  • Make your soda-ash solution by dissolving 1 cup soda ash in 1 gallon of warm water.
  • Pre-soak your garment in the soda ash solution. Soak the garment for at least 15 minutes before removing and wringing out the excess.
  • Mix your dyes.
  • Fold and tie your garment according to your chosen technique (more on that in the following sections).
  • Apply the dye, and give it time to develop.
  • Rinse, wash, and dry!

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to get into the specifics:

Spiral

To make a rainbow spiral design, this is how to fold and tie your garment:

  1. Pinch a small section in the center of the fabric. Hold onto this section while you twist the garment clockwise.
  2. Keep twisting and try to keep the spiral as flat as possible. Keeping your fingers close to the surface of your workspace will help.
  3. The shirt should start looking like a flat cinnamon roll.
  4. When fully twisted, secure this with 3 or 4 rubber bands. Use them so that they’re criss crossing over each other at the center of your garment disk.
  5. Note that the tighter you twist the fabric, the more prominent the white areas will be.
  6. Get your dyes and apply different colors to each wedge, created by the intersecting rubber bands.
  7. A popular design here is to apply dyes in a rainbow order to create a rainbow spiral.

Crumple

Crumple

To make a crumple design, also known as a nebula design, tie your fabric like so:
  1. First, lay the fabric completely flat.
  2. Then scrunch small sections of the fabric together — this can be done at random.
  3. Keep scrunching and folding while securing these sections with rubber bands. Do this until the fabric is a relatively flat and tight disk.
  4. If you want more white areas, tightly fold and scrunch these sections.
  5. Apply your dyes at random to create a nebula-like design.

Bullseye

To create a large bullseye design on your fabric:

  1. Lay your fabric flat on your work surface.
  2. Pinch a small section of fabric at the center of it. But, if you want the bullseye to be off-center, you could do the same in a different section.
  3. Pull this section up to a point, and smooth the rest of the fabric down to create a cone-like shape. Make the point as skinny as possible.
  4. Wrap rubber bands around the cone, starting about an inch below its point. You can space out and add as many rubber bands as you want.
  5. Apply your dye. If you want alternating colors, apply them using your rubber bands as a guideline.

Sunburst

Sunburst

Similar to the bullseye pattern, this design features many small bursts of color — hence the name. Here’s how to make a sunburst tie-dye pattern:

  1. Lay your shirt flat on your work surface.
  2. Pinch a small section of fabric, and pull it up to create a small pointed cone — similar to that of the bullseye technique.
  3. Wrap a rubber band around the cone, about half an inch below its point.
  4. Do this process in other sections of fabric to create as many sunbursts as you want on your shirt.
  5. Apply your dyes. We suggest using at least two to create contrast and background color.

Box Folds

This technique makes some shibori-inspired square folds, following the famous style of fabric dying particular to Japan. Here’s how to make it at home:

  1. Lay the shirt flat on the table.
  2. Starting on the left side, fold your shirt lengthwise in a series of accordion folds.
  3. We recommend making each fold at least 3 inches wide, but you can make the sections as small or as wide as you like.
  4. Press each fold well to create sharp creases.
  5. Once fully folded on one side, start folding widthwise.
  6. Make sure that each fold is the same width as your lengthwise ones.
  7. You should create a square shape from your folded fabric.
  8. Sandwich your shirt between two squares of cardboard (or similar). Secure this with rubber bands or tie it tight with zip ties.
  9. Prepare your dye in a bucket, and dip the entire bundle in.
  10. You can also use a squeeze bottle to apply your dye around the edges. But, make sure to use enough to fully saturate your shirt.

Mandala Or Kaleidoscope

Mandala Or Kaleidoscope

This technique makes a unique kaleidoscope pattern with multiple lines of symmetry, also known as a “Mandala” design. To create it:

  1. Lay your fabric flat on the table and fold it in half lengthwise.
  2. Fold it again in half widthwise. Your shirt should now be folded into quarters.
  3. Pick up the bottom left corner of the fabric, and fold the top layer of fabric diagonally to create a triangle section.
  4. Fold the bottom layer back and under towards the same centerfold, mirroring what the top layer did.
  5. Repeat the last two steps, once for the top layer and again for the bottom. Doing this will create 8 layers of fabric.
  6. Be sure that the folds are crisp and neat before proceeding with rubber bands.
  7. Use rubber bands to section off your wedge of folded fabric into triangles, starting from the tip. Make these as big or as many as you want.
  8. Apply the dye in various colors to create your 8-point kaleidoscope design.

Key Takeaway

Learning how to tie-dye at home can be a little messy, but it’s a fun and easy activity you could do to upgrade your current wardrobe. With the right materials and our handy guide on different tie-dye techniques, you’ll be able to create unique patterns on your favorite pieces!