How to Dilute Too Bright Fabric Dye to Make It Lighter

by Suzanne Hodgson ; Updated September 28, 2017

Colors can appear different on the box than on a shirt

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Dyes create all kinds of interesting colors in otherwise plain fabrics. When experimenting with dyes, you might want to lighten the dye color. The result will be a more pastel version of the dye. You may even achieve a "watercolor" effect. By adding more water to the dye than the directions call for, you will create a lighter color in the resulting dyed fabric.

Pre-wash any fabric that is going to be dyed. Without a pre-wash, the fabric could change colors after it has been dyed and then washed.

Pour approximately three-quarters of the amount of dye called for in the mixing instructions into a bucket or bowl. Replace the other one-quarter of called-for amount of dye with warm water.

Add more warm water if the dye is still too bright. Continue to mix in water until the perfected diluted color is achieved. While you are adjusting the amount of water in the dye, you may want to "test" the color with extra patches of fabric.

Be careful to not add too much water to the dye. If you accidentally add too much water, you can try to rectify the situation by placing the fabric in the dye longer so the fabric can soak up some of the color.


  • Do a test run using a small square cut from the fabric that will be dyed. This will show how much the fabric will shrink and what color the fabric will be before dying the whole thing.

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About the Author

Suzanne Hodgson is a graduate of Penn State University, receiving Bachelor of Arts degrees in journalism and integrative art. She works at a marketing firm and has previously served as the photographer and journalist for the "Kennebunk Post," a weekly paper in southern Maine.