Tie Dye Techniques for T-Shirts

by Heather Clark ; Updated September 28, 2017

The legendary tie-dyed t-shirt became popular during the '60s. While tie-dyed clothing is easy to find at most stores, the real essence of the tie-dye experience is found in creating the fashions at home. A few bottles of dye, some white tees, rubber gloves and rubber bands are all that is needed to bring the '60s back in a big way. there are a variety of dyeing techniqes used to create tie-dye patterns.

Spiral Tie Dye

A spiral tie dye looks best when a variety of colors are used. Three is an optimal number. When dyeing the shirt, it is best to start with the lightest color and work upward. It is also important to keep the color wheel in mind; if the shirt is dyed in order, secondary colors can be created (ie: yellow + blue = green). Begin by spreading the shirt out on a flat surface. Gather the center of the shirt and clip with a regular clothespin. Begin twisting the shirt tightly around the clothespin, using a hand to keep the folds of the shirt flat and even. Twist the shirt until it becomes a disk. A 2-inch wide strip of cloth can be tied around the edge of the shirt to keep the disc shape in place. Remove the clothespin. Secure the disc by tying more cloth strips around the disc or using large rubber bands, making sure the bands or strips intersect at the middle of the disc. Prepare separate dye baths for each color to be used. Dip the disc into the first dye bath just below the cloth strip or rubber band across the center and wait for approximately four minutes. Rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Give the disc a 1/4 turn and repeat the dye bath process with the second color. Rinse shirt and repeat process with the third color. Remove ties from the shirt for a final rinsing. Wash the shirt with detergent before wearing.

Basic Stripe Pattern

Lay the t-shirt flat on a flat surface. Roll the shirt into a long tube, keeping the fabric slightly loose. Place rubber bands or string at various intervals along the tube, making sure the ties are tightly secured. The shirt is ready to be immersed in dye baths. One or more colors can be used.

Shadow Dyeing

This simple technique is used to create layers of a single color, going from light to dark. Begin by preparing the dye bath. Submerge the entire shirt in the dye bath for approximately two minutes, agitating constantly. Grab the top of the shirt by the shoulders, and pull from dye bath until 2/3 of the shirt remains in the dye. Gently sway in the bath for approximately six to eight minutes. Lift the shirt higher in the bath until only 1/3 of the shirt remains in the dye. Keep the bottom of the shirt immersed in the dye for an additional six to eight minutes. Rinse shirt with cool water.

About the Author

Heather Clark is a professional writer with a bachelor's degree in communications from Austin Peay State University, where she was a features writer for the "AllState" campus newspaper. In addition to being a contributor for various websites, she is also a full-time staff writer/photographer for the "Courier," the U.S. Army news publication for Fort Campbell, Ky.