Tie-dying is one of the oldest and best ways to bring a splash of color to boring clothes. Even though it's mostly known as ‘hippie wear’ due to its massive popularity in the 1970s, it's still trendy and fun. Knowing how to make dye for tie dye clothes can open up whole worlds of fun for your wardrobe.
Moreover, it's relatively easy to make DIY dyes for tie-dying your clothes and other fabrics. You can even make dyes using ingredients that are staples in your kitchen to add color to your boring white clothes safely without chemicals.
There are many ways to make dye for your tie-dye projects. And below, we’re going to learn how to make dye for tie dye. Let’s get started!
How to Make Dye for Tie Dye : 5 Different ways
1. Using Food Color
To tie-dye clothes and other fabrics using food coloring, you will need:
- An apron or smock to protect your clothes
- Food color of your choice
- While vinegar
- A plastic bottle
Using food coloring is one of the easiest and safest ways to make dyes for tie-dye projects. The steps are pretty simple, and you can always blend the food coloring to get lots of different shades and new colors.
Learning a bit about the color wheel can always help when blending colors too. Color theory can be fun, and the basics are not that difficult.
To begin, fill up a small plastic bottle with water and leave a little space at the top. Pour 8-10 drops of food color for bold, vibrant, bright shades of color in your tie-dye projects, or use 4-5 drops for a more pastel shade.
Then vigorously shake the bottle until the food color has thoroughly mixed with the water. Now you can use the dye to color any cloth you want.
Obviously, the larger plastic bottle you use, the more food coloring you'll need, but we're basing this on a ratio of about 8-10 drops in about 2 ounces of water. You can always do a bit of your own testing on some sample pieces of cloth to get exactly what you want from your home made dyes.
2. With the Help of Fabric Paint
For making dye with fabric paint, you will need:
- Fabric paint
- Spray bottle
- A cup of water
When you're making fabric dyes from fabric paint, you're really just looking for the right viscosity, or thickness, from your mixture of paint and water. Since fabric paint is already designed to work well with clothes and other textiles, making tie dye from it makes perfect sense.
So, to start mixing your tie dye, pour a cup of water in a spray bottle or squirt bottle and make sure you have some space left at the top. Then add about three tablespoons of fabric paint in order to make the dye very vibrant.
If you want it to be less colorful, add one and a half to two tablespoons for a lighter shade of tie-dye. Now shake the bottle vigorously for about a minute until you see that the color has mixed entirely with the water. It's now ready for your tie-dye project.
One note when dealing with fabric paint based tie dye...you might want to rinse the bottle well if you do use a spray bottle as the paint can dry and clog the spray mechanism.
3. With Natural Fruits and Vegetables
This is such a fun way to create textile dyes as it consists of all-natural ingredients you have lying around in your kitchen or garden. There are no harmful chemicals or toxic materials, so you can have your kids help you out as well.
Making tie dye with fruits and vegetables is an amazing learning opportunity, and can even be turned into a science project at the same time.
Here are the things you will need:
- Cotton cloth (for dying)
- Vegetables (turmeric, onion, beets, red cabbage, spinach, etc.) or fruits (berries)
- A blender
- Pots and pans
- Your stove
- Condiment bottles and funnels (for storing different colored dyes)
- A strainer
Before starting to prepare your fruit or vegetables, wear gloves to protect your hands.
We'll explain using berries at this point, but the process is mostly similar for other fruits and veggies...
With a knife, chop some berries into small chunks. There is no need to cut it very finely at this point.
Now, in a blender, put two cups of chopped berries and pour two cups of near-boiling water and blend. If you don't want to use a blender, you can simply boil the berries in a pot. If you go this route, you can mash the berries with a fork or potato masher instead.
Once you have blended or mashed the berry mixture into a fine slurry, strain the slurry with a strainer. You can also use cheesecloth to remove even more of the substance from the liquid. Cheesecloth works great as you end up with a smooth dye, just realize that it will take a little longer to strain this way.
Add a tablespoon of salt to the strained liquid dye.
At this point, your berry tie dye is ready for use.
If you're using some kind of spice, such as turmeric, then for every two cups of boiling water, you need to use 1-2 tablespoons of spice powder depending on the intensity of the color you desire.
As for vegetables or plants, for every two cups of boiling water, put one or two cups of vegetables to get your desired color. You can blend it or boil it in a pot. Remember, the longer you boil or simmer the berries, vegetables, or plants in water, the stronger and more intense the color will be.
Using a funnel, pour the liquids in condiment bottles or jars for your tie-dye projects.
4. Black and Brown Dye
What if you want to dye clothes with darker colors such as black or brown? You can use a plethora of natural ingredients to make dyes of dark colors. For instance, for light brown, take some ground coffee and boil it. Then soak the cloth in it to achieve a lighter shade of brown.
Or for a deeper shade of brown, use darkly roasted beans. You can also massage damp coffee grounds or a paste of unroasted coffee on the cloth for dying purposes.
And you can also use a beet to attain deep brown colors. Simply boil chopped beets in water and strain it. Then add ferrous sulfate (iron sulfate) to the water. For black dye, you can boil carob pods or roots of iris in water.
If neither of these ingredients are available, and you're open to a bit of a stranger type of a process, you can simply fill a plastic jar or bowl with some rusty nails or hinges and distilled white vinegar.
Before you start your dye project, simply remove the rusty nails or hinges with a fine mesh strainer. In order to achieve a more permanent effect, you'll need to use alum as a fixative or mordant.
5. Dye with Chemical Water
If you don't want to forage for bark or spend hours chopping vegetables or fruits for dying purposes, you can use chemical water along with dye to make dye for tie-dying clothes. This process will give you lasting colors, and you don't need to prepare the cloth for dying as you would with plant or fruit dye.
As this process uses some chemicals that can be dangerous, use caution and tie dye at your own risk.
For making dye using chemical water and dye, you will need:
- Thick gloves
- Water softener
- Plastic bucket
- Bottles or jars
- Measuring cup
Before you start preparing chemicals, wear protective gloves and a mask, as you are going to be working with chemicals.
Fill a plastic bucket with a quart of lukewarm water. With it, add 2 teaspoons of Ludigol and 1 teaspoon of a water softener as well as ¾ cup of Urea.
Next, with a funnel, pour the chemical water from the bucket to bottles or jars. Add your chosen color of dye to the water to attain dye for your tie-dye projects, and use as normal.
How to Make Dye for Tie Dye: Final Thoughts
Now that you know how easy it is to make dyes for clothes and other textiles, give this process a try before heading out to the shops.
Instead, use your garden or kitchen to whip up some amazing tie-dyed clothes. And remember, this can be an amazing way to teach kids about chemical processes and end up with some stunning new clothes.