Tie-dying is a fun and classic way to bring a splash of color to boring clothes. Even though it’s typically been known as ‘hippie wear’ due to its massive popularity in the 60s and 70s, it’s enjoying a renaissance today. Knowing how to make dye for tie dye clothes can open up incredible options for you in your personal wardrobe.
Tie dye is fun to do, and with the methods I’m about to explain, it can also be eco-friendly! Knowing how to make dye for tie dye can help you skip wasteful shopping and make a kinder choice for the planet.
It’s surprisingly easy to make your own DIY dyes for tie-dying clothes and other fabrics. You can make dyes using ingredients that are staples in your kitchen to add color to your boring, white clothes safely – without using any chemicals!
There are so many ways to make dye for your tie-dye projects. Below, we’re going to learn just how it’s done using five different methods. Let’s go!
How to Make Dye using Food Coloring
Finally find a purpose for that food coloring languishing in your cabinet.
Using food coloring is one of the easiest and safest ways to make dyes for tie-dye projects. This is the method used by parents or teachers when crafting tie dye with children. If they can do it, so can you!
To tie-dye clothes and other fabrics using food coloring, you will need:
- Food coloring of your choice
- White vinegar
- A plastic bottle (tipped nozzle or spray)
Learning a bit about the color wheel can always help while blending colors, too. Since food coloring is typically sold in a set of primary colors, you can mix them together to create custom colors.
Using Food Coloring to Make Tie Dye
To begin, fill a plastic bottle with water. Pour 8-10 drops of food coloring for bold, vibrant shades of color in your tie-dye projects, or use 4-5 drops for pastel shades.
Vigorously shake the bottle until the food coloring has thoroughly mixed with the water. Now, you can use the dye to color any cloth you want.
Obviously, the larger your plastic bottle, the more food coloring you’ll need. You can always do a bit of your own testing on some sample pieces of cloth to get exactly what you want from your homemade dyes.
How to Make Dye using Fabric Paint
Fabric paint is another great choice for a tie dye project. Even beginner crafters probably have spare fabric paint sitting in their cabinet, waiting to be put to good use. Why not use your fabric paint to make eye-catching dye for tie dye?
For making dye with fabric paint, you will need:
- Fabric paint
- Plastic bottle (tipped nozzle or spray)
When you’re making dyes from fabric paint, you’re really just looking for the right thickness of your mixture. Since fabric paint is already designed to work well with clothes and other textiles, making tie dye from it is a no-brainer.
Using Fabric Paint to Make Tie Dye
Pour about one cup of water into a plastic 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 dye.
Shake the bottle vigorously for about a minute until you see the color has mixed entirely with the water. It’s now ready for your tie dye project.
One small note when dealing with fabric paint-based tie dye. Sometimes, the paint can clog the bottle if you’re using a spray method of application. Watch out for this or opt for the tipped nozzle bottle instead.
How to Make Dye using Fruits and Vegetables
This is such a fun and unique way to create textile dyes using the wholesome, all-natural ingredients you have lying around in your kitchen or garden. Tie dyed items made this way will have a unique appearance unlike other, traditional-looking tie dye. You’ll be getting tons of questions and compliments on your Earth-friendly style!
Making tie dye with fruits and vegetables is an amazing learning opportunity and can even be turned into a science and history teaching experience at the same time if you have children helping with your project.
Here are the things you will need:
- Vegetables (onion, beets, red cabbage, spinach, etc.) or fruits (berries)
- Cooktop stove
- Plastic bottle (tipped nozzle or spray)
- blender (optional)
I’ll explain the process using berries, but the process is similar for most fruits or vegetables. If you’re using some kind of spice, like 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 Fruits and Vegetables to Make Tie Dye
With a knife, chop your berries into small chunks. I know – berries are already small! There is no need to cut them ultra-fine, but its important to start to break them down. You’ll see the wisdom in this when you use other, larger ingredients.
Now, in a blender, pour two cups of chopped berries and 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 will mash the berries with a fork or potato masher to create a paste.
Once you have blended or mashed the berry mixture into a fine slurry, run it through a strainer to remove the larger chunks.
You may also choose to use cheesecloth to remove even more chunks, seeds, and skin from the liquid. Cheesecloth works very well, and you’ll end up with a very 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 and mix well. Using a funnel, pour the liquids in condiment bottles or jars for your tie-dye projects.
At this point, your berry tie dye is ready for use.
Preparing your cloth for tie dye
In order to achieve a more permanent effect using fruits and vegetables as a natural dye for tie dye, you’ll need to prepare whatever cloth you will be dyeing first. This is done by simmering the cloth in water on the stove.
For fruit dyes, add a quarter cup of salt to four cups of water. Simmer for one hour.
For vegetable dyes, add a cup of white vinegar to four cups of water. Simmer for one hour. Simmering vinegar can get a little smelly, so you may want to open a window or check with your roommates first.
How to Make Black and Brown Dye
What if you want to dye clothes with darker colors such as black or brown? You have a few options.
While the stores certainly sell fabric paint in these colors, you can also use a plethora of natural ingredients to make dyes of dark colors.
For example, to make brown dye, take ground coffee and boil it using the natural fruits and vegetables method. You can also massage damp coffee grounds or a paste of unroasted coffee directly onto the cloth. For a deep shade of brown, use dark roast. Remember that you can also control the shade by the time you leave it simmering.
You can also use beets 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 you’re open to using a very strange ingredient, and you promise to be very careful while handling, you can fill a plastic jar or bowl with some rusty nails or hinges and distilled white vinegar. That will make a great story when someone compliments your homemade shirt!
How to Make Dye using Chemical Water
The above steps were to show you how to achieve tie dye at home without the use of chemicals. These methods are wonderful ways to liven up your otherwise boring clothes, but now I will tell you a little bit about how you would make dye using chemicals.
If you don’t want to forage for bark or spend time chopping vegetables or fruits for dying purposes, you can use chemical water along with dye to make dye for tie-dying clothes.
This process, unlike the other methods, will give you truly lasting colors that won’t fade as easily in the wash, and you don’t need to prepare the cloth for dying as you would with plant or fruit dye.
As this process uses chemicals, use caution and common sense, and wear protective gear for every step.
For making dye using chemical water and dye, you will need:
- Thick gloves
- Water softener
- Dye powder
- Plastic bucket
- Bottles or jars
- Measuring cup
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 powder 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 you have everything you need to make tie dye of your very own!
Especially now that it’s trending again, many stores are selling tie dye, but you don’t need to pay their prices. Using these easy methods of making dye, you can skip the wasteful shopping trip and save your money. Not only will you be helping out the planet, but you’ll be helping out your wardrobe.
When styles become trendy, brands pump out piece after piece of poorly made clothing. These clothes are sadly destined for a landfill whether you buy them or not.
Do your wallet and the planet both a favor by spending some time making your own tie dye. You’ll freshen up otherwise boring or unworn clothing, and you’ll look amazing doing it!
Let us know in the comments what clothes you gave new life using DIY tie dye.