There are a million reasons to make tie-dying a family affair. Learning how to "design" your own clothes and mastering the various tie-dye techniques out there will fill your children with a sense of accomplishment..and of course, new clothing!

Especially at a young age, learning how to tie-dye can help the little ones develop their fine motor skills. It's also something that can teach them to focus and follow directions while disguised as messy fun.

In this article, we're going to share some of our favorite tie-dye techniques for your family to try out. Don't worry. It's not that messy.


Our favorite tie-dye techniques

There's more than one way to tie-dye, but before we get into our favorite tie-dye techniques, you'll want to gather your supplies and have a basic understanding of the process. It's a good idea to have your children help you with the prep work and the cleanup!

Here's what you'll need to get started:

  • White (preferably 100% cotton) shirts. Shorts work too!
  • A tye-dye kit. These can be found at your local craft store or online.
  • Lots of rubber bands. For the most unique results, get rubber bands that vary in width.
  • Gloves. Most tie-dye kits come with gloves, but your best bet is to get a box of latex gloves. They fit the little ones' hands better, and there'll be enough for everybody.
  • Plastic bags to hold all of the shirts.
  • Wire racks (These are optional but also necessary if you need a spot to rest your dyed shirts because they allow for excess dye and water to drip freely without creating a dye-puddle that'll muddy your results).

Make sure everyone is wearing old clothes they won't care about getting dye stains on. You'll also want to choose an appropriate place for your tie-dying event, such as nearby a utility sink, bathtub, or outdoors near an available hose.  

The tie-dye prep and process:

  • Pre-wash the white to-be-dyed shirts and leave them damp (not soaking or dripping wet!)
  • Fold and wrap your shirts with rubber bands as you see fit.
  • Now you can mix up the dyes. (It's critical that you don't mix the dyes until you're ready to use them since they only retain their colorful strength up to one hour after mixing).
  • Once you've chosen your designated area and laid down your wire wracks, everyone can start squirting the dyes onto their prepped shirts.
  • Allow the excess dye to drip through the wire racks and then place the newly tie-dyed shirts in individual plastic bags, wrapped tightly.
  • Set the bags down somewhere safe and warm for 24 hours. The time and the heat will allow the dye to fully penetrate the clothing fibers, delivering the best results.
  • After the 24 hours of setting, carefully remove the rubber bands. Rinse each shirt thoroughly in cold water until the excess dye runs clear.

Despite your best rinsing efforts, there'll probably still be some leftover dye in your shirts. We recommend that you throw all your freshly dyed, cured, and rinsed shirts into the washing machine for a light cycle. Finish them off by drying them in a hot heat setting. This will ensure that all excess dye is removed, and the colors have permanently set.

Now, without further ado, we give you our favorite tye-dye techniques:

The Classic Bullseye

The bullseye is arguably the most popular among all the different tie-dye patterns. It's also super easy to do. All you have to do is lay your shirt flat and then start by pinching it at the center, wrapping a rubber band around the pinched layers.

You can space out your rubber bands as close or as far apart as you'd like. You can also twist your shirt as you gather and pinch for an added psychedelic effect. 

The Diagonal Stripe

Don't be intimidated by the diagonal stripe. It may look tricky but it's just as easy as the bullseye. To achieve the diagonal stripe pattern, start with your shirt laid out flat. 

Now fold it accordian-style, beginning with one of the bottom corners. Once it's completely folded, wrap your rubber bands vertically every one to two inches. 

The Sunburst

The sunburst technique is so much fun and works well whether you choose to use one color or all the colors. To master the sunburst pattern, choose a spot on the shirt where you want the "center of the sun." You can start it in the center, by an armpit, on the shoulder—the sky's the limit.

Now, with your thumb and forefinger, press down and start twisting the fabric. As you twist, try to keep all the folds at the same height. It should start to look like a flat cinnamon roll. Once you have your flat cinnamon roll shape, carefully wrap your rubber bands tightly around the shirt.

The rubberband pattern should look as if it's dividing your cinnamon roll into an evenly cut pie. The tighter you make your rubber bands, the more white there will be in your creation.  

The Horizontal Striped

Tie-dye works in straight lines too. Well, kind of. To achieve fun horizontal stripes, lay your shirt out flat and gather it accordion-style, beginning at one sleeve and ending with the other. For a better visual, the accordion folds should run verticle from neck to bottom.

Now wrap your rubber bands around your shirt. The amount of spacing and number of rubber bands you use will affect how many stripes you get.  


Get dyed and colorful!

There are plenty more tie-dye techniques out there to keep you and your children learning and making memories. Of course, when the dye runs out and the creations dry, you'll be looking for more fun things to do with your children. 

That's where we come in. Find your next craft project or virtual art class with us!

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