How to Achieve the Darkest Black Possible With Tie-dye

Black fabric, folded and tied, ready to be reverse-dyed with bleach.

If you’ve been dyeing a bit you might have tried different things to try and understand how to make the richest and most vibrant colors possible. When tie-dyeing you might find that many patterns require quite strong colors and you may be wondering how to make sure that your color will come out strong every time. What we found is that many factors can influence the dyeing process and the resulting color.

First, you must know that the strength of the color depends most strongly on the concentration of the dyes to begin with. The more concentrated a dye is, the more chance to create perfect colors. Another thing to consider is the presence of soda ash, you need the right quantity or else the dye will not react and will not form colors on the fibers. A third trick is to consider the temperature, higher reaction temperatures between the dye and the shirt will make for a quicker and stronger coloring action.

With all of this information in mind, we will go over the pitfalls that may make our colors weaker and we will also see where we can improve our tie-dye process to get even better colors. You can absolutely get these rich and beautiful colors that the professional dyers create. With the proper tips we will teach you how to get your tie-dye to the next level with the both the brightest and the darkest possible colors.

How Much Dye to Achieve Deep Colors

The first thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that the strength of the color is dependent on the quantity of dye up to a certain point. You can have too little dye in your mix and you will get pale colors but you can also put too much dye. Once you have the maximum amount of dye there is no point in adding more and you will only waste the extra dye. Choose the right amount of water and dye for best results.

IntensityDyeSoda ashWater
Vibrant3 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Intense2 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Strong1 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Medium1/2 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Soft1/4 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Pastel1/8 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Light1/32 tsp1 tsp1 cup

We like to follow the instructions on the chart which shows that if you want powerful colors you need to use at least 2 teaspoons (16g) of dye powder in order to approach the maximum concentration. We found that 16g of dye, or about 2tsp for a cup of water is pretty much the maximum useful concentration of dye. You can use up to 20g of dye per cup of water to make sure you have enough. More than that and you will see no more difference in the strength of the color.

What we like to do is to test our colors before dyeing the shirt. You can easily make a very small mix of dye water just to see what color it will make. Simply have a spare piece of fabric nearby to squirt some dye on. Definitely start by trying with small quantities in your bottle so you can try high concentrations by using little dye.

How to Improve your Colors

What you need to make sure you do if you want the darkest and strongest colors possible, is that you want the maximum dye concentration in your water. You need to make sure you have plenty of dye in your water. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a limit to how many color molecules each fiber can absorb, so no need to go overboard with the dye, we just need enough to achieve maximum saturation in the fibers.

If you follow our handy chart for color strength, you will see that you need more than 2 teaspoons (16g) of dye powder per one cup (250ml) of water. You can add a little more than that, but we didn’t quite see a difference above 25g per cup. So definitely use enough dye to saturate the fibers with color molecules, but do not overdo it because you will only waste dye. One thing you can do to help you dissolve a lot of dye in the water is to use urea in your bottle mix.

A second trick we found is that you want the dye to be concentrated all over the shirt. We found that as the dye water is being put on the shirt, the water has a tendency to spread in the fabric and this can affect the color is the dye becomes too thin. You want to make sure that you use enough dye water to completely clog up the fibers and be sure that the dye water will not thin out by spreading around.

A third trick we discovered is that higher temperatures when curing the shirt can give you more consistent results. You want to be sure that the dye has enough time to react properly with the fibers. A higher temperature for the process will give you quicker results and make sure that the dye reacts fully.

Brightest vs Darkest Color

The difference between brightest and darkest is primarily a function of how much light the color reflect. Black appears as the darkest color because it absorbs the visible light, and so doesn’t reflect its colors. Black is the strongest color in tie-dyeing, it will overpower anything else and will cover any other color.

The brightest colors possible are mixes of yellow with a small amount of green. These colors are often used in security applications like safety vests and green traffic lights. You can absolutely use these colors in your tie-dye projects to create maximum contrast.

White is not a color per say but it reflects a lot of light and is quite bright. You can use white next to other colors to create a sharp contrast that appears very bright to the observer. Plan ahead if you want to use white in your project, as white dye doesn’t exist.