Best Color Combos For Tie-dye And Color Ideas

Whether you’re a new artist or a seasoned veteran, we all need inspiration from time to time. When it comes to colors, the choice can be overwhelming. It can be hard to find the right color combination for your project.

Using color themes (cool, warm, neutral) will help you create designs that are soft on the eye. Complementary colors create contrast for a striking look.

Even single colors can be used to great effect. Other techniques make use of many colors to achieve jaw-dropping effects. It’s all about the intent and the color placement.

In this guide we’ll see what colors go well together and what colors don’t. We’ll also cover the basics of tie-dye color theory. First, let’s take a look at the common color formulas we can play with.

Table of Contents

Color formulas

Here is a list of color recipes that is based entirely on the three primary colors. You can make any of these colors simply by mixing your basic set of dyes.

Percentages are based on powder weight. Using a scale can help you achieve precise, repeatable results.

Orange color recipes

Warm and bright, orange is the blend of red and yellow. It is associated with energy and happiness. It feels stimulating and hot.

Orange hues promote a sense of wellness and joy. It has high visibility and encourages creativity. Perfect for a summer shirt.

ColorNameYellow %Fuchsia %
Sun stone955
Orange Agate9010
Brazil Agate5050
Red Jasper2080

Purple color recipes

Calm and fierce, purple is a versatile color. A combination of red and blue, it represents creativity, wisdom, and ambition.

Purple is associated with royalty and power. It evokes feelings of nobility and luxury. Use it to create either uplifting or calming designs.

ColorNameFuchsia %Turquoise %
Red Amethyst97.52.5
Purple Fluorite5050
Lapis Lazuli1090

Green color recipes

Fresh and harmonious, green is associated with growth and fertility. It represents life and rebirth. It is both energetic and relaxing.

Green is associated with vitality and nature. It gives feelings of restfulness and relaxation. Often associated with healing, green can accompany a number of designs.

ColorNameTurquoise %Yellow %
Peruvian Opal2080

Brown color recipes

Neutral and dull, brown is associated with the earth and its life. It represents the trees and the soil. It comes in many hues and serves many purposes.

Brown hues promote a sense of dependability and security. Brown is often comforting and wholesome. Use it to create rich, solid, and grounded designs.

ColorNameYellow %Fuchsia %Turquoise %
Rutilated Quartz5037.512.5
Smoky Quartz404020
Desert Rose603010
Grillig Agate76168

Colors that work best together

Some colors seem to work so well together that they merge seamlessly, leaving you in awe. Using too many colors can leave you with unpleasant effects if you’re not careful.

Plan out your project depending on the colors you want to use. Begin by choosing a single color and build around it.

What you need to know is that not only can you mix your dyes in a bottle, but you can also mix them on the shirt as you dye. This allows for infinite color combinations as the dyes spread and mix into each other.

The two easiest color schemes to begin with are warm and cool colors. You can go in either direction and make sure your colors work well together.


Red, yellow and orange make you think of something warm and fuzzy. They evoke feelings of exhilaration, heat, and sunlight. They look hot and fast and will illuminate just about any design.

Play with these colors, combine them any way you like and create something that makes you want to get up and run. Warms colors are motivating and will lift your mood just by looking at them.


Green and blue will bring you calm and peace. These cool colors have a relaxing effect and are more passive than their counterparts. Use them to create a sense of harmony that can bring any design together.

They are just like the gentle motion of the waves, able to cool off any temper and bringing balance.


White, gray and black can lean on either side of the spectrum depending on their context. Combine them with another color scheme to intensify or dull their effects.

Neutral colors can also be used on their own, perfect for sharp and highly geometric designs.


Warm and cool, all in one package. Psychedelic colors are attained by combining highly contrasting colors in quick succession. Think of a rainbow with solid bands of vivid colors screaming at you.

Make your tie-dye steal the show with trippy effects that dominate the field of view. Neon psychedelic explosions of colors will melt your brain and send you to another dimension on a wild cosmic ride.

How to prevent bad color combinations

Just about any color combination can work if you know how to place them properly on the shirt. The most common mistake for beginners is to rush the dye placement. Train your ability to place colors next to each other without mixing them.

Take your time and place your dye gently and slowly, especially when placing complementary colors next to each other. Bring your bottle close to the fabric and squeeze lightly.

You want to achieve a slow and consistent dye flow. Don’t flood the fabric, leave enough time for the dye to penetrate the fibers. Be careful not to combine complementary colors directly.

Three primary colors together :
Red + Blue + Yellow = Brown

A primary color with its complementary color :
Yellow + Purple = Brown
Blue + Orange = Brown
Red + Green = Brown

Any combination of secondary colors :
Purple + Orange = Brown
Purple + Green = Brown
Orange + Green = Brown

Tie-dye color theory

It’s important to know how different colors combine together. With this knowledge you’ll be able to mix any color you desire. Color theory follows simple rules that are easy to understand. Once you get them you’ll know which color combos to go for and which ones to avoid.

The typical tie-dye look features a host of vibrant colors. It’s common to see the three primaries (blue, red, yellow) on a single shirt.

Primary dye colors

Tie-dye uses CMYK color model which gives you the advantage of being able to create many more different hues.

Instead of using the typical primary colors we use cyan, magenta, and yellow. Dyes work on a principle of subtractive coloration, meaning that they each filter out a specific color.

– Cyan is the complement of red
– Magenta is the complement of green
– Yellow is the complement of blue

Adding these three colors together will filter out the whole spectrum of visible light, leaving you with black.

Cyan + Magenta + Yellow = Black

CMYK color model

Secondary and tertiary colors

Starting with a white shirt, let’s consider the three primary colors ; red, yellow, and blue.

Mixing different amounts of the primary colors enable you to create many different color combinations.

Secondary colors are obtained by mixing two of the primary colors together.

Secondary colors :
Red + Blue = Purple
Yellow + Red = Orange
Blue + Yellow = Green

Next are the tertiary colors which combine a secondary color with either one of its constituent color.

Tertiary colors :
Purple + red = Magenta
Orange + red = Vermilion
Orange + Yellow = Amber
Green + Yellow = Chartreuse
Green + Blue = Teal
Purple + Blue = Violet

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors

Color combo ideas

The trick to any successful tie-dye project is to achieve a fine balance between saturation and spread. By this I mean you that you need to be careful how much dye you put on the shirt so it doesn’t spread uncontrollably and mix with other colors.

 Check out our collection of tie-dye patterns if you want to get a view of all the color combo ideas you could make.

How to record your colors with swatches

The best way to learn about color mixing and see how different colors react when applied to fabric is to make color swatches. Making a collection of swatches is a great way to compare and contrast different colors. It let’s you test all the combinations you wouldn’t try on a shirt.

Begin by cutting small squares or strips of white fabric, preferably all from the same type of fabric. Think about what colors you might want to test. Each of the swatches will receive it’s own dye mixture.

Prepare small squares of fabric. Prepare and apply each dye individually on the fabric. Label each square of fabric with the dye hue and concentration.

With proper labeling of the swatches you will be able to create your very own collection of colors and will be able to recreate them with ease.

Be sure to label the dye mix you used to create the swatch. Write out the relative concentration of each dye in the mixture. A common approach to making swatches is to start with the primaries colors and then the secondary colors. Save your swatches in a book for future reference.

Advanced tie-dye color theory

All colors can be described using a combination of three attributes: “value, chroma, and hue”. To get the best color characteristics you might need more than the basic set of primary colors.

Relative attributes of all colors :

1) Value – How light or dark the color is (white vs. black)
2) Chroma – The saturation, intensity, strength of the color
3) Hue – What family the color belongs to (red, yellow, blue)

Pure, unmixed, single-hue dyes

While you can technically create just about any color with a mixture of the three primaries, additional dyes can help you make richer combinations. This is especially true for darker colors.

Always mix your own dyes by starting with pure, single-hue dyes. These produce rich, dependable colors. Starting with premixed dyes can make for poor results, rarely giving you what you hoped for.

Only a few dye colors are pure and unmixed. The majority of what you will find online are combinations of at least two colors that have been premixed by the supplier.

ColorColor nameTrade nameColor index no.
Citrine YellowMX-8GYellow 86
Deep OrangeMX-2ROrange 4
Ruby RedMX-5BRed 2
Fuschsia RedMX-8BRed 11
Turquoise BlueMX-GBlue 140
CeruleanMX-GBlue 163
Medium BlueMX-RBlue 4
Cobalt BlueMX-2GBlue 109
VioletMX-GViolet 14

In summary

There are two philosophies in tie-dye when it comes to colors. One says that there are good and bad color combinations.

The other says that there are no bad combination, only bad dye placement. You can make any colors work together, it’s just a matter of how you arrange them.