Can You Tie-dye A Colored Shirt? (Explained)

The words "Will it dye?" surrounded by a differently colored shirt at each corner; black, blue, grey, and red.

Can you dye a shirt that already has color on it? What about dark shirts or even black shirts? In this post we will answer all of your questions and show you the best practices when dyeing a piece of colored fabric.

With proper technique you will be able to easily create tie-dye designs on any piece of fabric, no matter their color.

How Will it Affect the Color?

The way that dyes work, any color you put on colored fabric will simply combine and the result will be a mix of the two colors. This is a known tie-dye technique called redyeing.

Let’s say that you have a blue shirt, for example. Putting red dye on it will combine the blue and the red, resulting in a purple color.

Dyeing the fabric will only change the color if the dye is darker than the previous color. You can imagine that putting light blue dye on a dark blue shirt will not change the color of the shirt.

How to Tie-dye a Colored Shirt

It’s absolutely possible to dye a colored piece of fabric. There are two main ways to do so.

First, if the color on the fabric is pale and light, you can dye right over it. The result will be a mix of the dye and the original color.

Another option is to first remove the color from the fabric by using a bleaching agent. You can then dye right on the areas that have been stripped of color.

Can you Tie-dye a Grey Shirt?

Here it depends primarily on the darkness of the gray. If the gray is very dark then the only appreciable way to change its color is to dye it black.

You can still achieve great results but you are limited to this one color. If the gray is rather pale you can dye over it but be mindful that the gray will dull any dye you try to put on it.

The best option is most cases is to simply remove some of the gray by using a color removing agent and then leaving it so or dyeing over the area.

Can you Tie-dye a Black Shirt?

Yes, but you need to remove some color with a bleaching agent first. Black being a combination of all three primary colors, no dye can get it to change color, the combination of black and any color will still result in black.

Removing the black color from areas of the shirt is a popular tie-dye technique called reverse-dyeing. You can have great results simply by using the same folding techniques as you do in tie-dye but replacing the dye with bleach.

Be mindful when using bleach as it is quite a bit more dangerous than dyes. You also should make sure that you neutralize the shirt after bleaching it to prevent damage to the fabric.