Finding a design you like is super fun. And there’s no better way to discover which one you like than by trying a bunch of them.
To get you started, I’ve curated some of the easiest tie-dye patterns and techniques.
With pictures and step-by-step instructions, I’ll show you how to create a multitude of unique and interesting tie-dye designs.
You will love these projects. They are easy even if you’ve never tie-dyed before. Tie-dye is very forgiving. Even as a beginner, you will be able to achieve impressive results on the first try.
What You’ll Need
- White T-shirt – look for 100% cotton, the same is true if you’re going for a sweatshirt.
- Tie-dye kit – contains all the necessary for dyeing (bottles, dyes, soda ash, and rubber bands).
- Wire rack – optional, but highly recommended, serves to elevate the hoodie.
- Cookie sheet – also optional, used to contain any spill.
These are affiliate links, I earn commissions on purchases. With only these few supplies you’re able to make all the patterns on this page and more.
How to tie-dye for Beginners
Let’s start with a quick reminder of the basic steps of tie-dye.
- Prewash the shirt to remove any dirt or sizing from the manufacturing process.
- Dampen the shirt to fold it more easily. Take the shirt straight from the wash or wet it then wring it out by hand.
- Fold it using a tie-dye folding technique. Once folded, bind the shirt with rubber bands.
- Mix your dyes by mixing together dye powder, soda ash, and water in your bottles.
- Dye the shirt using the dye solution. With your squeeze bottles, pour dye directly on the folded shirt until it’s covered.
- Let it set at room temperature for 24 hours for the dye to set.
- Rinse the shirt in the sink under cold running water for at least 5 minutes to remove excess dye.
- Wash it in the washing machine on cold with detergent.
- Dry it in the dryer or hang dry.
Tie-dye is definitely a beginner friendly project. But if you need more information we have an extended guide going over every step of the tie-dye process.
Easy Patterns and Folding Techniques
Below are easy-to-follow instructions with step-by-step pictures of both the folding and dyeing process. Here are a few different designs you can create yourself easily:
Also called the swirl, probably the most famous tie-dye pattern, the spiral is surprisingly easy to do. It offers a classic look that never gets old.
- Start with the shirt flat on the table. Pinch a small section of fabric in the center of the shirt. Begin twisting clockwise. A small spiral core will start to form at the center of the shirt.
- Continue Twisting. Use your other hand to guide the larger pleats as they start forming.
- While keeping one hand securely in the center, use the other hand to finish placing the pleats around the spiral. The shirt will now take the form of a disc.
- Bind the spiral with rubber bands or string to keep it neatly folded. You can adjust the rubber bands to create wedges or sections to dye.
- Using your squeeze bottle, apply a layer of dye into the first section. Fill in the wedge. Be gentle near the center of the spiral.
- Use the next color. Apply the dye solution generously. You want the dye to penetrate deeply into the fibers. Continue filling in the sections one by one. You can follow any color scheme you want. Rainbow colors are very popular.
- Once the first side is completed, turn over the shirt. Dye the second side in the same manner, using the same colors in the same sections.
- Go over all your sections a second time. Apply the dye solution until you fully saturate the fabric.
You can make many kinds of stripes. Here we present you with the large horizontal stripes. Please note that you can just as well make vertical or diagonal stripes. Simply fold the shirt in the same direction you want your stripes.
- Place the shirt flat on your table. Fold the shirt into a series of small accordion folds. Starting with the side closest to you, begin pleating the sleeve towards the center of the shirt.
- Continue pleating the shoulder and the chest. Push the fabric forward as you go. Try making all the pleats a similar size.
- Work the fabric until the whole shirt is pleated. Bring the pleats together until the shirt is only a few inches wide.
- Securely bind the shirt with rubber bands or string. This will prevent the pleats from coming undone. Place the rubber bands at intervals to create 2″ to 3″ sections.
- Use your squeeze bottle to apply a layer of dye into the first section. Fill in the rectangle between the rubber bands.
- Alternate the color between sections to create stripes. Continue dyeing each section one after the other. Apply the dye generously to reach deep into the fabric and leave less white. Alternatively, apply only a small layer of dye to leave large white lines.
- Continue filling in the sections one by one, taking care to pour your dye gently. Turn over the shirt once the first side is completed. Dye the second side the same way you dyed the first.
- Fill in every last section of the pleated shirt, Apply the dye solution until you fully saturate the fabric to get full and rich colors. Follow any color scheme you like to create any variety of pleated tie-dye shirt.
This technique let’s you create a series of concentric rings starting from the center of the shirt. You can change the point of origin by choosing a different starting point than the center.
- Start with the shirt flat on a table. Find the center of your shirt and pinch it with your index finger and your thumb.
- Grab hold of the fabric and gently start pulling up. The shirt should now begin to to pull up from the table.
- While still holding the fabric, use your other hand to smooth down the rest of the shirt and form it into a cone.
- Bind down the shirt with rubber bands or string. Start about an inch from the point and work your way up. Use your rubber bands strategically to create sections to dye.
- With your squeeze bottle in hand, apply a color to the first section of the shirt. The color you use on the point will be the color at the center of your bullseye.
- Alternate dye color for each sections to create concentric rings. Continue dyeing one section after the other until you fill them all.
- Once the first side is done, turn over the shirt and dye the second side. Use the same colors in the same sections.
- Go over all your sections a second time. Apply the dye solution until you fully saturate the fabric.
This technique is another fun way to tie-dye. It let’s you create many small white sections on the shirt. The more tightly you bind each section, the more round the rings will be. Leave it loose to create small starburst shapes.
- With the shirt flat on the table, identify the areas you want to have your white shapes on. Pinch a small amount of fabric in an area of your choosing.
- Slightly pull on the small section of fabric until it lifts off the table by one to two inches. This will create a small pointed cone or knob on the shirt. Tightly wrap a rubber bands in the middle of the small cone.
- Wrap the rubber band 2-3 times until it holds tightly. The pressure from the elastic band will keep the dye from penetrating the fabric. Alternatively, you can leave your rubber bands a bit loose to let more color through.
- Continue pinching new sections of fabric and wrapping rubber bands on them. Pinch, pull, and bind until you’ve made a dozen knobs on the shirt.
- Choose a color and start pouring dye on the shirt with your squeeze bottle. Gently fill in one large section at a time. Proceed from one section to the next.
- You can choose any color scheme your like. Either use a single color for the whole shirt or use multiple colors for the background. You can even dye the knobs a different color than the rest.
- Continue dyeing the shirt. Fill in the whole background. Start working on the knobs. Use a generous amount of dye on the background. Use a light layer of dye on the knobs.
- Fill in the shirt with color. Use enough dye so that you don’t need to flip the shirt over. Pour enough dye solution so the color penetrates to the underside.
This technique, also called the box fold, let’s you create geometric square designs. You can make many types of squares, all depending on the way in which you fold the shirt. The smaller you fold the shirt, the smaller the squares will be.
- Lay the shirt flat on the table. Starting with the side closest to you, take a three inches wide section of fabric and fold it over lengthwise.
- Continue folding the shirt in a series of accordion folds, each one three inches wide. Do this until the shirt is completely folded lengthwise.
- Starting from the bottom of the shirt, take a three inch wide section of fabric and fold it over. Continue folding the shirt this way in an accordion style.
- Once the shirt is completely folded, it should look more or less like a cube. Secure it in place with rubber bands so it keeps its shape.
- Using a squeeze bottle, apply a layer of dye of a color of your choosing. Apply the dye at the sides of the cubes. Avoid dyeing the top and bottom of the fabric cube.
- Fill in the entire first side. Proceed to the next side of the cube. Fill in the next side with dye solution. You can use the same color you used previously or any other of your choosing.
- Continue filling in the sections one by one. Continue dyeing the folded shirt until every side is colored except the top and bottom.
- You can leave the shirt as-is with a single layer of dye or you can apply a second layer of dye to push color deeper into the fabric and result in larger lines and less white on the shirt.
Not only can you make squares, triangles are also possible. This technique starts out the same way and is very similar overall. You can create geometric triangle shapes on your shirt the following way:
- Start with the shirt flat on a table lengthwise in front of you. Fold a three inches wide section of fabric on itself.
- Fold the fabric in a series of accordion pleats. Make sure to fold a similar width each time. Continue folding until the shirt is completely folded and resembles a long rectangle.
- Starting from the bottom of the shirt, take a corner of the rectangle and fold it over diagonally. Work your way up the fabric, folding it into triangles.
- Continue until the whole shirt is folded and looks like a singular triangle from above. Secure the shirt in place with rubber bands to keep it from coming undone.
- Using a color of your choosing, apply a layer of dye solution to a side of the folded shirt. Avoid dyeing the top and bottom.
- With your squeeze bottle, fill in the entire first side. Continue to the next side. You can either use the same color or choose a different one.
- Continue filling in the sections one by one until you’ve done all three.You’re looking for full coverage of each side except the top and bottom.
- The more dye you use to saturate the fabric, the thicker the lines will be and the less white there will be left on the shirt. You can either leave the shirt as-is with a single layer of dye or continue until fully saturated.
As a basic technique, the mandala let’s you create designs with multiple lines of symmetry.Each time you fold the fabric onto itself, it creates a mirror effect. Doing this multiple times will result in a mandala with many mirror faces. Be sure to apply a lot of dye in multiple layers to get it to go deep into the fabric and reach the center.
- Start with the shirt flat on a table. The first step is to fold the shirt in half. Take a side of the shirt and fold it lengthwise so that the sleeve is on top of the other.
- Fold the shirt in half again. This time, take the bottom part of the shirt and fold it over the chest until its extremity reaches the shirt’s collar. The shirt should now be folded into quarters.
- Fold the shirt in half again. If you’ve ever made a paper airplane, this part is very similar. Take a corner at the bottom of the shirt and fold it over diagonally so that it forms a triangle. The shirt is now folded in eights and has eight planes of symmetry.
- Fold the shirt in half one last time. Press over the the edge of the folds to sharpen the creases. Bind the folded shirt with rubber bands or string. Starting with the tip, wrap the fabric working your way up. Place the bindings so that you leave open large sections of fabric waiting to be dyed.
- Using a squeeze bottle, pour dye solution of your chosen color over the fabric. Start with the first section. Work the dye into the fabric by applying enough liquid. The color you use on the tip of the triangle will appear at the center as a result.
- Proceed to the next section. Using another color, fill in the section. Apply a generous amount of dye so that it reaches deeply into the fabric.
- Continue dyeing the shirt alternating between colors. Dye each section one by one until the whole shirt is colored. Go over each section and add a new layer of the corresponding dye color.
- Turn the shirt over. Dye the underside using the same colors as you use for the topside. Dye each sections two times to be sure to get enough dye to penetrate to the center. The mandala technique has many layers of fabric on top of each other. Getting good color saturation is especially important.
More Amazing Tie-dye Techniques
Had fun with this tie-dye tutorial? Just wait until you try these other popular tie-dye techniques.