How to Tie-dye a Heart Shape in 12 Easy Steps

Looking to add a pop of color to your wardrobe? Why not learn how to tie-dye a heart? This fun and easy DIY project can be completed in just a few simple steps.

Featuring a heart at its center, this design expresses love and passion. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or any other day of the year.

Tie-dye Heart Video Tutorial

It’s easier than you think! In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show you how to create a beautiful heart design with just a few basic supplies. Follow my lead; I’ll get you started in no time!

How to Make a Tie-dye Heart Design

What You’ll Need

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  • Tie-dye kit – contains all the necessary supplies for dyeing (bottles, dyes, soda ash, and rubber bands).
  • White t-shirt – look for 100% cotton The same is true if you’re going for another garment.
  • Cookie sheet and wire rack – optional, but highly recommended. They’re used to elevate the garment and contain spills.
  • Washable marker – let’s you to draw on fabric and doesn’t leave a trace when washed.

Tip: You can tie-dye this design on any piece of clothing of your choice. Check our supplies page where we list blanks of all kinds. You’ll find sweaters, joggers, socks, and more.

Step by Step Directions

  1. Prewash the t-shirt to remove sizing, wax, oils, or other gunk from manufacturing.
  2. Dampen the fabric so it is wet but not dripping. Take it straight from the washing machine or wet, then wring out the garment by hand.
  3. Lay the shirt flat on a table. Smooth out the wrinkles.
  4. Fold the shirt in half vertically. Align the seams and put the sleeves on top of each other.
  5. Draw half a heart along the center crease.
  6. Pleat the shirt by following the outline. Bring in the fabric so the line is straight.
  7. Bind the shirt with rubber bands. Place extra rubber bands on the line so it stops the dye from spreading.
  8. Pour dye in sections on the shirt using your squeeze bottles. Flip the shirt over and dye the underside too.
  9. Let the dye set at room temperature for 24 hours. You may cover it, but it’s not needed for the reaction.
  10. Rinse out your tie-dye under cold water. Rinse it out for at least 5 minutes to remove any excess dye.
  11. Wash it in the washing machine on cold with a bit of detergent.
  12. Dry it in the dryer or hang it to dry.

Step 1. Gather your Supplies

Gather all the supplies you need and set them out on a suitable workspace. A kitchen table or plastic folding table will do the trick.

Lay a plastic tablecloth over the table to protect it. It’s always best to make sure, even if your table is resistant to staining.

Put on old clothes you don’t mind staining, especially if you’re not used to dyeing. Put on gloves so you don’t stain your hands. If it does happen, you can easily wash the dye off your skin.

Step 2. Dampen the Shirt

First, make sure the garment is made out of cotton. Double-check the tag if you’re not sure.

Prewash the garment if it’s brand new. It could have sizing or other manufacturing additives that can compromise the dyeing process.

Now, we need to dampen the shirt before folding it. We want fabric that’s slightly wet but not dripping.

When the fabric is damp, it becomes heavy and sticky. Both of these properties help you manipulate the fabric.

Option 1: Take the shirt right out of the washer. The spin cycle leaves you with a perfectly damp t-shirt ready for folding.

Option 2: If the shirt is dry, wet it in a bucket or in the sink. Use warm water, as it wets the fabric more easily. Once saturated, take the fabric out of the water. Wring it out by hand until it’s no longer dripping.

Step 3. Fold in Half

Lay the shirt flat on your work surface. Smooth out any wrinkles. Fully spread out the shirt so its surface is smooth.

Fold the garment in half vertically. Align the seams and place the sleeves on top of each other. Take your time placing the fabric so all the layers match perfectly.

When folding the fabric in half, you’re really creating a line of symmetry on the crease.

Any design you dye on one side will seep through and leave a mirror imprint on the other side.

Blank T-shirt folded in half vertically.

Step 4. Draw Half a Heart

Draw half of a heart, starting from the crease. Using a washable marker, trace the outline.

You only need to trace half of the shape you want. Since the shirt is folded in half, the design is mirrored on the other side. It will result in a full heart once the shirt is dyed.

The size of your drawing will determine the size of the heart. Make a small drawing if you want a small heart, and a big drawing if you want a large heart.

Tip: Hold the marker at an angle so you’re able to draw without snagging the fabric.

Shirt with half a heart drawn on it.

Step 5. Pleat Along the Outline

Pleat the fabric (accordion fold) along the line. Start with the bottom of the heart.

Using both your hands, pinch the fabric on both sides of the line. This will raise the fabric into a pleat.

Hold this pleat with your thumbs and bring in more fabric towards the pleat. This will raise the fabric and create a second pleat.

Follow the outline. Continue this process until you reach the part where the heart starts to curve.

Continue pleating. Bring in and place the fabric so your drawing forms a straight line. Keep going while keeping the line straight until the whole shape is pleated.

Tip: Make smaller pleats where the line is curving. This will help you place the fabric in a straight line more easily.

Shirt being pleated along the outline of the heart.

Step 6. Bind the Folded Shirt

Place a rubber band on the marker line to hold all the pleats strongly in place.

With the heart secured, place and extend the pleats so they make the entire length of the fabric. Arrange the fabric so the pleats are straight and equal in height.

Place rubber bands along the entire length of the folded shirt. Use the bindings to create sections where you will place different colors of dye.

Adjust the number of sections according to your preference. In general, making three to six sections will do the trick.

Tip: Place more rubber bands on the marker line to achieve a crisp outline. The pressure keeps the dyes in their respective sections. If you have it, sinew does a great job of binding the fabric.

Folded shirt with rubber bands.

Step 7. Mix your Dyes

Set the folded shirt aside. You might want to wear gloves and a mask for this part.

Take out your tie-dye supplies and set them out next to the sink. We’re going to need water to make our dye solutions.

Plan in advance what colors you want to use. You can use pure dye powders right out of the box, or you can combine them to make your own custom colors.

First, remove the caps on your squeeze bottles. Open up a dye powder container. We’ll work with one dye color at a time.

Place one to two level teaspoons of dye powder in a squeeze bottle. The more dye you use, the stronger the color will be.

Add in a teaspoon of soda ash (dye activator). Fill the bottle 3/4 full with water and shake well. Try to dissolve all the powder evenly.

You might need to let it rest for a few minutes and shake it again, especially for colors that are harder to dissolve, like fuchsia.

Repeat the same process until you’ve prepared all the colors you need.

Tip: Use a funnel to easily put dye powder into your bottles without making a mess.

Step 8. Dye the Shirt

Starting with the first section, pour dye over the shirt one color at a time.

The first section where you drew the outline will turn into the heart in the final design. The color you put in the first section will determine the color of the heart.

Place the dye over the folds and pleats in order to saturate the fabric. Make sure to use enough dye so the color seeps through to the middle. Also, get the get the dye in between the folds.

Fill in each section one at a time with their own color. Continue until the whole surface is dyed.

Flip the shirt over and dye the underside too, using the same colors for each section.

Tip: Use plenty of dye. Pour the solution in multiple applications to ensure you saturate the fabric fully.

Folded and dyed tie-dye shirt sitting on a wire rack.

To create a rainbow heart: Place your rubber bands so you have at least six sections on the shirt. Apply your colors in the order of a rainbow. In succession, apply a different color to each section. Start with red for the heart, then purple, blue, green, yellow, and orange.

To make only a heart: Place dye only in the first section. Make sure to saturate it on both sides. Keep the rest of the shirt white. Make sure the bindings on the first section are extra tight to keep the outline crisp. For best results, use sinew instead of rubber bands.

To create a two-color heart: If you want the heart itself to be two colors, apply the first color on one side, then a different color on the underside. This will give you a heart that has two colors.

To get white stripes in your design: Apply less dye so the color doesn’t reach the center of the folds. Alternatively, leave the underside white and undyed. This will result in white stripes.

Step 9. Let the Dye Set

After dyeing your item, you need to give it time to set and react.

Place your tie-dye aside where it won’t be disturbed. Leave it to set for 24 hours at room temperature (70°F, or 21°C).

You don’t normally need to cover the shirt in plastic, but you might need to if the climate is especially dry. Check your tie-dye to make sure it stays moist, as the dye needs moisture to react.

You can leave the shirt set for as little as 8 hours, but the colors may be less bright. If you need more information, we have a page explaining how to set your tie-dye to prevent fading.

Step 10. Rinsing

After the time is up, you need to rinse your tie-dye to remove the excess dye.

Most of the dye will have reacted and will be permanently attached to the fabric. But some will be unreacted and need to be removed.

Bring the dyed shirt to the sink, keep the rubber bands on for now.

Rinse your tie-dye under cold running water. You should see some color rinsing out. This is normal. Carefully rinse out the shirt on both sides.

Remove the rubber bands and continue rinsing with cold water. Open up the garment and separate the layers of fabric.

Continue until the water starts to run clear. Most of the excess dye will now be removed.

Soak the tie-dye in hot water for a few minutes for deep cleansing. You can read more about the process on this page about rinsing tie-dye without staining it.

Step 11. Washing

With most of the excess dye removed, we are going to wash the shirt. The agitation and friction in the washer help remove the last bits of unattached dye molecules.

Start a small load in your washer with a bit of detergent. Wait until the water starts filling up. Place your tie-dye in the washer by itself, with dark clothing, or with other tie-dyes.

There’s not really any risk of staining now if you’ve rinsed your tie-dye properly. But it’s always better to be safe.

You might notice some color bleeding into the water, but this is not a cause for worry. It’s only a small amount of dye, and without soda ash, it won’t stain.

New tie-dye shirts can color the water for a few washes, but this is not harmful. Here you can read more on proper tie-dye washing and aftercare.

Tip: Washing with hot water does an even better job at removing the last bits of dye.

Man holding up a completed tie-dye shirt featuring a red heart at the center.

Step 12. Drying

After a quick wash, we need to dry our tie-dye before wearing it. Simply put the garment in the dryer or hang dry.

You can tumble dry or line dry your tie-dye without worry. Cotton garments usually come pre-shrunk.

Congrats, you can now wear your brand new, colorful creation!

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Had fun with this tie-dye tutorial? Just wait until you try these other popular tie-dye techniques!