How to Mix Colors for Tie-Dye (Easy Mixing Charts)

Three squeeze bottles filled with colorful dye solutions, featuring red, yellow, and orange dyes.

Dye mixing can be as simple as taking a spoonful of dye and mixing it with water. Fiber-reactive dyes can be used right out of the box. Still, most of the fun is to mix them together and create new colors.

Measure two teaspoons of dye powder and add it to a squeeze bottle. Add in a teaspoon of soda ash. Fill up the bottle with lukewarm water and shake well.

Whether you’re using premixed dyes or mixing your own, there’s a world of colors awaiting you. From using simple colors to creating complex hues, there’s something for everyone.

What You’ll Need

In this guide we’ll be using the basic tie-dye supplies. These include the fiber-reactive dyes themselves, as well as bottles, and dye fixer. Using a scale is optional, but can be a good idea for more advanced mixtures.

  • Fiber-reactive dyes
  • Soda ash
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Scale (Optional)

The dyes, soda ash, and bottles can all be bought by purchasing a tie-dye kit.

How to mix a bottle of dye

You can use dyes straight out of the box. Mixing single colors couldn’t be easier. Using a spoon, place some dye powder in a squeeze bottle. Add in soda ash (dye fixer), and water. Finally, shake well to dissolve the solids.

  1. Add two teaspoons (8 g) of dye powder to a squeeze bottle
  2. Add in one teaspoon of soda ash
  3. Fill up the bottle until 3/4 full (leave some space for shaking)
  4. Shake the bottle well, mixing the powder thoroughly

This basic protocol works for all fiber-reactive dye colors. It yields a strong dye solution, perfect for all kinds of tie-dye projects.

How to Mix Primary Colors

Primary colors are used straight out of the container. Add a teaspoon or two of a given color into a bottle, then add soda ash and water.

Note: You can use any pure, unmixed primary dyes. Some of the most common are turquoise blue, fuchsia red, and lemon yellow.

Red (Fuchsia)
Blue (Turquoise)

How to Mix Secondary Colors

Mix two primary colors together to get secondary colors. You can mix dyes in their powder form (dry mixing), or you can combine liquid dye solutions together!

ColorNameYellow %Fuchsia %Turquoise %

How to Mix Any Color

Three primary colors are needed to create any color you can dream of. Mix them together in varying amounts to make new colors.

Tip: these mixing charts are based on the percentage by weight of each respective primary color.

How to make Orange hues

The best way to create a vibrant orange is to mix 9 parts yellow to 1 part red. Adjust the hue by adding either more yellow or red (see orange color theory).

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

How to make Purple hues

You can make a deep and vibrant purple by mixing an equal amount of turquoise blue with light red. Adjust the hue by adding more red or blue (see purple color theory).

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

How to make Green hues

A bright green is best made by mixing an equal amount of blue and yellow. Adjust the hue by adding more of either blue or yellow (see green color theory).

ColorNameTurquoise %Yellow %
Peruvian Opal2080

How to make Brown hues

To make brown hues, mix together varying amounts of blue, yellow, and red. You’ll get different undertones depending on the proportion of each color (see brown color theory).

ColorNameYellow %Fuchsia %Turquoise %
Rutilated Quartz5037.512.5
Smoky Quartz404020
Desert Rose603010
Grillig Agate76168
Spoon containing blue dye powder being fed into an empty squeeze bottle. Next to it, an open container of blue dye powder.

How much dye powder to use

The strength of a color depends on the ratio of dye powder and water. The more dye there is, the stronger the color.

Tip: Use a digital scale to precisely weight your dye. This is especially true if you want repeatable results.

Color intensity (imperial)

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

Color intensity (metric)

IntensityDyeSoda ashWater
Vibrant12 g5 g250 ml
Intense8 g5 g250 ml
Strong4 g5 g250 ml
Medium2 g5 g250 ml
Soft1 g5 g250 ml
Pastel0.5 g5 g250 ml
Light0.125 g5 g250 ml

When inspiration hits, you don’t always have the time to sit down and craft perfect colors. Most of the time, it’s perfectly acceptable to just eyeball it quantities.

Maximum saturation: The highest color saturation can be achieved with about 3 teaspoons of dye in a cup of water. More than this and you won’t see any appreciable difference.

Strong colors: Two teaspoons of dye powder in one cup of water is enough to produce strong and vibrant colors. This is the recommended amount for most tie-dye projects.

Medium colors: One teaspoon of dye in a cup of water gives you very nice medium strength colors that are not overwhelming. Perfect for a more toned down look.

Soft colors: At 1/4 teaspoon of dye or less per cup of water, you’ll start getting more gentle and light colors.

Minimum saturation: The minimum amount of dye you can use and still see a difference is about 1/32 teaspoon of dye powder per cup of water. At this strength the colors are subtle, but you can still see a difference on the fabric.

How much dye solution to prepare

We base our dye formulas on a standard amount of water which is one cup (250 ml). You can easily scale your mix up or down depending on your needs.

It takes between one and two cups of dye solution to completely color a large t-shirt. Thick fabric like hoodies need up to three times more dye per item. A small, thin fabric will need less dye.

Prepare enough dye to complete your project. It’s better to have leftover dye than running out in the middle of your session.

Tip: Don’t worry if you make too much, you can safely dispose of leftover dye at home.

Dye SolutionLarge T-Shirts
1 cup (250 ml)1
2 cups (500 ml)2
1 quart (1 L)4
2 quart (2 L)8

Spoon containing soda ash powder being poured into a squeeze bottle filled with a dye solution.

How much soda ash to use

Unless you use the bucket method, you’re going to put soda ash dye fixer directly in the bottles. Fixer is necessary for the reaction between dye and fabric. Without it, your colors will simply wash out.

Add a teaspoon (5 g) of soda ash fixer per cup (250 ml) of water.

The amount of soda ash should be proportional to the quantity of water. Add it to your squeeze bottles when mixing your dyes.

Ideal pH for reactive dyes

Adding soda ash is crucial to the good functioning of the dye. The purpose of this activator is to increase the pH of the solution to around 10.5. Using a bit less or a bit more is not detrimental to the result. But forgetting it altogether will result in extremely faded colors.

How long does the dye stay good for?

Dye powder, when properly stored will not go bad, at least not for a few years. Dye solutions, on the other hand can go bad rather quickly, depending on the additives it contains.

A typical dye solution containing only water and dye will stay good for up to a month in the refrigerator. When soda ash is present, the solution only lasts for a few hours.

Dye solutions containing soda ash will exhaust rapidly in a matter of hours. The dye reacts with the water itself over time. This reaction is accelerated when the pH and temperature re increased.

PreparationRoom Temperature 68° F (20° C)Refrigerated 40° F (4° C)
Dye powder2-5 years5 years+
Dye mixed with water1 week1-2 months
Dye mixed with water + soda ash8 hours24 hours

Refrigerating your dye solutions will keep them more than twice as long. As it ages, a solution progressively loses its strength. It may not be obvious while still in the bottle, but an exhausted dye solution will leave you with poor results on the fabric.

How to prevent clumps in your bottles

Clumps happen when a mass of dye powder or additive doesn’t fully dissolve. This can have unwanted consequences. Clumps can block your bottle’s spout. They can also be deposited on the fabric, causing areas of concentrated color.

Always put the dye powder first in the bottle and then add water. Use lukewarm water when mixing dyes. Shake the bottle vigorously for 30 seconds to a minute. Let it rest for a few minutes before shaking it again.

Shaking the bottle is essential to get the dye to dissolve neatly and not leave clumps. Rotate the bottle with your wrist to swish the liquid around. Dye powder can have a tendency to fall out of solution if you wait long enough. It’s a good idea to shake the bottle just before using it.

Add urea to your bottles to help the powder dissolve even more.

Three squeeze bottles filled with colorful dye solutions, featuring red, yellow, and orange dyes.

Testing and adjusting your colors

When mixing your dyes, you can test the color before using it on the fabric. This can help pinpoint the exact hues you’re going for.

Pour a few drops of dye on a paper towel or a white rag. Wait a few minutes for the dye to spread. Add in more dye powder to increase the saturation and strength. Add in water to dilute the solution.

Tie-dye Color Theory

Dyes work on a principle of subtractive coloration, meaning that adding all three colors produces black.

Primary colors

Following the principles of subtractive color theory, all you need are cyan, magenta, and yellow, or any color that closely resembles them.

Typically with tie-dye, we’re using the pure, unmixed dyes that are closest to these colors. We call them turquoise, fuchsia, and yellow.

Secondary colors

Primary colors mix and combine to form new colors. When two primaries are mixed together they produce a secondary color.

  • Fuchsia + Turquoise = Purple
  • Yellow + Fuchsia = Orange
  • Turquoise + Yellow = Green

Tertiary colors

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

  • Fuchsia + Purple = Magenta
  • Fuchsia + Orange = Coral
  • Fuchsia + Green = Orchid
  • Turquoise + Purple = Amethyst
  • Turquoise + Orange = Tangerine
  • Turquoise + Green = Aquamarine
  • Yellow + Purple = Lilac
  • Yellow + Orange = Marigold
  • Yellow + Green = Chartreuse

Color Attributes

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)

What dye colors are pure

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.