How to Tie-dye a Swirl (Spiral Technique)

Arrangement of six tie-dye shirts, all featuring a different Spiral tie-dye design.

The spiral is one of the most recognizable tie-dye design of the last few years.

Out of all the tie-dye techniques, the spiral is one of the easiest to get started with. It also lends itself to many beautiful variations.

This guide is designed to teach the spiral technique to beginners.

How to tie-dye a Spiral step-by-step

Also called the swirl, the spiral is an impressive technique that is easier to perform than you might think.

Let’s go through all the steps one by one. You will learn how to fold, dye, and rinse a shirt into a spiral.

At the end, you will be able to create a beautiful wearable piece of art.

If you feel you need more in-depth information, please visit our complete tie-dye guide.

Step 1 : Soak, then wring out a 100% cotton shirt

Grab a white blank shirt and soak it in warm water.

Soak the shirt either in the sink or in a bucket. Use plain water and let the shirt soak for a few minutes.

Move and manipulate the fabric underwater until it’s completely saturated with water.

Take the shirt out of the water and begin wringing it out by hand. Remove as much water as you can from the shirt.

Leave it damp, but not dripping. Damp shirts are easier to fold and dye as explained in this article.

Take your damp shirt to a table or other large flat surface.

Blank white shirt laid out flat on a table with a hand pinching and twisting the center of the shirt clockwise.

Step 2 : Pinch the center of the shirt and twist

Lay the shirt flat on the table. Remove any wrinkle. You want a flat shirt with both layers nicely laid on each other. The more symmetrical the shirt, the better.

Pinch the center of the shirt with your dominant hand. Use your thumb and index to strongly hold the fabric.

Start twisting with your wrist. Twist clockwise if you’re using your right hand, counterclockwise if you’re using the left.

As you twist the fabric, it starts winding around the center. This swirling creates pleats in the fabric.

Shirt in the beginning stages of being folded into a spiral, with the fabric being twisted and new pleats being formed.

Step 3 : Make new pleats as needed

Look around the surface of the shirt. Notice areas with a large gap between pleats.

With your index finger and thumb, pinch the middle of the gap, bringing a new pleat to life.

Guide the nascent pleat towards the edge of the shirt. Each pleat should start small near the core and grow as they extend outwards.

Alternate between twisting the shirt and making new pleats.

Shirt in the process of being folded into a spiral, with the pleats being divided as the winding process goes on.

Step 4 : Divide the pleats when they get too large

As you continue twisting, you will notice some pleats sticking up higher than the rest.

When pleats get too big, split them in two. Press on the pleat’s spine with your finger to separate the pleat into two equal parts.

Guide the fabric so the pleats are distanced evenly from each other. Try making all your pleats a similar size.

Continue alternating between twisting the shirt and placing the pleats.

Shirt in the final stages of being folded into a spiral with the last bits of fabric being wound up around the center.

Step 5 : Wrap the pleats around the core

At this point, the shirt should start getting smaller and more compact. As more fabric is pulled towards the center, a solid core will start to form.

Wrap the rest of the fabric around the core. Take your time wrapping the fabric, placing the pleats so they are similar in size.

Continue until the shirt is completely folded into a spiral.

Blank white shirt folded using the spiral technique and held in place with rubber bands, waiting to be dyed.

Step 6 : Bind the spiral with rubber bands

Place rubber bands around the spiral so the fabric stays in place.

Adjust the rubber bands as needed so the shirt stays tightly folded. Be careful not to deform the roundness of the spiral with the rubber bands.

Put the rubber bands over the shirt so that they divide the spiral evenly into quadrants. This makes it easier to know where to place the dye.

Three rubber bands are usually enough to secure your spiral.

Once bound, place the spiraled shirt on a rack or other dyeing surface.

White shirt folded into a spiral and held in place with rubber bands, with exactly half the shirt dyed in blue.

Step 7 : Dye the spiral in quadrants

Now the fun begins. Mix some dye bottles if you haven’t done so already, because now we get to dye.

Gently start pouring dye over the shirt. Use the rubber bands as a guide to place your colors.

Fill in the quadrants (pizza slices) with dye.

In the example featured, I dyed three contiguous quadrants out of six. It means that half the shirt is covered with dye, and half is left white.

If you need more examples of dye placement and colors, please check out our spiral patterns.

Step 8 : Flip the shirt

Pick up the shirt with your gloved hands. Flip it in the air before placing it back down on your work surface.

Place the shirt so the dyed areas line up as best as possible.

Alternatively, I like placing a second rack over the shirt as it’s easier to flip.

Underside of spiral shirt, dyed in the same way as the first side, with exactly half of the shirt covered in blue.

Step 9 : Dye the underside

Most patterns will require that you dye underside so it lines up with the first side.

Observe your spiral and locate the area where you should put the dye. Most often, color from the first side will seep trough and give you a guideline.

With your dye bottle in hand, pour dye on the shirt. Fill in the quadrants so the colors line up with the other side.

Continue dyeing until you achieve full coverage.

Step 10 : Let the dye set for at least 8 hours

Let your tie-dye set for a least 8 hours at room temperature. Dyes require time to bond with the fabric.

Leave the folded up shirt in a warm room where it won’t be disturbed. Waiting longer is not damaging, some people even like to let their shirts set for 24 hours.

Step 11 : Rinse out and open up your spiral

Bring your spiral to the sink. Keep the rubber bands on for now.

Turn on the tap on cold. Rinse out both sides of the spiral under cold running water.

Remove the rubber bands and start opening up the shirt. Run water all over the shirt, then turn it inside out.

After rinsing both side, soak the shirt in hot water for a few minutes. Wring out the shirt and do a second hot water bath.

Step 12 : Wash and dry your tie-dye shirt

Place the shirt in the washing machine. Wash the shirt on cold with a bit of detergent.

Wash the shirt by itself, with other fresh tie-dye shirts or with dark clothes.

Finally, tumble dry or hang dry the shirt. Check out this page for aftercare instructions.

Person wearing a tie-dye shirt featuring a large spiral design.

There you go! From an ordinary t-shirt to a glorious tie-dye shirt. After folding, dyeing, and washing, you’re earned a brand new piece of wearable art.

More Spiral tie-dye patterns

If this design was not enough for you, there’s many more variations you can do. Here’s our collection of spiral patterns. Feel free to try them out and figure out which one you like best.

Once you’re done with the spirals, be sure to check out more tie-dye techniques.

– Click on a shirt to play the pattern –

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Single Arm pattern.

Single Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Two-arms Spiral pattern.

Two-arms Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Rainbow Spiral pattern.

Rainbow Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Blackback Spiral pattern.

Rainbow Spiral with accents

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Oasis pattern.


Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Fireworks pattern.


Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Blue Lightning pattern.

Blue Lightning

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Skeletal Spiral pattern.

Skeletal Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Spirograph pattern.


Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Fragmented Spiral pattern.

Fragmented Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Six Colors Spiral pattern.

Six Colors Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Criss-Cross Spirals pattern.


Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Shifting Spiral pattern.

Shifting Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Complex Spiral pattern.

Complex Spiral

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Mosaic Spiral pattern.

Mosaic Spiral

More Amazing Tie-dye Techniques

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