How to Tie-dye Stripes on a T-Shirt (Easy)

Whether you prefer bold and graphic lines, thin pinstripes, or something in between, stripes can add interest and depth to your outfit.

In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to add stripes to your clothing using nothing more than a tie-dye kit. Let’s dive in!

Tie-dye Stripes Pattern Video

How to Add Stripes to Your Shirt Step-by-step

With tie-dye you have a lot of creative control over the final look of your shirt.

You can decide exactly what your stripes will look like. You can control the number of stripes, but also their color, size, direction, and more.

It all starts by folding a damp shirt to get the fabric in the right position. You then gently pour dye on top of the folds.

I’ll teach you a simple technique so you can get maximum results on your first try.

Step 1. Soak, then wring out a plain white 100% cotton t-shirt

First, let’s find a white blank that you’re excited to transform! If the shirt is new, make sure to wash it beforehand so you have a pristine canvas.

Fill up your sink or other large container with warm water. Soak the shirt for a few minutes until it’s completely wet.

When you’re ready, take the shirt out of the water and gently wring it out. Remove excess water until the shirt feels damp and stops dripping.

If not already done, I like to turn the shirt inside out at this stage. It makes it easier to achieve symmetry between front and back. Also, having the stitches pointing out really helps when folding.

Step 2. Lay the damp shirt flat on a table and smooth it out

Take your damp t-shirt by the shoulders. Give it a little shake to loosen the fabric.

Gently place the shirt on the table, bottom first. Lay it as flat as you can. Pick at each corner to spread the fabric evenly.

Smooth out any creases and wrinkles you can see. Use your palms and work the fabric until it looks flat and uniform.

We’re now ready to start sculpting a design into the fabric!

Step 3. Loosely pleat the fabric going across the shirt

For this look, I’m going for a loose and irregular pleat which will give us more organic lines and more variety.

I’m also opting for a diagonal pleat. I will fold the shirt going diagonally across. As a result, the stripes in the final design will also be diagonal.

Here I am starting from the bottom left corner. With my hands, I am slightly pressing on the fabric and slowly pushing it towards the opposite corner.

When you do this, you’ll notice the fabric start to fold in on itself, creating ridges and folds that grow upwards. These are what we call “pleats”.

Place your hands far enough apart so that your pleats go entirely across the shirt.

Once you’ve got a good bundle of pleats, it gets easier to hold them.

Place your palms across the pleats you’ve already made and bring in the rest of the fabric with your fingers.

Continue until the whole shirt is folded into pleats. Once you’re done, it’s time to bring out the rubber bands!

Step 4. Bind the folded shirt with rubber bands

Now that we’ve achieved folding the shirt, we want to keep our progress intact. This is why we’re going to bind the fabric in place.

Place rubber bands all along the length of the shirt. Use enough of them so that the fabric doesn’t unfold itself.

With the fabric now bound, you can pick up your little bundle of joy and place it on a surface suitable for dyeing.

I personally like using a baking rack set on a cookie sheet to catch any spills.

You can see that the shirt is too long to neatly fit on the backing rack. This sometimes happens and is not a problem at all!

You can safely bend the shirt and conform it to your vessel. Just make sure the pleats are still facing up.

Step 5. Prepare your dye bottles

When it comes to color design, the possibilities are endless. The choice of color is entirely up to your taste.

In this case, I’m only using a single color to better show you how the design works.

Here is the mix I’m using for this beautiful violet:

Color Name Dye Powder Soda ash Water
Violet 2 tsp (8 g) 1 tsp (5 g) 8 oz (230 ml)

The ingredients are mixed together in a squeeze bottle, which you then shake vigorously.

If you need more info on mixing bottles of dye, you can check out this article, which contains many tie-dye color recipes.

You can experiment with using multiple colors, blending them together, and much more!

Step 6. Apply the dye lightly on one side

With our dye ready, we can begin the most fun part!

Point the nozzle of the bottle towards the shirt and start squeezing lightly until you get a nice, steady stream. Slowly pour dye on top of the fabric, making sure not to use too much.

Start at one end of the shirt and work your way through to the other. Don’t pour too heavily. You want to cover only the top portion of the shirt.

Use just enough dye so you color the top of the pleats, but not so much that it reaches the underside.

Continue until you have most of the surface covered. You don’t need to cover it completely, leaving some white at the edges works great.

Flip the shirt over

Once we’re done with the topside, we can flip the shirt over.

As you can see, most of the underside is still white. You can also see a few areas with color poking through.

This is exactly what we want for a organic and natural look. Slight imperfections and asymmetrical color placement will create all kinds of interesting shapes.

For this project I’m choosing to leave the underside white. White is a great contrasting color by itself and will make the shirt look fantastic.

If you,d rather have a different background color for your stripes, then you can add a new color to the underside.

When possible, I always like flipping the shirt so the darkest color is on the underside.

With gravity on your side, it will prevent the color from spreading too much and invading the white side.

Step 7. Let the shirt set for 24 hours at room temperature

Once we’re happy with the way things look, we can put the dyed shirt aside and let it set.

When you put dye on fabric, it needs to take some time to react and stick to the fabric. After a few hours it becomes permanent and doesn’t come off!

Leave the dyed shirt at a room temperature of 70 °F (21 °C) for 8 hours or overnight.

You can leave the shirt where it is just like this. You don’t need to cover it up. In general, the longer you let it set, the darker the color, but also the more it will spread.

Step 8. Rinse out excess dye from the shirt

After we’re done waiting, we need to rinse out any remaining dye that’s not attached.

Rinsing the shirt properly is the key to keep your colors pristine.

Simply bring the shirt up to the sink and rinse it out under cold water. Remove the rubber bands while rinsing.

When the water starts running clear, bring up the temperature. Completely rinse out the shirt inside and out until it stops running.

If you need help rinsing the shirt, I have made an article detailing the best technique to keep your colors perfect.

Step 9. Wash and dry your new tie-dye shirt

The last step between you and a brand new tie-dye shirt is a bit of laundry.

It’s always preferable that you wash your new tie-dye in the washing machine before you wear it. Simply put it by itself or with other tie-dye shirts on a normal cycle on cold.

When that’s done, tumble dry or hang dry. Here’s a full article on the best washing and aftercare instructions.

Model wearing a tie-dye shirt featuring a violet stripe design.

Step 10. Wear everyday because it looks so amazing!

Arguably the most enjoyable moment: wearing your newly-created masterpiece.

With only a few minutes of your time and some dyes you just made something stylish that can rival anything in your wardrobe.

You’re now ready to turn heads with your unique and eye-catching shirt. Be sure to show off your new talent!

Variations of the Stripes Technique

You can have stripes of different sizes, colors, and orientation. There’s many other ways to modify and customize this design. Here’s a few of my favorites:

Horizontal Stripes: Pleat the shirt horizontally, starting from the bottom. Fold it so the creases go across the shirt from left to right.

Vertical Stripes: Pleat the shirt vertically, starting from the left or the right side. Fold it so the creases go from the bottom of the shirt to the top in a straight line.

Diagonal Stripes: Pleat the shirt diagonally, starting from the bottom corner and up to the opposite corner. Fold the shirt so the creases go diagonally across the shirt.

Change Stripes Color: After pleating the shirt, dye it with any color. The color you put on top of the pleats will determine the color of the stripes.

Change Background Color: After dyeing the first side, flip the shirt upside down. Using a second color, dye the underside. Use enough dye to cover all the white areas.

Have more Stripes: The key to having more stripes is to increase the amount of pleats. When folding the shirt, pinch a smaller amount of fabric at a time to make the pleats smaller.

Have Less Stripes: To have less stripes, you’ll want to make less pleats. When folding the shirt, pinch more fabric at a time to make taller pleats.

Get Organic/Chaotic Design: The key to getting a natural and organic look is in imperfections. Fold the shirt loosely and let the pleats form naturally. You want all the creases to have variations and look different from each other.

Get Straight/Regular Lines: A more uniform look can be achieved by being meticulous and making all the pleats small and of a similar height.