How To Prepare Tie-Dye Bottles And Mix New Colors

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 one teaspoon of dye powder and add it to a squeeze bottle. Fill up the bottle with lukewarm water and shake well. For tie-dye kits, you can follow the included instructions.

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.

Table of Contents

Supplies for mixing dyes

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 dye fixer
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Water
  • Scale (Optional)
  • Measuring spoons (Optional)

How to mix a bottle of dye

The simplest dye mix is one which contains only a single color. Mixing dye in a squeeze bottle is ideal. Once ready you can use it straight away.

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

This is the basic recipe we use for all colors. It yields a strong dye solution. These instructions work for all fiber-reactive dye colors. This goes for premixed dye colors as well.

Creating new colors from primary dyes

You can create just about any color you desire with only the three primaries. Tie-dye uses the CMYK color model. We use turquoise blue, ruby red, and citrine yellow. While black is not a primary, it can be used in minute quantities to darken any color.

ColorColor nameColor index no.
Citrine YellowYellow 86
Ruby RedRed 11
Turquoise BlueBlue 140

You can use them on their own right out of the box or mixed together to create new colors. They are a good starting point and are often used by themselves, but they truly shine when combined.

Tie-dye color formulas

Combine at least two primary colors together to create a mix of the two. Mixing new colors is a lot of fun, especially if you have the right recipe. Use these formulas for beautiful colors you can reproduce with fidelity.

ColorNameYellow %Fuchsia %Turquoise %
Citrine Yellow100
Sun stone955
Orange Agate9010
Brazil Agate5050
Red Jasper2080
Ruby Red100
Red Amethyst97.52.5
Purple Fluorite5050
Lapis Lazuli1090
Turquoise Blue100
Peruvian Opal8020
Rutilated Quartz5037.512.5
Smoky Quartz404020
Desert Rose603010
Grillig Agate76168

When inspiration hits, you don’t always have the time to sit down and craft perfect colors. Like cooking, there is no shame in approximating quantities. Sometimes it’s enough just to eyeball it.

Guidelines are a great way to improve your art. Repeatability is essential to help you learn faster. Keep these simple rules in mind and you’ll become a pro in no time.

How much dye powder to use?

First, figure out what color strength you want to achieve on your garment. The more dye in the bottle, the stronger the color will be as a result.

Use one teaspoon (8 g) of dye powder in a cup (250 ml) of water for a strong dye solution. Use as little as 1/8 of a teaspoon (1 g) of dye per cup to get soft colors. Two teaspoons (16 g) of dye in a cup will produce intense colors.

Use a digital scale to precisely weight your dye. After this, it’s only a matter of experimentation until you find your favorite colors to use.

Color intensity (imperial)

Powerful2 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Strong1 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Medium1/2 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Light1/4 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Soft1/8 tsp1 tsp1 cup
Pastel1/16 tsp1 tsp1 cup

Color intensity (metric)

Powerful16 g8 g250 ml
Strong8 g8 g250 ml
Medium4 g8 g250 ml
Light2 g8 g250 ml
Soft1 g8 g250 ml
Pastel0.5 g8 g250 ml

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 about a cup (250 ml) of dye solution to dye a large t-shirt. Thick fabric like hoodies need about two 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.

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

How much soda ash fixer 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 to take place.

Use a teaspoon (8 g) of soda ash fixer per cup (250 ml) of water. The amount of soda ash is proportional to the quantity of water used. Add it in your bottles just before dyeing and shake well.

This step 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.

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.

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.