Immersion dyeing tutorial

Immersion dyeing

The immersion technique is ideal for creating solid and ombré colors on a piece of fabric. Using a dye bath, you will soak the fabric to expose all or part of it to the dye. There are a few different ways to use a dye bath, from soaking multiple shirts at once to soaking only a small part of a shirt.

First you must prepare you dye bath. This is easily accomplished by using a container such as a bucket. Fill the bucket with a dye solution following the recipe. Use less dye for lighter colors and higher amounts of dye to achieve strong colors. The two main ways to use immersion dyeing is either to soak the fabric for an extended period of time, the other is to simply dip a portion of the fabric.

You can use your dye bath in all sorts of ways, dipping and dyeing as you go. You can just as much leave a piece of fabric in the dye solution as you can manipulate it to dye specific sections at a time. The way you add your soda ash will have an impact on how the dye gets activated and on how the result will look.

You can add the soda in the dye bath before putting in the fabric, but be careful to agitate the fabric a lot so it gets covered equally in all areas by the dye. One trick is wait before adding the soda. Wait until the fabric has soaked in the dye solution for a few minutes and the dye water has already absorbed into the fibers before adding the soda to make sure the colors are homogeneous.

Recipe for immersion and dip dyeing

Soda ash

1 shirt
2 quarts (2,3 L)
1 tbsp
1/2 cup (125 ml)

Dye quantity for 2 quarts of water

Color strength

Powder dye
1/4 tsp
1/2 tsp
1 tsp
2 tsp
4 tsp

About us

We are Samuel and Francis. About two years ago we bought our first tools and supplies for tie-dyeing. Ever since then we’ve been learning the skills of folding and dyeing in intricate ways. We’ve learned from our experiences on the field about what techniques works and what doesn’t. This is the site were we share everything we’ve learned.

Dye bath

A dye bath can come in many shape. Industrial dyeing processes can use large heated vats to dye a large amount of fabric at the same time. Luckily for us, we can make do with only a small container such as a bucket and we don’t even need to add heat.

You can use a dye bath in many ways, the most common of which is to completely submerge the fabric. Keep in mind that you can get different results depending on when you put the soda ash in the bath. For homogeneous color you can let the shirt sit for a few minutes in the dye. Depending on the desired result, you may want to leave it for a short or a long amount of time.

A cool trick to use is to fold and tie the shirt before lowering it in the dye. A folded shirt will create resistance in the fabric and will leave you with more areas that are lighter and more patchy. If the shirt is bound tightly enough you can keep white untouched areas even if the shirt is completely submerged in the water.

How to dye even, solid colors

Mix your dye bath but leave out the soda ash. Immerse the shirt in the dye bath and stir for 15 min, let the shirt soak in the dye. Add the soda ash in the dye bath, let the shirt soak for 1 hour. Stir occasionally for maximum evenness.

Adding the soda later gives time for the dye to get deep inside the fibers before it’s activated. This technique makes consistent and uniform colors.

Uneven, patchy colors

Mix your dye bath with soda ash. Immerse the shirt in the dye bath for one hour without stirring. No stirring makes it so the dye has a harder time penetrating the fabric and will leave spots where the color is softer. This technique will leave patchy and irregular areas.

Dip dyeing

To dip dye is to soak only a single part at a time. You can dip dye a shirt multiple times consecutively to create ombré effects. Layer the dips with different shades of the same color to obtain a beautiful ombré gradient.

Begin by making your dye bath, just as if you were about to do immersion dyeing. Keep in mind that for dip dyeing you need to add soda ash to the bath. Lower the shirt until part of it is soaking in the solution and leaving part of it exposed. For this you can use a coat hanger or other contraption to suspend the shirt in the air. Let the fabric soak in the bath for a few minutes. You can either agitate the dye or not, depending on how much evenness you want.

What we recommend is that you start with your lighter shade. This way, with each successive dip you can add more and more dye to create the darker shades. This way you can use the same container for the whole process and cut down on the waste dye. Beginning with the lightest shade, lower the shirt in the dye bath up to the point where you want the color to stop.

Let’s say you want you ombré gradient to go up to the middle of the shirt, lower the shirt up until it’s almost half-way in the dye. Keep in mind that the dye can wick along the fibers and can defy gravity, so keep a margin of error. Once the first dip is done you can remove the shirt from the water and add more dye to prepare for a darker shade. Once the bath is ready, lower the shirt again, but this time do not lower it half-way, keep a few inches of margin where the first color is. Continue this way by consecutively dyeing the shirt until you are satisfied with the result.

Samuel and Francis

We are the sole owners of this site, we live in Canada where we work everyday on making tie-dye more accessible to everyone. We are always looking forward to teaching you something new.