Symbols tutorial

Symbols | Heart, star, yin-yang and more

This tutorial is part of our technique series where we show you all the different ways to tie-dye. Making symbols is always fun because you can create just about anything you can imagine. This is one of the best ways to clearly represent something on your shirt. Common shapes that people often do are the heart, star, peace sign, and the yin-yang. The process of making symbols and shapes is actually quite simple and they all share the same basic principles.

Start by carefully tracing out the outline of the shape on the shirt with a washable marker. A nice trick to use is By making small pleats, carefully fold along the line you traced. Continue pleating while keeping your pleats small and consistent. The goal here is to follow the shape and bring it into a straight line. Once the shirt is nicely folded, bind it in place with rubber bands or string.

You can make many forms using this simple folding technique. A washable marker is your best friend here, you can use it as much as you want and it will fade once the shirt gets wet, leaving no traces. With some practice you will be able to make your own symbols. There are no limits to what you can do with tie-dye. You can make an image of a house, your cat, or anything else you can imagine.

As for dyeing the shape there are multiple options available. What people usually do at this stage is to start by dyeing directly on the marker line with a strong color which will become the outline of the shape. The rest is up to you, filling the shape with a solid color is a good option. You can also choose to dye only the shape and refrain from dyeing the rest of the shirt to leave it mostly white. 

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.

Heart

One of the most easiest symbol to do. If you’re just starting you should definitely consider doing it as it will teach you the basics very quickly. The heart design is famous and recognized all over the world as the universal symbol of love and affection. The process of folding and dyeing a heart is very straightforward. You can trace out the shape by hand without much effort. 

Star

If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge then the star might be right up your alley. What makes it more difficult are the sharp angles you’ll need to maneuver when folding.

You need to take your time when folding the sharp points to make sure they are crisp and straight.

Peace sign

One of the most iconic symbol, the peace sign was originally designed as a symbol for the campaign for nuclear disarmament. The sign has since been used in many contexts and was adopted by the anti-war and counterculture movements of the 1960’s. Today it still represents pacific protest and has connotations of openness and love for one-another.

Yin-Yang

A timeless symbol, the yin and yang represents the balance between good and evil. While it may seem like a difficult design, you can use a string attached to a marker to easily trace out the shape.

Alien

The alien head is a nice design that will require you to not only make the outline of the visage but to also make the eyes, which requires a bit of dexterity.

Eyeball

A visually stunning design, the eyeball is one of the most eye-catching symbol you can make. The most important part of making the eyeball is to keep a white area for the eye. A black pupil and colored iris complete the design beautifully.

Guitar

For fans of music, you can make a guitar, bass or ukulele with this method. The guitar is a bit more involved than many other techniques and will require that you use precision in your folding as well as in your dyeing.

Mouse

The mouse is an easy and recognizable design. You can further enhance it with eyes and a mouth if you desire. This technique is appreciated by adults and children alike, especially for those who have a fondness for a particular cartoon character which resembles this symbol.

Paw print

This technique is pretty versatile if you let your imagination run wild. You can make a dog print, a cat print or any other animal you desire. They all are quite similar and can be made by tracing out the bean shapes left on the ground by animal toes.

Letters and numbers

With this technique you may need to use a lot of patience and dexterity depending on how small you want to make your characters. This is definitely on the more advanced side of symbol-making. Do not despair it can be fairly easily done even by inexperienced tie-dye artists who have persistence.

Leaf

While you can make any kind of leaf, tie-dye artist frequently like to create this one particular leaf which is very popular in the circles of those who typically enjoy tie-dye clothing.

Mushroom

Just like with the leaf, inspiration can be readily found in nature. Tie-dye artists have a particular fondness for this mushroom which holds a special place for nature orientated folks.

Cross

The cross is a familiar sight across the world and holds a special meaning for a lot of people. If you prefer another religious symbol you can easily use this one as a template and modify it to suit your needs.

Steal your face

The steal your face is the symbol and the cover art of the album by the same name created by the group Grateful Dead. This band was a key figure in the 1960s hippie movement and is well recognized in the United States.

Dancing bear

Another symbol by the Grateful Dead, the dancing bears appear on art surrounding the group and has played a pivotal role in the counterculture of the time.

Earth and Sun

This technique takes inspiration from the celestial bodies we know best; our very own Earth and the Sun that shines it’s light upon it. Use your marker with a string to trace both circles in their respective corners and then dye them with an assortment of colors to add texture. Bonus point if you can make the space between them with pretty shades of black and purple.

Final thoughts

There is a lot to be said about symbol-making and a lot of shapes to create. Since there’s an infinite number of shape and symbols you can create on a shirt and only a few of them have been popularized, what we encourage you to do is to take inspiration from what you see on this page and to create and share the very own symbols that hold a unique meaning for you. The more expression in all shapes and sizes, the better. 

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.