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How to Tie Dye Colored Shirts

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Are you looking for new things to tie dye? Instead of tie dying a white shirt or white fabric, Can You Tie Dye Colored Shirts? You sure can! The results are different than with a white shirt, but you will end up with a cool tie dye shirt that is unique! Keep reading to see How to Tie Dye Colored Shirts!

tie dye with colored shirts with examples

Can You Tie Dye Colored Shirts?

Yes! You can definitely tie dye colored shirts. Although you typically tie dye a white t-shirt, colored shirts can produce amazing results, too! However, don’t expect the exact same results as a white shirt. You will sometimes get different colors! You can use colored shirts for any tie-dye pattern.

You definitely have to check out my post with 10+ Tie Dye Patterns and Folding Techniques. It has basic tie dye information as well as easy step by step instructions for each pattern! Pro tip: try this technique or another tie dye method for a unique tie dye party! Tie dyeing shirts is a great activity for older kids or supervised younger kids.

RELATED POST: How to Reverse Tie-Dye with Bleach

purple tie dye on pink shirt in crumple or scrunch pattern

What Supplies Do You Need to Make Tie Dye Colored Shirts?

The supplies you need to tie dye a colored shirt are the same as for a white shirt. And regardless of the pattern you decide to make, the basic tie dye steps are the same!

You will need cotton t-shirts, fabric dye (either in the form of a fiber reactive powder dye or a tie-dye kit), rubber bands or string, plastic wrap, plastic bags, and water. If you do not purchase a tie dye kit (like the popular Tulip tie dye packages available at craft stores or Amazon), you may also need squeeze bottlessoda ash and urea. Tie Dye kits are easy to use and are perfect for beginners, but I prefer fiber reactive dye from Dharma Trading Co. or Procion dyes from Amazon. They produce consistent and amazing color results.

Also consider the surface that you will tie dye on – I recommend covering your surface with a plastic table cloth for easy clean up. I also use wire racks over sheet pans so the excess dye will run out of the shirt instead of blending all of the colors together.

What Happens When You Tie Dye a Colored Shirt?

If you use Rit dyes, reactive dyes, or dye colors that are in tie-dye kits, they will not result in the same color on a colored shirt. Why? Well, let’s go back to elementary school art class and talk about the color wheel!

To get the desired result when tie dying a colored shirt, you need to remember basic color theory and what happens when you mix colors. For example:

  • Red + Yellow = Orange
  • Blue + Yellow = Green
  • Blue + Red = Purple

When you apply red dye to a yellow shirt, you may see orange appear! Or if you tie-dye a red or pink shirt with blue fabric dye, you will see shades of purple! You definitely want to remember these color shirts when dyeing shirts.

As the dye soaks into the shirt, it blends with the color of the fabric and you might see a color change! The vibrance of the end result will depend on the kind of fabric you use, the amount of time you let the dye soak, the color of the shirt, as well as what kind of dye you use!

light blue sweatshirt with denim blue spiral tie dye

What Kind of Shirts Do You Use For Tie Dye?

The type of fabric is important when you make a tie-dye shirt. A cotton t-shirt or other shirt made from natural fibers will produce the best end results. There are special dyes that are made for other types of fabric. Especially if you are using a tie dye kit (like these popular Tulip Tie Dye Kits), it’s important to use 100% cotton or natural fiber shirts to get great results.

You can use colored t-shirts, sweatshirts, or any kind of colored cotton fabric to make different patterns!

Pre wash your shirts without fabric softener. You can tie dye with damp shirts or dry shirts. If you are using dyes that require a soda ash solution, you will use a damp t-shirt all of the time.

What Color Shirts Work Best For Tie Dye?

Sometimes when you tie dye colored shirts, you might get different results from what you expect! For the best results, you should use a light or pastel shirt. Lighter color shirts combined with bright colors of high quality dye are the best way to go! You will get the least amount of color mixing (or the most if you choose the right colors), and you will see vibrant colors in your tie dye shirts. You can even use black dye on bright colored shirts!

The easiest way to predict the end result is to use light primary colored shirts like red (pink), blue, or yellow. The appropriate dye solution will mix with the fabric color to produce expected colors within the color wheel.

I have gotten the best results with a light blue shirt, grey shirt, or other pastel shirts. If it your first time making tie dye designs on colored shirts, a great way to test colors is to use old clothes! You can practice a new tie dye design with old clothes to see what the results you get!

In addition, if you can’t figure out how colors may mix, it’s a good idea to spot test the dye when possible.

You can use shirts that are brighter or darker colors, but the results will be different. The original color of this shirt was magenta. I wanted dark colors, so I used dark purple tie dye and here are the results!

purple tie dye on pink shirt in crumple or scrunch pattern close up

Light colored shirts work best with light colored dyes. I dyed this light blue sweatshirt with a denim blue dye, and it kept the design lighter. I love the final design.

light blue sweatshirt with denim blue spiral tie dye

Can You Tie Dye a Black T-Shirt?

Yes, you can use a black shirt to tie-dye. Reverse tie dye is a well known tie-dye technique. When you reverse tie dye, you use bleach to create a tie dye pattern. I have an entire post where you can learn everything about making tie-dye t-shirts with bleach!

You can then re-dye the bleached areas, or leave the shirt as-is. Tie dying with a bleach solution can create really cool tie-dye patterns! You can even use a gray shirt to bleach tie dye, or a navy blue shirt like this one:

reverse tie dye shirt with bleach on navy dark blue shirt

What Kind of Dye Works Best on Colored Shirts?

Good quality supplies will help to ensure successful results. High quality fiber reactive dyes (dye powder) and cotton shirts will produce bright colors in the dye process, and will retain their color as you wash and wear them. I personally prefer fiber reactive powder dyes from Dharma Trading Co. or Procion dyes from Amazon. They produce consistent and amazing color results.

When using reactive dyes, you will have to soak your shirts in a soda ash solution to prep the fabric for dye. This extra step is totally worth it, though. I really love the results you get, and you can use powdered dyes to make galaxy tie dye shirts or for ice tie-dye. Rit dye is fine to use, but does not come in as many colors as other powdered dye.

Tie dye kits generally have soda ash pre-mixed in the dye. If you’re new to tie dye, or want to just tie dye a few shirts, you can definitely use tie dye kits. Just keep in mind that these dyes may change the final design in comparison to high quality powder dyes.

How to Tie Dye a Colored Shirt

The process to make tie dye t shirts is simple, and is the same for most articles of clothing!

First, prep your shirt with water or soda ash as directed in the dye instructions. You can create whatever pattern you would like!

For pattern ideas, read my post with 10+ Tie Dye Patterns. I have a video on that page that goes through all of the patterns!

Depending on the pattern you choose, tightly wrap elastic bands around the shirt to secure the pattern. The tighter you add the band, the more “white area” or area with no dye will be in the final shirt.

blue sweatshirt rolled and rubber banded in circle or spiral pattern

I prefer to tie dye clothing on a wire rack over a sheet pan or cookie sheet. It keeps the bottom of the shirt out of the excess dye that runs out and also keeps my work surface clean.

adding blue dye to blue shirt rolled in spiral pattern

Apply the dye and wrap in clear plastic wrap or let sit in a Ziploc bag for a minimum of a few hours to develop. For tie dye kits, up to 24 hours is recommended for full color fastness.

spiral tie dye on colored shirt

Rinse out the shirt in the sink or tub under running water until the water runs clear.

Then wash in the washing machine by itself. I usually run my tie dye shirts on a quick cycle, and throw them in the dryer. For the first couple of washes I try to wash all of the shirts by themselves just to make sure no dye transfers (I try especially hard with dark colors of dye.)

light blue sweatshirt with denim blue spiral tie dye


You definitely have to try to tie dye a colored shirt! I think you will love the results. Let me know your favorite color combination for tie die shirts in the comments below!

Don’t forget to pin this post to your favorite craft board on Pinterest!

pink colored shirt with tie dye

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about charynn


Hi, y’all! I’m Charynn, the owner and designer of Pineapple Paper Co. I’m a mom of four kids (two girls and two boys) living in Pittsburgh. I love hand lettering, anything southern, cocktails, and of course, pineapples! I am excited to share my SVG files, printables, and craft projects with you! The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality, and I welcome y’all to my little corner of the internet. Read more…

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