Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt: Best Techniques (2023)

Last Updated on 3 months by Susan Mayrich

If you’re unsure about can you tie dye a colored shirt, the answer is yes! You absolutely can tie dye a colored shirt.

Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt: Best Techniques (1)

In this guide, you’ll learn the instructions and techniques for dyeing colored shirts. We’ll also go through the best ways to know what dyes to combine, what dyes to use, and how to wash colored fabrics after the tie dye technique.

But if you ever have an error with the process, find the solution in this article on how to fix a messed up tie dye shirt.

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Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt? Yes You Can!

It’s possible to tie dye a colored shirt if you want the design on a non-white garment. Here are the techniques to get the best results:

Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt: Best Techniques (2)

Can You Tie Dye A Black Shirt?

You can tie dye a black shirt, which might look fantastic! There are many ways to tie dye a black shirt, and the most common technique is using bleach first.

Bleaching black clothes will ensure they get the colors to show up on the patterns. For example, some specific areas of the garment will be bleached, also known as reverse dyeing.

Can You Tie Dye A Gray Shirt?

If you can tie dye a black shirt, lighter-colored fabrics like gray can also be dyed. However, the gray clothing should be light enough for the best result.

Remember that the dyes you’ll use might not result in their actual bright colors since the gray garment can dull them out. Therefore, some people just do the same process for tie dyeing black clothes on gray clothes or reverse dyeing with bleach.

Can You Tie Dye A Blue Shirt?

If the clothes you want to tie-dye are made of blue materials, it’s possible to work on them with dyes that are primary colors. You can also keep the color wheel in mind to know what result to expect when you use a certain dye on your blue shirt.

For example, using red for tie dyeing a blue shirt will result in a purple pattern and green if you use a yellow dye. You can mix and match different colors of dyes as well.

Can You Tie Dye A Green Shirt?

It’s also possible to tie-dye a green shirt, but like dyeing a blue garment, expect the dye color won’t appear how you expected it to look. Another consideration is using blue or yellow dyes on green shirts because these two colors combine to form green.

Therefore, the resulting design with these dyes won’t look like them. Experiment with different colors or consider tie dyeing with bleach and rubber bands on the green clothing.

Can You Tie Dye A Yellow Shirt?

If your clothing materials are yellow, the best colors to try with it are red or blue. Remember that the resulting colors on the pattern will not be the original dye colors since you’re dyeing a yellow shirt.

As expected, tie dye patterns on yellow shirts will look orange and green if the dye is blue. However, remember that other colors, especially secondary colors that aren’t formed with yellow will look brown.

What Is The Best Way To Tie Dye A Colored Shirt?

Tie dyeing a colored shirt is trickier than working with a white garment because you have to know what color will show up on the design when the shirt color and dye color are combined.

Here is how to dye a colored shirt (keep in mind that reverse tie dyeing or using bleach to create patterns might be more practical on darker-colored clothes)

  1. Prepare the colored t-shirt with soda ash
  2. Wrap the shirt in rubber bands according to your chosen pattern
  3. Apply the dye to the fabric
  4. Place the shirt in a Ziploc bag and let it sit for 24 hours, or as recommended by the tie dye kit
  5. Rinse the shirt under running water until the water becomes clear
  6. Wash the shirt alone on the washing machine to avoid transfers on other clothing items

Since soda ash is recommended for preparing shirts before dyeing, learn how to use soda ash for tie dye.

What Are Some Tips For Tie Dying A Colored Shirt?

Keep these tips in mind to achieve the results you want when tie dyeing colored clothing:

  • Just like tie-dyeing white shirts, prepare your colored garments accordingly
  • Check the dye you’re using to see if it’s compatible with the fabric type and if it’s designed for use on colored materials
  • Follow the dye instructions and recommendations for soaking and washing the dye
  • If dyeing a colored shirt, the best material is cotton because it absorbs dye well and is least likely to have color bleeding
  • Pale-colored shirts with concentrated dyes are ideal for achieving vibrant patterns
  • Remember that the resulting shade on the pattern is what you’ll get when the shirt and dye color are combined; use the color wheel as a guide to know what effect to expect
  • If the garment you’re working on is a dark color, it might be more practical to bleach it than try to dye over it
  • Use a dye color that’s darker than the material color for the best result

What Is The Best Fabric To Use For Tie Dying A Colored Shirt?

Another important part to remember when dyeing colored clothes is the material of the clothing items. For example, cotton is the best fabric to dye, especially if you want to tie-dye a colored garment.

Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt: Best Techniques (3)

What color shirt can you tie dye besides white?

Besides that, the color of the cotton clothes themselves will affect the final result of the process. Expect light-colored shirts to look the best than dark-colored shirts after dyeing since the pattern will show up easily.

Light primary colors allow easy control without many limitations on the dye color. Pastel shirts will give off a vibrant design, so if you want a more faded look on your tie-dye shirt, use a less concentrated dye or let it sit for a shorter time.

What about clothes with bright colors? Brightly-colored shirts will be hard to dye.

Instead, you’ll get a better result if you just re-dye them to help the dye color will show up.

Another option is to use black dye if you don’t mind using it on your planned design. The contrast won’t be as intense as when you dye a white t-shirt, but black will appear better than other dye colors.

What Is The Best Color To Use For Tie Dying A Colored Shirt?

Did you know that the average number of colors used to tie dye a colored shirt is three to four? That being said, what are the best colors to use if you’re working with colored fabrics?

As discussed above, pale, light colors are your best bet when choosing what color shirt to tie dye. Otherwise, the dye won’t show up as vibrant.

As for the colors of the dye to use, the best ones for colored clothing items are vibrant and loud shades if you don’t want the obvious darkest color, which is black. The darker and more intense the dye color, the better it will show on the designs.

Is it possible to predict the end result when you dye a colored shirt? Of course, it’s possible, especially if the garment is a primary color in a light shade.

You can familiarize yourself with the color wheel to know the resulting color when you add the dye to the primary-colored t-shirt. Alternatively, just test the dye on a small spot of the shirt to know the resulting color.

You can also use the shirt color as your dye color but in a darker shade. For example, a dark blue dye to tie-dye a light blue t-shirt will create an appealing pattern.

What Dye Do You Use To Dye A Colored Shirt?

Now that you know what colors to pick for your dyes when tie dyeing colored fabrics, you should know what type of dye to use. If you’re working on a colored cotton shirt, you’ll have an easier time with a fiber reactive dye because combining the two will yield vibrant results even after washing.

There are also tie dye kits with soda ash already in the dye. This is convenient, especially if it’s your first time dyeing clothes.

However, proper preparation is crucial for them to work regardless of the supplies. This means soaking the colored clothes in a soda ash solution beforehand and following the dye instructions to a tee.

What Is The Best Way To Wash A Tie Dyed Shirt?

Washing the shirts after dyeing is a crucial step to prevent color bleeding with other clothes. The process is not that different when you wash a tie-dye white T-shirt.

Allow the colored shirt to sit with the dye to help the garment absorb it. Then, rinse and wash the clothing by itself.

If you’re working on a dark shirt like a black garment, here’s how to wash it when your reverse tie dye with bleach:

  1. Once the bleached shirt changes color, rinse it under running water
  2. Make sure you’re also wearing gloves since you’re handling bleach
  3. After the water runs clear, wash the clothing item in the washer alone and dry it after confirming that it’s clean

Is it too late now, and your other clothing items have become victim to your tie-dye shirt’s color bleeding? No worries because we have the solution here on how to remove color bleeding from colored clothes.

What You Should Know Before Tie Dyeing Colored Fabrics?

Dark colored shirts

If you plan on tie dyeing a dark-colored shirt, you must first remove the color with bleach. Therefore, you should wear the proper protective equipment even when washing the shirts.

Some fabrics can also be damaged by bleach, so if your shirts are made from synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, or spandex, then it’s better to not reverse dye them. The same rule applies to wool and silk shirts because they can get ruined.

Light colored shirts

You won’t have as many limitations dyeing a light or pastel-colored shirt. As long as you pick a color darker than the shirt color, it should show up nicely on the tie-dye pattern.

The consideration here would be the resulting dye color because it will be mixed with the shirt color. As reminded throughout this article, study the color wheel to determine what color will show when the shirt and dye color are combined.

Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt: Best Techniques (4)

What Colors Not To Mix When Tie-Dying?

If you don’t mind getting brown on your final tie dye design, then you’re free to mix any dye colors. However, some shades of brown might look unappealing to some people, so keep these tips in mind:

  • Do not blend all the primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) together
  • Do not pair secondary colors together (green, purple, orange)
  • Make sure you’re not mixing the colors opposite to each other on the color wheel

On the other hand, here are some guidelines when choosing what colors to use when tie dyeing a shirt:

  • Mix two primary colors (remember not to use all three!)
  • Blend one primary and one secondary color
  • Use three different colors depending on the pattern (e.g., sunset-themed with warm colors or sea-themed with cool colors)

Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt: Best Techniques (5)

What Fabrics Cannot Be Tie-Dyed?

In general, synthetic fabrics are not recommended for tie-dyeing. But nowadays, some brands specifically formulated dyes to work with synthetic materials, so check the label instructions beforehand.


Polyester fabrics are usually treated to be colorfast, so dyes will be washed out unless the products used are designed for synthetic fabrics. The same applies to sheer polyester, especially if you want your tie dye design to last.


It’s possible to tie dye nylon garments with heat. However, it’s not often done at home because heat can distort nylon.

Faux fur and felt

As you can expect with faux fur and felt materials, they won’t be easy to tie dye since even getting them wet will be an issue. They also don’t hold colors well.


Check your shirt tag to see if it’s made of synthetic blend types. For example, you might think it’s a cotton shirt, but if it’s blended with polyester, there will be an issue with dyeing.


And that’s it! We just learned the answer to can you tie dye a colored shirt, which is absolutely!

The key is using the suitable dye, ideal fabric, following the recommended steps, and choosing a color that would look good against the shirt color.

And for black and dark colors, you need to bleach the shirt first or do the process called reverse tie dyeing.


Can You Tie Dye A Colored Shirt: Best Techniques? ›

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.

Can a colored shirt be tie dyed? ›

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.

Can you dye clothes that are already colored? ›

If you are dyeing something with a print or logo, the color chosen for overdyeing will mix with the existing color(s) in the fabric and create new colors. In other words, the rules of color mixing apply. When selecting a color, think about how it will mix with the colors in the pattern.

What techniques can you use for tie dye? ›

Tie-Dye Patterns and Folding Techniques
  • Scrunch or Nebula: Lay the shirt flat. ...
  • Swirl: Pinch a small section in the center of the shirt. ...
  • Bullseye: Pinch a section of fabric at the center of the shirt. ...
  • Sunbursts: Lay the shirt flat. ...
  • Stripes: Lay the shirt flat.
Jul 6, 2023

What colors should you avoid tie-dye? ›

Tips: Avoid mixing complementary colors that will create muddy brown tones by keeping the following colors away from each other: Red/Green, Blue/Orange, or Purple/Yellow. Some colors (especially yellow and green) may resist mixing completely with the water causing small speckles of dye to collect on the fabric surface.

What fabrics Cannot be tie dyed? ›

Synthetic fibers are made from petroleum products. Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and most other synthetic fibers actually are forms of plastic. They are formed into thin, long filaments that are then woven to create fabrics. Because of their chemical composition, they cannot be dyed using the regular tie-dye method.

Can you double dye a shirt? ›

You can dye a shirt any number of times, but you need to take care not to stain it between each session for fear of ruining your project.

Is wet or dry technique better for tie-dye? ›

We generally recommend washing your fabric and leaving it damp before tie dyeing, as the dye has an easier time saturating the fabric when it's wet. But depending on the technique and the look you want, you can apply dye to dry fabric. Just make sure the fabric has been washed (if it's new) to remove the sizing.

Why did my tie-dye wash out? ›

Forgetting soda ash (or using too little) is one of the most common reasons for colors washing out. Soak the shirt for a few minutes in a solution containing 1/4 cup of soda ash per quart of water. Alternatively, mix in a teaspoon of soda ash per 8oz dye bottle.

How do you tie-dye a shirt with multicolor? ›

Secure the shirt with 3 or 4 rubber bands, crisscrossing them over the center of the disc. The tighter you bind the shirt, the more white areas there will be. Apply a different color of dye in each “wedge” created by the crisscrossing rubber bands. Apply the dye in rainbow order to get a rainbow spiral design.

Is there a wrong way to tie-dye? ›

You can apply as many dye colors as there are sections created with the rubber bands, or as few as one dye color. There's no wrong way to tie dye! However you decide to apply your dyes, flip over your project and match the dyes in the same color pattern on the back.

Do shirts have to be 100% cotton to tie dye? ›

While the results will not be as vibrant as they would be on a garment made from 100 percent cotton, cotton/polyester blends do work well for tie dye. Bear in mind, though, that the results can be a bit unpredictable. For the best outcome, use shirts that contain at least 50 percent cotton.

How do you tie dye a shirt with different colors? ›

Secure the shirt with 3 or 4 rubber bands, crisscrossing them over the center of the disc. The tighter you bind the shirt, the more white areas there will be. Apply a different color of dye in each “wedge” created by the crisscrossing rubber bands. Apply the dye in rainbow order to get a rainbow spiral design.

What happens if you tie dye a printed shirt? ›

You can even tie dye any printed shirts. Because the printing on the shirt is not made from cotton (many are screen printed on), the dye will not absorb into the lettering. Therefore, you can safely dye any printed T-shirt without ruining the lettering.

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