Using Food Coloring to Tie Dye a Shirt Update 06/2022

Nothing says summer like a tie-dye t-shirt with a bright splash of color! You might have a beloved tie-dye sundress for the beach or a blouse you made at summer camp many years ago! You might be wondering how to tie-dye a t-shirt with food coloring if you’re searching for a fun DIY project that doesn’t cost a lot of money.
Food coloring is used to tie-dye a shirt, which results in a fun, temporary starburst design in the cloth. Preparing the shirt with a vinegar solution, choosing a dye pattern, and letting the dye to set are all steps in this process. Depending on the procedure used to create the dye pattern, food coloring tie-dye can be made more or less permanent.
You’ll learn how food coloring works in this article. You’ll also learn how to make tie-dye patterns using food coloring. Finally, there are instructions for using food coloring without vinegar.

How to Tie Dye Shirt With Food Coloring

Can You tie-dye With Food Coloring?

Food coloring can be used to tie-dye, but it won’t produce the same vibrant colors or long-lasting designs as a fabric dye. Tie-dying t-shirts or socks using food coloring is a fun kid’s craft. This coloring ingredient dissolves easily in water for a rapid and enjoyable dying process.
Food coloring, on the other hand, lacks the brilliance and durability of true fabric colours. The majority of commercial food coloring is petroleum-based and water-soluble, meaning it may dissolve in water. This allows it to soak into any water-absorbent textile, such as cotton.
Although the transient nature of food coloring design may be irritating, it does provide a safe alternative to most commercial colours. While most modern fabric dyes do not include toxic ingredients, they can contain strong chemicals that stain many surfaces permanently. As a result, they are a risky choice for use with youngsters!
Cotton fabric works best with food coloring, often known as color additives. If you use plain white t-shirts or socks, you’ll get the most colorful results.
In a synthetic material like polyester, the color will not set well. The majority of synthetic fabrics are constructed of plastic, which does not absorb water. This means that the dye won’t be able to penetrate the synthetic material!
Food coloring should be used with caution because it can permanently stain protein-based fabrics like wool and silk. This is due to the fact that food coloring is an acid colour. Acid dyes have the ability to permanently heat-set into any animal-derived material.
As a result, if you deal with wool or silk, you can make actual, long-lasting fabric dyeing projects with food coloring! Most of the time, though, food coloring will suffice as a temporary coloring agent for cotton products.

How to Tie-Dye a Shirt With Food Coloring?

Tie dye with food coloring

Tie-dying is a technique that involves twisting and tying a cloth to generate swirling, spattering colors. To avoid the colors spilling together too much, most DIY tie-dye designs employ only one or two colors. Store-bought tie-dye patterns, on the other hand, may employ a spectrum of hues!
Tie-dyed t-shirts are perhaps the most common, but you can also dye other items like scarves and socks!
Tie-dye a t-shirt for yourself using affordable, safe food coloring by following these simple steps!

Preparing the Shirt

Can you tie dye with food coloring

Preparing the garment may not be as fun as applying the food coloring, but it is necessary! You have various options for twisting and tying your shirt. Each procedure will result in a different swirling dye pattern.
To prepare your shirt for dyeing, follow these steps:
  1. To remove any sticking lint and prevent shrinking, throw your shirt (or shirts!) in the washer and dryer as usual. When you wash your tee ahead of time, you’ll also get rid of any invisible chemical treatments that manufacturers use to keep it from wrinkleing and staining.
  2. Fabric softeners should not be used because they may interfere with the dying process.
  3. Set up a brief vinegar soak if you want your food coloring pattern to last as long as possible. In a flat bowl or bucket, combine one-half cup white vinegar and one-half cup warm water, then soak your t-shirt in the solution for about 30 minutes. If you need extra water to soak a lot of shirts at once, mix water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio.
  4. Alternatively, if you wish to make a washable design, soak the t-shirt in plain water. If you want a fully washable design, skip the vinegar and use only one cup of warm water.
  5. Then, in a starburst, spiral, or pinwheel design, roll or tie your moist shirt. Rubber bands will be used to keep the shirt in this form during the dying process. Tips on how to make tie-dye patterns can be found in the “how to make tie-dye patterns” section.
You’ll also want to take some steps to safeguard your clothes and desk from any dye splashes. Make sure you or your children are wearing smocks or plastic aprons to avoid accidently dyeing your clothes! Although food coloring will not harm your skin and will ultimately wash off with soap and water, you may wish to wear plastic gloves.
To protect your workspace, place a large plastic trash bag or tablecloth on the table. If the weather is nice, relocate the dying procedure outside if you’re working with children!

Preparing the Dye

Homemade tie dye

With a few drops of food coloring and some cool water, you can manufacture food coloring “dye”!
For each color you want to use, find a clean squeeze container. You can use old condiment bottles, shampoo bottles, or any type of squeeze-top water bottle.
Food coloring that comes in small, squeezable plastic bottles works best in most cases. However, you can also use paste food coloring, which can be bought in the cake decorating section of your local supermarket. These come in a broader range of colors, making them ideal for the creative tie-dyer!
  1. Fill the bottle halfway with cool water and eight to sixteen drops of food coloring. If you add eight drops, the hue will become paler and more pastel-like. Carry on with this procedure for each color you choose to use.
  2. After you’ve made sure the bottle is sealed, give it a good shake.
  3. If you’d rather use paste food coloring, do it this way: scoop up a small amount of color, roughly the size of a grain of rice. In a half-cup of warm water, dissolve it. Check the color of the water and add extra coloring if needed.
  4. Simply turn your squirt bottle upside down and squeeze some of the colored water onto the shirt to apply the dye! It’s common to have to flip the garment over to apply color to the other side.
  5. Remember to leave some white space for the second color if you’re using more than one! Then repeat the process with the second color.

Setting the Dye

Allow 12-24 hours for your freshly dyed clothing to rest before rinsing and drying it.
  1. Carefully place your dyed garment in a large ziploc bag and close it. If you don’t have a large enough ziploc, use a trash bag to roll it up in. This needs to be as airtight as possible.
  2. Place the garment in the bag for up to 24 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove the shirt from the bag and carefully cut away the rubber bands with scissors.
  4. Simply rinse the garment under cool, running water until no color ashes away into your sink for a washable shirt.
  5. In a bowl, combine one-half cup table salt and one-half cup cold water for a semi-permanent design. Swish your garment around in the solution until it’s completely saturated.
  6. Then, under cool, running water, rinse the clothing until the water runs clear!
  7. Hang it up to air dry outside if feasible, or in a bathtub where it will not spill dye onto anything precious!

How to Make Tie-Dye Patterns

The scrunch, starburst, and swirl are the most popular tie-dye patterns. In this area, you’ll find simple instructions for making each design!
If you want to go into advanced tie-dying, you can now find all types of intricate patterns, such as the Shibori technique, the heart design, and the spider pattern. The swirl, starburst, and scrunch patterns, on the other hand, are the most prevalent tie-dye patterns you’ll see on t-shirts!
Make sure you follow the washing and soaking instructions in this article before preparing your shirt for the design pattern. When you prepare the fabric first, the dye process works best!


Food coloring tie dye

This easy-to-follow design is ideal for novices. It’s simple to create and looks fantastic!
  1. On your work surface, smooth out your damp t-shirt. Make sure you have at least ten-twenty rubber bands on hand.
  2. After that, twist the shirt into a long snake by squeezing it just below the neck and “scrunching” handfuls of the shirt toward the central point.
  3. Take a rubber band and wrap one end around the scrunched end of your shirt.
  4. Place rubber bands at regular intervals down the length of your wrinkled shirt to make it look like a snake. Use extra rubber bands for a tighter pattern!
  5. Finally, roll up your rubber-banded snake like a cinnamon roll and secure it in place with three or four huge rubber bands.
Your shirt is now ready to be dyed!


Homemade tye dye shirts

The starburst design, sometimes known as a bullseye, resembles the famous snail shell-like outward spiral that comes to mind when you think of tie-dye. You can make a single large starburst or a slew of smaller ones all over your shirt!

Dyeing fabric with food coloringOnce again, this design takes very little work to prepare!

  1. Select the center of your burst on the shirt for a single large starburst. At this stage, pinch a little piece of shirt between your fingers and tie it with a rubber band so that a tuft of t-shirt stands up.
  2. Then, beneath the tuft, take a larger amount and tie it with a band as well. To get a really big starburst, repeat this step one more time.
  3. Simply secure a number of little pinched tufts on the surface of your shirt using many small rubber bands for a lot of miniature starbursts.


Diy tie dye shirts

You may use this method to create a massive swirl out of your entire shirt!
  1. Arrange your moist shirt flat on your work surface that is covered.
  2. Choose the center of your swirl. The optimum place for this pattern is usually in the center of your shirt. Pinch a little section of the shirt and keep it in your hand.
  3. After then, wrap the rest of the shirt around the middle you’re holding. Continue swirling the shirt around your hand until it forms a giant swirled circle and there is no more shirt!
  4. To keep everything in place, wrap thick rubber bands around the circumference of the garment. You’ll most likely require five or six bands.
  5. You should have a cinnamon-roll-like circle of shirt kept together by crisscrossing rubber bands at the end.

How to Make Food Coloring Tie-Dye Permanent

You can’t actually make a food coloring tie design permanent unless you dye a wool or silk outfit. After dyeing with food coloring, utilizing a vinegar presoak and a salt bath will help maintain the color beautiful for a longer period of time.
Both salt and vinegar will aid in saturating the fabric fibers and keeping the color in place for as long as feasible.
Food coloring tie-dye can also be made to last longer by only cleaning it when absolutely necessary.
To dye a wool or silk garment permanently, combine the dye and the apparel in a large pot and boil for 20 minutes. The acid dye will be set into the protein fibers of this type of cloth by the heat.
However, despite your best attempts, food coloring won’t last in most cotton products indefinitely. The ink, which was designed for temporary usage in foods, will fade over time. Furthermore, each time you wash it, more dye will be washed away!

How to Make Your Own Tie-Dye Liquid?

Food coloring, fabric paint, or natural dyes can all be used to build your own tie-dye kit. Making your own “dye kit” saves you money and allows you to avoid the harsh chemicals that commercial fabric dyes may include!
Fill your squeeze bottle with one cup of water and three tablespoons of fabric paint to make tie-dye liquid. This should be done for each color you intend to use.
For about a minute, vigorously shake the bottle. Then, as mentioned previously in this post, squirt the liquid on your design!
Of course, you already know to mix 12 cup water with 8-16 drops of food coloring to make your food coloring solution!
Finally, red onion peels, beets, and avocado pits can all be used to generate natural colours. This method takes more time and effort, but it’s worth it if you want an all-natural tie-dye.
While the dyeing process varies significantly depending on the plant you select, the basic method is to stew the plant in hot water for about an hour. The liquid should next be strained through a sieve or cheesecloth.
The dye should then be reheated for another hour before being allowed to cool overnight.
To finish the dying process, you’ll need to heat the garment in the dye bath for around an hour.
It takes a lot of time and effort to make your own natural dyes. Still, if you or your children are allergic to food coloring, this approach produces tie-dye liquid that is free of both food coloring and chemical dyes!

How to Wash tie-dye Shirts for the First Time

ETCYY Women Tie Dye Sleeveless V Neck Tank Tops Workout Shirts Casual Summer Loose Fit Sports Athletic Yoga T Shirts

To wash your tie-dye shirt for the first time, put it in the washer by itself. You don’t want to wash it with anything else, even if it’s another tie-dyed shirt in a different hue! The dye from these newly colored shirts will leak out and taint any other items.
Of course, you should complete all of the previous procedures before beginning the wash process. Make careful to soak your newly coloured shirt in a salt bath before rinsing it under cold running water until no dye is visible in the sink.
  1. First, if your washing machine has one, set it to a small load setting.
  2. Place your shirt in the washing machine on its own.
  3. Select hot water and add regular washing detergent as directed.
  4. No bleach or fabric softener should be used!
  5. After running the washing machine as usual, hang the shirt to dry outside.
You can now safely wear your t-shirt, but for at least the first two or three washes, you must continue to wash it in this manner.
Always air dry the tie-dyed clothing if at all possible. Your dryer’s heat may cause the colored design to fade.

Can You tie-dye a Shirt Without Vinegar?

You can tie-dye a garment without vinegar, but if you omit the vinegar bath, your design will simply wash out of the fabric. The vinegar aids in the semi-permanent dyeing of the fabric, allowing it to resist multiple washing.
You can also substitute commercial colour fixatives or soda ash for the vinegar. These will also aid in the incorporation of the color into the material. Both of these goods may need to be heated before use. You can simply follow the package’s instructions.
Of course, if you want to do a tie-dye without using vinegar, you can use more permanent dyes!

Can You Tie-Dye Colored Fabric?

Over-dying can be used to tie-dye colored fabric, although it does not work well with food coloring dye. To make a colorful tie-dye design on a colored shirt, you’ll need fabric dye.
Overdying entails thinking about how well a light dye will cover a darker-colored fabric or how your “over” dye will blend in with the fabric’s current designs and branding. For example, if you dye a t-shirt using blue dye and it has yellow flowers on it, the flowers will turn green!
When you overdye a garment with bleach spots or paler places, the dye will seem paler in those areas as well.
Over-dying complicates the tie-dye process, but if you want to tie-dye a colourful clothing, the extra effort may be worth it!

How to Tie-Dye Socks With Food Coloring

How to Tie Dye Socks With Food Coloring

Tie-dying socks make for a fun, distinctive pair of shoes for your family or as a nice gift! Most of the processes outlined earlier in this article can be followed, but keep these useful sock ideas in mind as well!
  • If you use taller socks, you will obtain a nicer design. You don’t have much fabric to work with while making ankle socks!
  • Most socks are made out of a combination of materials, such as cotton and spandex. To get the greatest results, look for socks with a high percentage of cotton.
  • Food coloring is also the quickest way to tie-dye plain white socks.
  • Making a unique starburst or swirl pattern on a little sock could be difficult! Instead, simply roll each sock up like a cinnamon bun and secure it with a rubber band before dyeing.
  • Finally, make sure you follow the instructions for the vinegar soak, salt bath, and post-dying wash.


A modest bit of food coloring mixed with water can be used to manufacture your own tie-dye solution. Before applying the food coloring dye, you’ll need to twist, knot, or curl your shirt into unique shapes held together with rubber bands. Your tie-dye will be more permanent if you use a vinegar soak and a salt bath, but if you want a washable design, you may omit this step!
Food coloring tie-dye allows you to create vibrant, entertaining designs without the use of hazardous chemicals or a huge mess. However, it is a transient art form because it does not persist as long as most cloth dyes.
Have you ever attempted to tie-dye a shirt? What sort of dye did you use for this project? Please let us know in the comments section below!

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