How to Dye a Shirt

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How to Dye a Shirt

Dyeing a shirt is a simple process, but before getting started, it is important to know a few things about material, dye composition, and basic dyeing methods. Follow these steps before starting any shirt dyeing project.


Material Types

Certain dyes will work better on some fabrics than others. Natural fabrics, like cotton, linen, and wool hold dye much better than synthetic fibres like polyester or nylon. Dyeing synthetic fibres requires the use of special dye formulated for synthetic fabrics. Even then, the results will not be as strong as they are on natural fibres. For best results, use shirts made from natural fibres. Material can be divided into three categories. The type of dye needed changes based on the type of material.

Cellulose Fibres

Cellulose fibres come from plants. These include materials like cotton, linen and hemp.

Protein Fibres

Protein fibres come from animals, and include fabric like angora, wool and mohair.

Synthetic Fibres

Synthetic fibres include all man-made fibres, like polyester, nylon, rayon and elastic.


Types of Dyes

There are four types of dyes that work well with clothing materials. Each one will leave a different result, so it’s important to know which one will work best for a particular garment.

Fibre-Reactive Dye

Fibre-reactive dye works best with cellulose fibres. Fibre-reactive dyes are used in conjunction with soda ash to solidify the bond between the dye and fabric and reduce fading.

Acid Dye

Acid dye is designed for use with protein fibres. Acid dyes have an acidic base that bonds well with animal fibres.

Synthetic Dye

Synthetic fabric can be difficult to dye, which is why most dye companies manufacture a dye blend with chemicals specifically designed to bond with synthetic fibres. Dyes that are not formulated for use with synthetic fabrics will bleed more and will not produce as strong of a colour on the fabric.

Natural Dye

Natural dyes are derived from plants and other natural materials. Natural dyes typically are more muted in appearance than chemical-based dyes, but the colours can become just as deep.


Dyeing Methods

Dyeing fabric is something of an art form. There are many ways to dye fabric with different patterns and techniques. Some of the most common are outlined below:

Tie Dye

Tie dye patterns became popular in the 1970s, but the process of tie dying goes back much farther than that. In the tie dye method, a white or light-coloured cloth is twisted and bunched together into a large lump of fabric. Rubber bands or string are used to hold the fabric together. Different colours are then sprayed onto various parts of the shirt, leaving some areas white. This creates the tie dye pattern.

Ombre Dye

Ombre dye jobs are darker on one part of the shirt and gradually fade to lighter and lighter colours. The ombre look uses a simple dyeing process. First, one part of the shirt is dipped into a bucket of dye for approximately an hour. A second section of the shirt is lowered into the dye bucket for another hour. The process continues until the last section of the shirt remains in the dye for only a few minutes. This creates a gradient colour scheme.

Dip Dye

Rather than soaking a shirt in a bucket of dye, the dip dye process dips the fabric into the dye and quickly removes it again. This usually creates a lighter colour. In some cases, the colour may be allowed to “creep” up the garment for a completely different look.

All-Over Dye

During the all-over dye, a shirt is placed in the dye for several hours to allow the dye to soak into the fibres.


Basic Dyeing Process

Each dye brand has their own specifications on how much water to use, water temperature and pre-dyeing soaks for the fabric. Follow these directions closely. The basic process, however, is to mix up a batch of dye in a bucket or on the stove and dunk the fabric into the dye. Allow the fabric to sit for several hours and stir every now and then to ensure even coverage. After dyeing, rinse and wash the fabric as normal.


Buying Dye Materials on eBay

eBay offers a wealth of resources for dyeing fabric at home. eBay makes it possible to find a wide range of dye products, including natural dye, synthetic dye and even tie dye kits. Finding dye supplies is easy. First, visit the Fabric. From there, narrow the search to the type of fabric desired, fabric dyes and other dyeing supplies. Look for dye kits based on material type, dyeing technique or narrow the search by seller location, item price or free shipping options. Use specific keywords to find select fabrics and colours to use in the dyeing process.



Dyeing a shirt is not complicated, but it does take a little know-how. Knowing the material type, type of dye, necessary supplies and basic dyeing methods can go a long way toward creating a beautiful shirt that will have a thousand uses. With the above tips and the help of eBay, becoming a dyeing master is within reach.

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