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How to Tie Dye using Sharpies & Rubbing Alcohol

Updated on September 11, 2012
the blue was a different brand and obviously didn't work
the blue was a different brand and obviously didn't work | Source

Tie Dyed T-Shirts

My son came home from church last night and told me that he needs to wear a tie dyed tshirts to club in a few weeks. I thought about it and realized the quickly growing child did not currently own a tie dyed shirt in his size. Today was teacher in-service day and we decided to tackle the project today. I was almost on my way out the door when I remember that a bunch of my teacher friends have been having social hour while sharpie tie dying, I was sad to miss these get together and realized if a bunch of drinking teachers can do it than it must not be that hard and I should be able to figure it out. Although I have to admit that my 5 year is much better at creating designs than I am.

my failed attempt
my failed attempt | Source

Materials Needed

  • Something to tie dye
  • rubbing alcohol
  • sharpies of various colors
  • a straw or eye droppe
  • vinegar to wash and set color

Now I could have gone to the store and bought real tie dye material but I had these all in my house so here we go.

Setting it up

I picked out a t-shirt from the undershirts my kids wear to bed and set it out. I did place a plastic bag in the middle of the shirt so front didn't bleed onto the back of the shirt.

I then took the rubber band and placed it around a prep bowl to give my son a circular are to color. I gave him the sharpies and let him go with the color. Notice I did not give him any brown, black, or pink. Pink simply because he is a boy and his whole shirt would have been pink because he knows I love pink. The colors colors because they would dominate over the whole area.

I didn't have an eye dropper so I use a straw as an eye dropper and he dropped dots of rubbing alcohol onto the design to make it spread.

I gave him two area to work on at a time so one could dry while he worked on the other. Then I moved the bowl and rubber band to a new area for him to start. My designs did not work very well, I thought I was being creative but it need much more coloring, hence my 5 years olds area look a thousand times better than mine.

Set the color

When you are done soak the t-shirt or item in a solution that comprises of 1/4 vinegar and 3/4 water. Dry the T-shirt separately in the dryer to completely set the color.


Please get fancy then us. I have a friend who is an art teacher and she makes beautiful shirts that she can actually wear on a daily basis because they are gorgeous. Get creative, get inspiration, and please use this to make something in your wardrobe beautiful.

I did notice that the blue didn't do what it was supposed to - all of the markers I used were either sharpie or bic brand except the blue, it was a TUL fine permanent marker and apparently it didn't work.


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    • Pauline Davenport profile image

      Pauline Davenport 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      As with vocal coach I have always had an inkling to do this, so now with these lovely instructions to hand I guess it's about time I did!! Time to get all those white t-shirts out of their hiding places and get cracking. Thanks kthix10

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Always wanted to try a tie dye. Your informative hub with good step-by-step instructions have me thinking perhaps I can do this. Thanks.

    • kthix10 profile image

      kthix10 5 years ago from IL

      Thanks! My 5 year old had a blast making it. I actually realized halfway through that I had a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol in it so the last couple he just sprayed the shirt with and worked great.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 5 years ago from Canada

      This is a very cool and easy wy to do tie dye that I have never heard of before. And wy less messy. Great instructions. I plan on giving it a try.