Can You Tie Dye a Colored Shirt?

It seems like plain white tees get all the love when it comes to blank clothing for tie dye. You may have wondered, though, if it’s possible to tie dye colored shirts. Or even black ones. Whether you are looking for ways to upcycle old apparel or you are just trying to figure out a way to put a new twist on a class project, you will likely be happy to learn that, yes, you can tie dye a colored or black shirt. With the proper technique, it is possible to dye shirts of any color imaginable. There are a few different ways to get the job done, and the end results can be pretty remarkable. If you’ve ever wondered, “can you tie dye a colored shirt?” keep reading to learn precisely how to do it. 

Tie Dye Black 2 Tone Clouds Close Up Shot fabric texture background Pink Yellow

Source: Pixel88/

The Basics

When dyeing fabric that is already colored, there are two primary options. First, you can directly dye light and pastel colors, such as baby blue, light yellow, and pale pink. If you go this route, though, the result will be a mix of the original color of the shirt and the dye you added. So, if you add red dye to a light blue shirt, you will end up with a purplish color. This is important to keep in mind because some colors are not very pretty when mixed. Understanding basic color theory will help you avoid making a mess. 

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The second option — and the only one when working with dark colors and black — is removing the color using bleach. After bleaching, you can apply dye to the areas where color was removed. This process is known as “reverse tie dye,” and it’s a great way to add vibrant pops of color to dark apparel. Be careful not to leave the bleach on too long, though, as it can damage the fabric. 15-20 minutes is usually plenty of time for the bleach to do its job. 

Tie Dyeing Gray Shirts

Tie dyeing a gray shirt can be tricky, and the exact process varies depending on the darkness of the gray. For dark gray shirts, you have two options. First, you can add black dye to create a unique dark tie dye effect. The other option would be bleaching it then adding the colors of your choice. 

Lighter gray shirts offer more versatility and can be dyed using many colors. Gray tends to make other colors look dull, though, so you are not likely to achieve vibrant results. If you want the colors to pop, consider using a bleaching agent to remove some of the shirt’s color before dyeing it. 

Tie Dyeing Black Shirts

Dirty Bleach Background. Watercolor Pattern Dark Bleached Hard Grunge Boho Tie Dye. Black Trendy Fashion Bleach Print. Retro Shibori Watercolor. Watercolor Craft Paint Art. Watercolor

Source: psy dye/

When you want to tie dye black shirts, using bleach to remove some of the color is necessary. Because black is made up of all colors, there is no dye that you can add to it that will change its color. The best you can hope for would be making a faded shirt darker by adding more black dye. 

Whether you are dyeing up a batch of wholesale t-shirts or you are looking for a way to add some color to a few of your old tees, start by folding or twisting them into the desired pattern. Secure using rubber bands or string. Then, apply bleach. Rather than using liquid bleach (which tends to be very messy), consider using gel toilet bowl cleaner. Since it is thicker, this product is much easier to apply to specific areas. You are less likely to spill it, too. If you do use regular liquid bleach, mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio. 

Let the bleach work for 15 to 20 minutes. This is usually enough time for it to do its magic. If more time is needed, check back every five minutes until the fabric is light enough to dye. Do not leave the bleach on for more than an hour. After bleaching, rinse the shirt under cool running water, then wash. 

After washing, lay the damp shirt out on a flat surface. Then, squeeze dye onto the bleached areas. Add colors one at a time until you have achieved the look you desire. When finished, flip the shirt over and repeat the process on the other side. Let the dye set overnight, then rinse under cool water until it runs clear. Wash using warm water and a gentle color-safe detergent, and your new shirt will be ready for wear.

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Wrapping Up

young man with a beard wearing tie and dye psychedelic t-shirt circle pattern

Source: Artist Photographer 3D/

Whether you’re freshening up your own wardrobe, making gifts, or creating apparel to sell, tie dyeing colored shirts is a fun twist on a classic project. Here at The Adair Group, we have blank shirts in a wide range of colors. And, of course, we also carry a full range of white t-shirts for tie dye. Shop now to get started on your next project! 

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