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How To Make Sharpie Tie Dye Using Rubbing Alcohol
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How To Make Sharpie Tie Dye Using Rubbing Alcohol

Sharpie Tie Dye

Traditional tie-dyeing is a beloved craft that allows for endless creativity, but it takes a lot of work to set up and isn’t something most people want to do at home. In my experience, artists can have similar results by making teen crafts, tie dye, and Sharpie tie dye. This technique offers precise control over colors and working time, resulting in vibrant, intricate patterns look- looking very similar to traditional Sharpie tie dye. In this tutorial, we’ll walk through the process of tie-dyeing with Sharpies, from selecting materials to creating your masterpiece.

Materials needed to make Sharpie tie dye

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  1. White cotton fabric (pre-washed) or linen/canvas. Starting with plain white t-shirts is the best way for beginners.
  2. Sharpie permanent markers in assorted colors
  3. Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol)
  4. Dropper or pipette or spray bottle
  5. Rubber bands
  6. Nitrile Gloves
  7. Plastic tablecloth or garbage bags (to protect your work surface)
  8. Paper towels (for easy clean up)
  9. Plastic cups (I prefer the condiment cups)
  10. Protective eyewear (always protect the eyes when working with rubbing alcohol – especially if you are doing this project with kids)

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How to create a colorful design using sharpies and a few drops of alcohol

1. Prepare Your Workspace: Cover your work surface with a plastic tablecloth or garbage bags to protect it from stains. Ensure proper ventilation in your workspace, as Sharpie fumes can be strong. Put on plastic gloves to protect your hands from ink stains. It is best to work in a well-ventilated area. Due to the flammable nature of rubbing alcohol, it is best to work outside.

2. Select Your Fabric and Design: Choose a white cotton fabric for your project, ensuring it has been pre-washed to remove any sizing or residues. Select your desired design or pattern. Traditional tie-dye techniques like spirals, bullseyes, or stripes work well, but feel free to get creative! Choose which colors work best and set aside.

3. Prepare the Fabric: Lay your fabric flat on your work surface. If you want a more traditional tie-dye effect, scrunch or fold the fabric and secure it with rubber bands. Alternatively, you can draw directly on the fabric without folding for a different look. If you do not want your design to bleed through the fabric, place cardboard or a t-shirt board inside the t-shirt or tote bag. If you are creating an apron, simply place it under the apron.

4. Create Your Design using Sharpies: In my experience, there are a few ways to achieve stunning results using sharpies. These are my tried and true methods:

  • One method is to use old CD’s and rubberbands. Place a CD under the fabric and use a rubber band to hold it in place. This is a great way to create circular tie dye patterns. This specifically looks fantastic when making sharpie tie dye t-shirts. Using the Sharpie markers, draw your design directly onto the fabric.
Use a CD to make a circular pattern
  • Experiment with different colors and patterns, layering colors for depth and dimension. Remember that the colors will spread slightly when you add the rubbing alcohol, so keep this in mind when designing. I also love the CD method because of the beautiful shapes that form when the permanent marker ink interacts with the white space. The best part about the CD method is that you will end up with beautiful designs embedded in concentric circles.
  • Free draw: simply doodle and draw for a more random, less predictable outcome.
Doodle for a more random design
  • Fold and layer the fabric similar to traditional tie dye. If you want to make a shirt that looks like real tie dye, this method will yield the best results. You can either add the cardboard or you can fold and rubberband the back of the shirt alongside the front. Let the bright colors seep through both layers.
Create a traditional tie dye spiral
  • Make a repeated pattern. Draw the same thing over and over again to create new designs or to design your own cotton items and fabrics. This is a great way to add spots of color to this fun project without having to make it random.
Make a repeated pattern

5. Fill plastic cups or containers with rubbing alcohol. Using an eye dropper or pipette, drip alcohol onto the areas where you applied Sharpie ink. Start with a few drops and gradually add more as needed. Watch as the colors begin to bleed and blend, creating a tie-dye effect.

Use a pipette to add rubbing alcohol and watch as the colors bleed and blend

When working with kids, I exclusively use pipettes because the spray bottles can get dangerous. Use caution when pouring the rubbing alcohol from the mouth of a jar.

6. Allow your Sharpie tie dye fabric to dry completely. This may take several hours, depending on the amount of alcohol used and the fabric’s thickness. Once dry, remove any rubber bands and admire your vibrant creation!

7. To ensure your design is permanent, you can heat-set it with an iron. Place a clean cloth over the tie-dyed fabric and iron on high heat for 3-5 minutes. This will help set the colors and prevent them from fading or washing out.

8. Once heat-set (if desired), your sharpie tie dye creation is ready to be washed and enjoyed. Wash it separately in cold water to prevent colors from bleeding, and avoid using bleach or harsh detergents. Hang or lay flat to dry. Sharpie tie dye will be bright and beautiful, but might not be as vibrant as traditional water color.

Different sharpie tie dye designs

Tips and tricks for successful Sharpie tie dye.

  • Use a scrap piece of fabric to test colors ahead of time
  • Do not use cardboard and see which designs seep through to the backside of the cotton t-shirts 
  • Make your design on stretched cotton and then add other mixed media elements to the artwork. Experiment with the alcohol technique by trying out metallic sharpies, acrylic paint, etc.
  • Use this project with students and make it for one of your science experiments. Watch as new colors and different patterns are formed.
  • Try creating custom collage papers by using sharpie tie dye and rubbing alcohol on a piece of paper.
  • Experiment with different color combinations and patterns to create unique designs.
  • Use rubbing alcohol sparingly at first, as a little goes a long way. You can always add more if needed.
  • Practice on a small piece of fabric before working on a larger project to get a feel for the technique. Add a few dots and dashes, add alcohol and watch the dime-sized color spot begin to form.
  • Have fun and embrace imperfections – tie-dyeing with Sharpies is all about creativity and individuality!

Summary Of Sharpie tie dye

Tie dyeing with Sharpies is a fun and accessible way to create colorful, personalized designs on fabric. However, I would not recommend doing this project teen crafts and Sharpie tie dye with younger kids due to the rubbing alcohol (the warning labels do not recommend use with children). With just a few simple materials and some creative inspiration, you can transform plain white fabric into vibrant works of art. Whether you’re making t-shirts, tote bags, or tapestries, this versatile technique is sure to add a pop of color to your life. So gather your Sharpies and get ready to unleash your inner artist! I have always found this project to be so much fun!