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20 Easy Tie Dye Patterns & Cool Techniques For Kids

20 Easy Tie Dye Patterns & Cool Techniques For Kids

Tie dye patterns

Let’s talk tie dye patterns for kids—because who doesn’t love a bit of colorful chaos? I loved making tie-dye shirts when I was a kid, and I think it’s so fun that kids still love to make unique tie-dye designs! Anything and everything tie dye is “in” these days from a cotton t-shirt to a pair of socks! A tie-dye project is an engaging and colorful way to unleash creativity. From the classic spiral pattern to intricate ice dye techniques, tie dyeing provides endless opportunities for young artists to experiment and express themselves. In this post, we’ll explore 20 easy tie dye patterns and cool techniques tailored specifically for kids, making it a breeze for you to make tie dye shirts with your kids or students.

What you’ll need to make tie dye patterns with kids

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  • 100% cotton item (shirt, sweatshirt, etc.)
  • Squeeze bottles (12 oz each)
  • Powdered dyes (color combination of your choice!)
  • Rubber Bands
  • Protective gloves
  • Soda ash
  • Tarp or plastic covering to protect your work area (a plastic tablecloth works well)
  • Sealable plastic bags
  • Washing machine
  • Gentle dish soap

You can purchase these items separately or look for a tie-dye kit at your local craft store or on Amazon. 

I love ordering supplies on Amazon because there are tons of selection results, free shipping (typically ships within a few business days) and it’s never final sale so if you change your mind, you can send the supplies back. Check out my favorite items on my Amazon storefront. You’ll find a full page of all of my favorite things!

The basics of tie dye projects

What types of items are best to tie dye? 

For best results, you want to use a material that’s made of natural fibers. 100% cotton shirts are the best, but it’s okay to have a bit of a blend as long as it’s at least 50% cotton. If you get more than 50% synthetic material, the dye won’t hold as well. I prefer to wear a plain white T-shirt, but you can tie dye any color of the material. You won’t get vibrant results on a dark-colored item like you do on white. You can also tie dye tote bags, old clothes, or really any natural material items.

Where can I find items to tie dye? 

The best place to find 100% cotton shirts and other dyeable clothes is at craft stores like Michaels. Amazon and Walmart are also great places to find a cotton shirt for your tie-dye projects. 

What types of tie-dye can I use?

When it comes to tie-dyeing, there are several types of dyes to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics. Traditional tie-dye involves using fabric dye and tying the garment with rubber bands or string to create intricate patterns.

Cold-water dye is another popular option, which can be applied directly to the fabric without the need for a heat setting. On the other hand, hot-water dye requires heat to set the colors and is typically used with a washing machine or stovetop method. Ice tie dye is a newer technique that involves applying powdered dye onto ice cubes placed on the fabric, resulting in a watercolor-like effect. The main difference between these types of dye lies in their application method and the intensity of colors produced. 

Best practices for tie-dye projects

While there are many different tie dye patterns, many steps of the tie dye process are the same regardless of the design. Follow these best practices when creating any tie-dye project for the best results.

  • For the best possible results, pre-wash your garments. (Clothing often arrives with a treatment or a resist which will prevent the dye from soaking in). Washing your clothing before using the dye will allow the dye to better absorb.
  • Wearing gloves, mix one cup of soda ash with a gallon of warm water. Shake or mix vigorously to dissolve the powder. If you wait too long to mix, soda ash will harden. Do not skip this step! Soda ash is one of the magic ingredients for vibrant garments. Soak the garments in the soda ash for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Helpful hint: Soda ash is the same as washing soda (it is NOT baking soda). Soda ash can be an eye irritant, so gloves, a mask and protective eyewear are recommended. Soda ash is an activator & as soon as the soda ash mixes, it activates and should be used within 24 hours. We do not combine soda ash with our dye because we want you to have more time to work on projects.
  • Place garments either in the sun to dry until damp or in the spin cycle of your washing machine. Do not put clothing in the dryer—this will affect how the dye works. Dry clothing until it is damp, but not wet. If you try to tie dye a dry sweatshirt, the folds will not stay together and the dye rolls off the fabric instead of soaking in.
  • Begin folding your garment according to your favorite folding technique. See different patterns for kids below. Use rubber bands to hold your folds together. If rubber bands are too hard to use, consider tying the clothing with string. Rubber bands are great for most garments, but string can be easier on larger garments.
  • Place the dye powder in each squirt bottle. Add warm water to each squirt bottle to activate the dye. Fill each bottle to the top and shake vigorously with the cap on. You will know the bottle is mixed when the dry powder is no longer sitting at the bottom of the bottle. Before you start dyeing, it’s a good idea to prepare your work surface with a plastic tarp, trash bags, or floor covering.
  • Apply the liquid dye closely to the garment. Do not use too much dye because excess dye can saturate the fabric and can cause the tie-dye design to get lost. Use enough dye to completely cover the white space. After the dye is applied, keep the rubber bands on and place items in a sealable plastic bag or wrap tightly in plastic wrap for 24 hours. This is where the magic happens.
  • Wash your garment. Remove it from the bag and leave the rubber bands on. Rinse under cold running water to stop the dye reaction. Next, rinse in warm water and remove the rubber bands. Keep rinsing until water runs fairly clear. Ring out your sweatshirt and place in a washing machine.
  • Using a washing machine, run it through a full cold water cycle without detergent. You can wash up to 8 garments together in one load. When washing, keep similar colors together.
  • Wash a second time on the cold water cycle of your washing machine using a small squirt of dish soap like Joy or Dawn. Do NOT use regular laundry detergent on this cycle. You can put it in the dryer after this cycle is complete.

Your garment is ready to wear or use! You can use regular detergent and place it in the dryer the next time you wash tie-dyed garments. It is possible that dye may continue to run so we recommend washing separately for the first few washes and avoiding hot water just to be safe.

20 Easy & Fun Tie Dye Patterns for Kids

Now that you know the basics of making tie dye projects, it’s time to pick one of your favorite tie-dye patterns and get started! Here’s a list of 20 unique tie-dye patterns for kids. Follow each link to find step-by-step instructions for these cool tie dye patterns!

1. Spiral Tie Dye from Art Beat Box
When you think tie-dye, this classic spiral pattern probably comes to mind. The spiral tie dye design is made by twisting the center of the shirt, and is one of the simplest tie dye patterns for young children to start with.

2. Crumple Tie Dye from Pineapple Paper Co.
The crumple pattern is the easiest tie dye pattern. This pattern is great for young kids or beginners because you really can’t go wrong. Use a single color for a simple look or different colors for more vibrant results!

3. Stripe Tie Dye from Art Beat Box
Strip tie dye designs are so much fun! This tie dye pattern does require you to make accordion folds in a straight line, so it’s best for older kids. You can make horizontal stripes or vertical stripes with the same technique!

4. Bullseye Tie Dye from The Neon Tea Party
The bullseye tie dye pattern looks complicated when you see the finished product, but it’s actually pretty simple! Just make sure you have plenty of elastic bands and dye colors for this one.

5. Heart Tie Dye from Art Beat Box
Making a heart tie-dye shirt is a creative activity for Valentine’s Day. You’ll also need a washable marker to dry a heart template in the middle of the shirt for this method!

6. Sunburst Tie Dye from Tie Dye and Teal
What a great way to celebrate summer – by transforming a plain white t-shirt into a masterpiece with vibrant colors in a sunburst pattern! 

7. Chevron Tie Dye from Tie Dye and Teal
Chevron pattern is very popular, so why not transform some old t-shirts with V-shaped tie dye lines? This cool tie dye technique is an easy way to keep big kids entertained this summer!

8. Ombre Tie Dye from Oh Yay Studio
Ombre tie dye is a fun activity for kids because it involves less folding than other methods.

9. Scrunch Tie Dye from The Neon Tea Party
The scrunch tie dye pattern is a lot like the crumple pattern with rubber bands added. This is a great activity if your kids are tie dying for the first time, since it doesn’t rely on precise folds. I love the end product!

10. Reverse Tie Dye from Chaotically Yours
Reverse tie dye is a huge hit with older kids like middle schoolers! This technique involves using bleach on a black shirt instead of a white shirt. You can use just bleach or add dye colors to make vibrant tie dye designs. I don’t recommend this tie dye technique for young kids due to the bleach – and make sure to wear rubber gloves! How cool is the result though?

11. Zigzag Tie Dye from Up and Dyed
The zigzag tie dye pattern is so fun! This technique does require some precise folding, so this design is better for big kids.

12. Diagonal Stripe Tie Dye from Rit Dye
We have horizontal and vertical, but we can’t forget about diagonal stripes!

13. Star Tie Dye from Tie Dye Your Summer
The star tie dye technique would make a perfect 4th of July shirt!

14. Swirl Tie Dye from Riah’s Tie Dye
This technique is also knows as a super-spiral! (You can see why)

15. Polka Dot Tie Dye from Gathered
The polka dot tie dye technique doesn’t require a lot of folding, so it’s a fun way for young kids to make a tie-dye shirt!

16. Target Tie Dye from Melanie Brumer
Similar to the bullseye design, the target tie dye technique makes a circle pattern.

17. Diamond Tie Dye from Tie Dye Your Summer
The diamond tie dye technique is so cool! I love the mirrored effect.

18. Folding Tie Dye from Tie Dye Your Summer
Don’t have rubber bands? No problem! This technique uses just folds to create a cool square effect.

19. Concentric Circles from Bella Donna Dyes Co
This tie dye design is so cool, but the folding and tying technique is a little more advanced. This is a better method for big kids!

20. Ice Tie Dye from Bre Pea
The ice tie dye method creates a similar effect to the crumple design using ice. This is such a fun way to tie dye during the summer!

These 20 popular tie dye designs are a fun way for kids to learn how to tie dye. There are plenty of different ways to tie dye on this list for all skill levels. The best part of tie dying is expressing your creativity, so why not try to create your own designs once you’ve mastered the basics? The best designs are the most unique designs, so grab a bunch of shirts and get started!

FAQs about Tie Dying with Kids

1. Can kids of all ages participate in tie dyeing?

Absolutely! Tie dyeing is a versatile and enjoyable activity suitable for children of all ages. Younger kids may need some assistance with folding and securing fabric, while older kids can take on more intricate tie dye patterns with ease.

2. Is tie dyeing messy?

Tie dyeing can be a bit messy, especially when working with dye powders or liquid dyes. However, with proper preparation and the use of protective clothing and surfaces, you can minimize the mess and make cleanup a breeze.

3. Do I need special equipment to tie dye with kids?

While you can get a tie dye kit that contains everything you need to get started, you can also tie dye with basic supplies like rubber bands, fabric dye, and plain white cotton garments. It’s a fun and budget-friendly activity that doesn’t require any fancy equipment!

4. How long does tie dyeing take?

The time it takes to complete a tie dye project can vary depending on factors like the complexity of the pattern, the type of dye used, and the drying time required. Generally, you can expect tie dyeing to take anywhere from a few hours to a full day from start to finish.

5. Can I tie dye clothing that’s already been worn or washed?

Yes, you can tie dye clothing that’s already been washed or worn. However, keep in mind that the fabric may not absorb the dye as evenly as fresh, unwashed fabric. For best results, pre-wash garments with detergent but avoid using fabric softener, as it can interfere with dye absorption.

6. Are there any safety precautions I should take when tie dyeing with kids?

It’s always a good idea to take some safety precautions when tie dyeing with kids. Make sure to use gloves and protective clothing to avoid skin contact with dye, and work in a well-ventilated area to minimize exposure to fumes. Additionally, keep dye powders and liquids out of reach of young children and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe handling and disposal.

If you’ve got the tie dye bug and want to do more tie dye projects, check out this post on how to tie dye a sweatshirt!