How To Ombre Tie Dye

Ombre tie dye, also known as gradient tie dye, is a beautiful wash of colors that blend into each other or into white or black. This particular pattern isn’t technically tie dye by definition because there is no tying of the fabric to create a pattern, however, the dyes from a tie dye kit are typically used to create the colors.

For the ombré pattern I am going to show you, I used 3 colors, violet, blue and lime. I would suggest using 2 or 3 colors (or 1 if you are gradating to white) as you need enough space between each color for blending. I am using an Adult Medium 100% cotton t-shirt, but any size shirt will work. The dye kit I use is Tulip’s one step dye which I love for its ease of use, bright colors, and quality of dye.

How to ombre tie dye

For the blending of colors, I tried using both an inexpensive chip brush (like the ones they have at the hardware store for painting) and a large sponge brush. I thought that perhaps the sponge brush would hold the water better and leave less brush marks than the chip brush, but I was WRONG. It didn’t move smoothly on the shirt, so it was horrible for blending. I’ll explain in more detail in the step-by-steps below.

Ok, ready to get blending? Ah, one more thing that you will need that is NOT on the list…PATIENCE!! This particular pattern takes some time to create and additional time if you really want smooth transitions from one color to the next. Ok, now ready? Let’s go!



Ombre Tie Dye

What you’ll need:

Creating The Pattern By Dyeing The Shirt

1. Start with a damp, but not wet, shirt for this design. The shirt could be fresh out of the washing machine. If you washed it a different day, like I usually do, then just dunk the shirt in a bucket of water or sink and wring it out before starting.

2. Lay the shirt flat on your work surface. Try to remove as many wrinkles as possible as it will be easier to apply the dye. (NOTE: Most of the time, my work surface is a table, but for this design I found it easier to tape plastic to the floor in the basement as the shirt is pretty big and you need the full space to work.)

Laying damp shirt on plastic covered work surface
Laying The Damp Shirt On The Plastic Covered Work Surface

3. Fill your small bowl with room temp water and set to the side with your chip brush.

4. Add the dye to the top of the shirt directly from the squirt bottle. Be sure to saturate the very top and start working down the shirt a bit.

Adding dye to top of shirt
Adding The Dye To The Top Of The Shirt

5. Grab your brush. Dip it in the water and then brush the dye down the shirt towards the white section. Continue this process of dipping in water and brushing the dye downward, working your way across the shirt. (NOTE: In the pic I used a foam brush. I started with the foam brush, but ended up liking the chip brush MUCH better. Easier to move the dye around with less marks.)

Brushing dye down the shirt
Brushing The Dye Down The Shirt

6. As you move the dye down the shirt, you will notice some areas that are not as dark as you would like. For larger areas, use the dye bottle to add more color and then blend with the brush. For smaller areas, as I will show in step #9, you can add dye directly to the brush and then blend into the shirt.

Applying more dye to light spots on shirt
Applying More Dye To The Light Spots On The Shirt

7. When the first color is blended about a third of the way down the shirt, it’s time to add the second color. Add the dye to the shirt, again, with the squirt bottle and blend with the wet brush. TIP: I found that the chip brush worked best for blending colors when turned sideways and then moved up and down the shirt, like in the pic below. Moving up and down like painting a fence created brush strokes rather than a soft blend of color which we are going for here.

Adding second dye color and blending to create ombre tie dye
Adding The Second Dye Color And Blending To Create Ombre Tie Dye

8. Continue to add dye to widen the band of the second color and blend with the brush.

Adding more dye to shirt
Adding More Dye To The Shirt

9. As I mentioned above, add the dye directly to the brush to apply color to smaller areas. It’s easier to control and avoid heavy spots of dye. (TIP: Be sure to rinse the brush and change out water when you switch to a new color to avoid muddy colors.)

Adding dye directly to brush
Adding Dye Directly To Brush

10. When the second color is spread across the middle third of the shirt, add the last color to the bottom and brush up into the other color.

Adding third color to bottom of shirt
Adding The Third Color To Bottom Of The Shirt

11. At this point, continue to add dye to the shirt with the brush until you get a blend of colors that you are happy with.

Blended dye to create three color ombre pattern
Blended Dye To Create A Three Color Ombre Pattern

12. When you are finished, leave the shirt on the plastic, so the dye can cure. Don’t worry about covering with plastic unless you are concerned about getting something on it while it dries. It will take a minimum of 6-8 hours and up to 24 hours to fully cure, so the colors are the brightest.

Rinsing And Washing

Once the dye has cured, it’s time to rinse and wash the shirt. This is an important step as, if done in the wrong order or rushed, it can muddy up the nice colors and pattern you created.

13. Place the shirt in a sink or bucket (something that can get dirty and won’t stain). We have a stainless steel kitchen sink, so I use that. Rinse the shirt in COLD water. The cold part is critical because it allows excess dye to wash out slowly while not moving dye to other parts of the shirt.

14. Repeat this rinse process several times until the water is fairly clear.

15. Once the water is fairly clear, repeat the rinse process once more, but with luke warm water (not HOT). This should get the last bit of excess dye out before putting it in a washing machine.

16. Once the shirt is thoroughly rinsed, you can wash it in the washing machine either by itself or with several other rinsed tie dye items. If I’m tie dyeing a bunch of shirts, I will put up to 6 in one load. Wash on warm or cold with a bit of detergent.

17. Dry the shirt(s) in dryer or let air dry. Personally I prefer air drying as it extends the life of the dye color (as they will eventually fade a bit with washing and wear).

NOTE: Wash the shirt by itself or with other tie dye items for the next few washings before adding it in with your other clothes.

And here it is! An ombre tie dye shirt with beautiful washes of color! It was definitely worth the extra blending effort! NICE JOB!!
Finished ombre tie dye shirt
Finished Ombre Tie Dye Shirt

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