How To Sunburst Tie Dye

The sunburst tie dye pattern is a fun twist on the bullseye design. Take those bright rings of color and pop them throughout the shirt. You can add as many or as few sunbursts as you like. There are very few rules and so many color options.

For this sunburst pattern I am going to show you, I used 4 colors and created 3 sunbursts. I am also 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.

Ok, ready to create these bursts of color? Let’s go!



Sunburst Tie Dye

What you’ll need:
  • White Shirt
  • Rubber Bands
  • Dye Kit (Which Includes Rubber Bands, Gloves, And A Plastic Sheet)
  • Plastic/Rubber Gloves
  • Plastic Covering For Work Surface
  • Painter’s Tape (optional)
  • Baking Tray With Rack (optional)
  • Paper Towels/Rags
  • Gallon Plastic Bag or Plastic Wrap

DYE COLOR TIPS: For a sunburst pattern, you can go in many color directions: more traditional with warm ‘sun-like’ colors of yellows, oranges, and reds or more modern with your favorite colors of the rainbow. I took a slightly modern twist, starting with yellow for the center of the sunbursts, then moving into pink, purple and finally turquoise for the background of 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. Put some rubber bands on your shirt where you would like to put each sunburst. This is an easy way to lay it out and move them around until you find something you like. TIP: I put 3 sunbursts on the shirt because I wanted large rings and a decent amount of background space. You can add more sunbursts as long as you understand that the more you add, the less background you’ll have and the smaller the sunbursts will get.

Laying out sunburst pattern on shirt
Laying Out The Sunburst Pattern

3. Using your fingers, pinch the center of one of the sunbursts is and pick the shirt up. Try not to pick up the whole shirt or you will lose the placement of the other sunbursts. Wrap your first rubber band securely around the center of the sunburst.

Wrapping a rubber band around first sunburst pattern
Wrapping A Rubber Band Around The First Sunburst Pattern

4. Continue to add rubber bands to the centers of the other sunbursts. (Now you can move the shirt without messing up the pattern locations)

Wrapping additional rubber bands around center of sunburst patterns
Wrapping The Additional Sunburst Patterns With The First Rubber Band

5. Take one of the sunbursts and wrap a second rubber band around it to create another ring.

Creating second ring of sunburst pattern
Creating A Second Ring Of The Sunburst Pattern

6. Add second rings to the other sunbursts with rubber bands.

Creating second rings of other sunbursts
Creating The Second Rings Of The Other Sunbursts

7. Continue adding additional rings to each sunburst until you either run out of fabric or you complete the number of rings you planned for.

Shirt wrapped in sunburst pattern
Shirt Wrapped In Sunburst Pattern

Dyeing The Shirt

Baking sheet/rack versus just a workspace covered in plastic: I have dyed MANY shirts on just a covered workspace. As long as you have a ton of paper towels and are careful, you will be fine. It is, however, MUCH easier and more environmentally friendly (i.e. paper towel usage) if you use a baking sheet and rack because any excess dye goes directly onto the pan, away from your shirt, and you barely need to use any paper towels. If you plan on tie dyeing a number of items now or in the future I strongly suggest the investment (and the ones I purchased are not expensive).

8. Set your shirt on the baking sheet/cooling rack or covered workspace and put on your gloves. Dye the tips of the sunbursts. Be sure to turn them as needed to cover with dye.

Dyeing tips of sunbursts
Dyeing The Tips Of The Sunbursts

9. Add dye to the second rings. Make sure to add extra dye and let it soak in, so it can get to the center of the shirt. Turn the shirt when needed to cover. NOTE: Letting the extra dye soak in is especially important for this technique. It can be a bit tricky getting the dye all of the way through the shirt, so there aren’t large chunks of white left. Take your time and really let the dye soak in, even by pushing the tip of the bottle into the creases, so you can get to those white spots.

Dyeing second rings of sunburst pattern
Dyeing The Second Rings Of The Sunburst Pattern

10. Continue adding color to each ring until the shirt is completely dyed. Finish by dyeing the background of the shirt.

Completely dyed sunburst pattern
Completely Dyed Sunburst Pattern Shirt

11. As a final touch, give the background fabric a gentle squeeze. This helps insure you get the dye throughout the fabric (because it’s hard to see everything once its in the rubber bands).

Squeezing background fabric to help dye cover
Squeezing The Background Fabric To Help The Dye Cover

12. Once all of the shirt has been dyed, carefully place it in the gallon plastic bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. Personally I prefer the plastic bag as you can easily seal it, label it (if you are dyeing more than one item) and move it if needed without worrying about dye leaking out.

13. Let the shirt sit for minimally 6-8 hours and up to 24 hours max, so the dye can cure. This will help produce the brightest colors.

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.

14. Take the shirt out of the plastic bag and put it 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. You can cut/take off the rubber bands and then rinse the shirt in COLD water. The cold part is critical because it allows excess dye to wash out slowly while not dyeing the remaining white parts of the shirt.

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

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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 there you have it! A bright colorful sunburst tie dye shirt that was made by you!! AWESOME JOB!!
Finished Sunburst Tie Dye Shirt
Finished Sunburst Tie Dye Shirt


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