Ying Yang Tie-Dye Techniques


When it comes to creating your own tie-dye fashions, one of the ways you can go beyond the basics is to incorporate symbols into your designs. The Chinese spiritual symbol of the yin and yang is a fitting tie-in with the ideals of peace associated with the social movements connected to this style of fashion. It's also a simple enough design that you can successfully render it in tie-dye using one of many techniques.

Tied Yin Yang

  • Creating the shape of a yin yang symbol using the white relief shapes in the tied-off portions of tie-dye is a challenge. Though the circular shapes of the outer wheel and eyes are as easy as large and small ties, the "s" in the center of the shape is more difficult. You can get around this by leaving the "s" out on the first dye, then painting with bleach to create it later. Alternately, create the "s" through a line of tiny, tied circles done with miniature rubber bands. To get this right, outline the design in chalk on the fabric before you dye and tie the "s" shapes and eyes before tying the large outer circle. You may want to practice this dye before doing it on the final garment.

Painted Dye

  • If you like the look of a dyed yin yang symbol but can't figure out the complicated process of tying it into place, you can always cheat by applying the dye by hand, like paint. Start with a shirt that's already tie-dyed, and then paint the yin yang symbol in outline over the top of it in a darker dye color.

Fabric Paint

  • Use a combination of tie-dye and fabric paint to create a striking black yin yang shape imposed over a standard tie-dye. Start with a finished tie-dyed shirt, or make one in any colors and design you like. Use black fabric paint (a form of acrylic) to paint the image of a yin-yang over the tie-dye. This creates a more traditional yin-yang, but with colorful dye patterns in the place of the white portions of the symbol.

Two Color Schemes

  • Whether you create the outline of your yin yang with tie-dye or fabric paint, emphasize the shape of the symbol in the shirt design by using a different color scheme of dyes inside the yin yang from the one you use on the rest of the shirt. For best results, do this by dyeing the rest of the shirt, letting it dry fully, and then dyeing the inside of the symbol.


  • For an easy way to render the yin yang shape in tie-dye alone, sew patches of tie-dyed t-shirt fabric in another color and pattern over an already tie-dyed t-shirt. Use a running stitch (straight line stitch) on a sewing machine to sew the pieces in place. Then send the fabric through the wash to fray the edges of the shirt outside the hems, creating an attractive frilly edge around the lines of the symbol.

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  • "Tie-Dye! The How-To Book;" Virginia Gleser and Viorginia Gleser; 1999
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