How to Tie-Dye T-Shirts Using Rubbing Alcohol and Sharpies

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Mention the 1960s, and many people quickly envision tie-dyed T-shirts and love beads. Tie-dyed fashions have cycled back into popularity more than once since then, but dying your own shirts, bandanas or other accessories is a messy proposition if you use regular fabric dyes. For a simpler, neater method, grab your permanent markers and some rubbing alcohol, and get your tie-dye craftiness on.


Things You'll Need

  • 100% cotton T-shirt

  • Scrap cardboard (large enough to underlie your whole design)

  • Permanent markers

  • Baking sheet

  • Binder clips or rubber bands

  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol

  • Eyedropper

  • Iron or clothes dryer

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First Steps to Tie-Dying

Step 1

Wash the shirt to remove the sizing. Dry it completely.

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Step 2

While the shirt is drying, make a rough sketch of your design. You can work with random lines and dots, or you can create a more organized pattern. For example, you might draw concentric circles in different colors, or you could make a flower with a large dot in the center of a circle of smaller dots.

Step 3

Slip the cardboard between the layers of the dried shirt. This will keep the design on the desired side of the shirt, rather than having it bleed all the way through.

Decorate Your Shirt

Step 1

Now that the shirt is prepared, transfer your pattern.


  • Lightly sketch the design on the shirt with a pencil or use dressmakers' transfer paper.
  • Trace over the sketch lines with permanent markers.

Step 2

Remove the cardboard.

Step 3

Gently stretch the colored area of the shirt over the baking sheet. Add binder clips or rubber bands to hold it securely in place.


Step 4

Slowly drip alcohol with the eyedropper into the center of the design. Remember that your design will spread more and become larger with more alcohol.

Step 5

Allow the shirt to dry completely.

Step 6

Set the ink by ironing it on a high temperature for 5 minutes or by putting it in the clothes dryer on high for 15 minutes.


For small designs, substitute a wide-mouthed plastic cup or glass jar for the baking sheet. Use rubber bands to hold the shirt in place.



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