How to Tie-Dye Using Acrylic Paint

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Traditional tie-dying involves tying and immersing the material into several shades of dye, one at a time. The process is time-consuming and a difficult undertaking for beginners. But imagine creating a tie-dye look without using dye at all. It's possible to use acrylic paint instead, and the process is easy enough for kids to join in the fun.

Things You'll Need

  • Liquid acrylic paints in bright colors
  • Textile medium or rubbing alcohol
  • Plastic mixing containers
  • Old strainer
  • Plastic squeeze bottles
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Paint brushes
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rubber bands
  • T-shirt or other material
  • Smock and table covering

Prepare the Paint

Rubbing Alcohol Method

Rubbing alcohol will separate the acrylic components from the color, and leave you with just the pure hue, reducing the chance of your masterpiece drying with a hard finish as acrylics often do.

Step 1

Pour some acrylic paint into a plastic mixing container and add an equal amount of rubbing alcohol.

Step 2

Mix it thoroughly with a paint brush to dilute the color and to separate the color from the acrylics and the oils.

Tip

  • After you mix the alcohol and the paint, you can repeat the process by adding more alcohol, which will further dilute and separate so that you will have more color to work with.

Step 3

Strain the mixture through a strainer.

Step 4

Rinse the strainer to remove residue and repeat the entire process two more times, adding more alcohol each time.

Step 5

Pour the remaining color, with acrylic residue removed, into a plastic squeeze bottle and repeat the process with your other colors.

Textile Medium Method

Instead of using alcohol to make the acrylic paint fabric-friendly, you can add a textile medium to help it dry softer. This process is much faster, but the materials cost a little more.

Step 1

Pour two parts of acrylic paint to one part textile medium into a plastic squeeze bottle and add six parts water.

Step 2

Shake the bottle until it's fully mixed and repeat with your other colors.

Prepare the Material

You can tie-dye T-shirts, pillowcases, wall hangings, sheets or just about any other material you can think of. Cotton or cotton blends will take the color the best.

  • Lightly mist your material with water using the spray bottle. 
  • Gather random parts of the damp material in small bunches and put a rubber band tightly around each scrunched piece of fabric.
  • To make a spiral design, twist your material in a circular motion, starting from the center, and tie the entire shape together with numerous rubber bands.

Paint the Material

Now that everything is prepped, lay out your table covering to protect your furniture and put on a smock so you don't get paint on your clothes. The creative part is about to begin.

Step 1

Wearing rubber gloves, gently squeeze paint onto the material, making sure the tip of the bottle is close to the fabric. You want the paint going into the grooves and crevices of fabric, not splashing onto you or the furniture.

Step 2

Put several colors on the material in different areas.

Tip

  • Be sure not to put complimentary colors side by side -- red/green, yellow/purple, blue/orange -- since the resulting mixture is muddy brown.

Step 3

Add enough paint so the material is saturated but not dripping.

Step 4

Let the piece dry for an hour or more before removing the rubber bands. Hang it up or lay it out to continue drying flat.

Step 5

When nearly dry, put the fabric in the dryer to heat-set the colors.

Turn the tie-dyed piece inside-out for all future washing to protect the design.

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