Wet vs. Dry Tie-Dyeing

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Tie-dyeing is a simple way to turn a plain t-shirt into a work of art. You'll find that while the process of tie-dyeing a wet or dry shirt is similar, there's a distinct difference in the results of each technique.

The Basic Process


For both methods, cover the work area with plastic or newspaper to protect it. Keep in mind dye safety as you prepare the work area, wearing gloves and old clothing for protection.


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Wet Tie-Dying

To wet tie-dye, begin by washing the shirt to remove sizing that might interfere with dyeing. Once cleaned, dip the shirt in water, then squeeze out any excess. Pinch and fold the fabric all over, securing with rubber bands as you work.

The squirt bottle method is one of the most common methods for tie-dyeing. Using squirt bottles prepared with dye mixtures, squirt dyes on the shirt as desired, alternating colors to create colorful patterns.

Dry Tie-Dying

For dry tie-dyeing, the process is very similar to wet tie-dyeing, except that you will need to completely dry the shirt after washing it.


Finishing the Tie-Dyed Shirts

After you finish dyeing the shirt, the dye will need to set. Place the shirt in a plastic bag for 24 hours so that the colors set. The longer the colors set, the more the fabric will absorb the dye.


Rinse the shirt until the water runs clear. Allow the shirt to air dry to preserve the colors.

Amount of Dye

Dry fabric soaks up more dye than wet fabric. Therefore, the dry method requires more liquid dye than the wet method.


If you find that the squirt bottle method does not work for you, you can also try the bucket method of dyeing. This method is ideal if you are dyeing several t-shirts at the same time. Dyes are prepared in individual buckets, then the shirt is dyed starting with the lightest color. You'll be able to reuse each bucket of dye again with fresh t-shirts, saving you prep time.


Color Patterns

One major difference between wet and dry dyeing is the crispness of the colors. If you wet dye, the colors will bleed into one another, creating an even flow from one color to the next. This is a useful technique if you're going for an ombre look, for example. Wet dyed colors also tend to be lighter since the water acts as a resistant.


However, if you dry dye, the transition from one color to the next will be very obvious and abrupt. Use this technique if you want the design to be clean between color changes. Dry dyeing will result in more even colors with less resistance, since there is no water interacting with it.


If you're not sure which technique is right for you, experiment with small scraps of t-shirt fabric to find out which you prefer.

Time Commitment

Besides color, another factor to consider when choosing between the wet and dry method is time. Generally, wet dying will take a bit longer than dry dying, simply because the t-shirt is more saturated and may need more time to dry.