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Make colourful and creative tie-dye t-shirts without the mess

If you love the look of a tie-dye but don’t love the mess, try this ‘tie-dye’ technique. Whilst this activity doesn’t actually involve any tying, it’s a great way to achieve a similar result and it’s almost mess-free.

June 25, 2020
tie die love heart

All you need is:

  • A bottle of rubbing alcohol (available from supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores).
  • Coloured, alcohol-based permanent markers (such as Sharpie or Bic).
  • A plain t-shirt (white and 100% cotton works best). If the shirt is new, wash and dry it first.
  • A baking tray that will fit inside the t-shirt (you could also use a piece of cardboard covered in aluminium foil or stretch the t-shirt over a bowl and fasten with an elastic band or piece of string). This is to keep the front and back of the shirt separate.
  • A spray bottle or dropper to add the rubbing alcohol.

This activity needs a well-ventilated area

  1. Put the tray or foil-covered cardboard inside the dry shirt (or stretch it over a bowl and secure it with an elastic band or tape).
  2. Draw a pattern with the permanent markers (use a stencil if you like).
  3. Use an eyedropper or spray bottle to apply rubbing alcohol over the patterns.
  4. As the shirt soaks up the alcohol, the colour spreads, creating a tie-dye effect.
  5. Allow the shirt to dry completely.
  6. To set the pattern, it should be ironed on a ‘hot’ setting for about 10 minutes (this should be done by an adult). It can also be put in the tumble dryer on ‘hot’ for 15 minutes (make sure the shirt is completely dry first).

Be creative with your designs and colours

  • Choose the three primary colours (red, blue and yellow) and watch secondary colours appear as they blend together.
  • Experiment with a dropper and a spray bottle to apply the rubbing alcohol and see the different effects.
  • Experiment with your patterns, using different shapes or lines, such as small dots alongside heavy, larger dots.
  • Find some dry leaves and colour them with a marker, then press onto your t-shirt before adding the rubbing alcohol.
  • Try using a different coloured shirt and see what a difference that makes to the colours.
  • Remember to stick with light colours (such as yellow or light blue) or you may not be able to see the effect properly.

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