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11 Tie Dye Designs to Upgrade A Summer Wardrobe

Here's how to make tie-dye hearts, spirals, and sunbursts, plus other cool tie-dye techniques to give your kid's tshirt drawer a colorful upgrade.

Margo Gothelf and Sarah Burns

how to make tie dye designs

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Does your kid love surprises? How about crafting? A little fashion too? You're in the right place. Tie dyeing combines all of those elements — plus, it's the perfect summer activity. Whether they're new to tie dyeing or they've made 100 shirts, they're going to want to check out the designs below. Each element of tie dyeing is exciting, from picking out the designs to waiting for the reveal. By the end of the summer, they'll be a tie dyeing machine!

1. Spiral Tie Dye Design

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Sarah Stearns for Sarah Maker

Let's start off with a classic spiral. The spiral is deceivingly simple. From the outside, it looks complicated to get all of those swirls to perfectly fall in line. But in reality it's pretty straightforward and easy to master, whether it’s your kid's first time tie dyeing or their 400th. Pro tip: keep the fabric and the rubber bands nice and tight to form a smooth flow between the colors. 

2. Accordion Tie Dye Design

If they can fold a shirt, they'll have no problem perfecting the accordion pattern. The shirt gets folded under then over multiple times to make winding lines running through the design. If they need practice, have them help you with the laundry, and they'll be a master at this folding technique before they know it.  

3. Bull’s Eye Tie Dye Design

No mystery here: The bullseye design is exactly what it sounds like! To make this design, they'll need to pinch the fabric of their shirt from the very middle, basically making the fabric into a cone. Once it's wrapped tightly with a rubber band, they'll repeat the process a few times, gathering more fabric along the way. Now, when they're picking what color they want to dye the shirt, make sure they choose carefully. Whatever color they choose for the tip of the cone will be front and center on the bullseye! 

4. Crumple Tie Dye Design

Shoving your t-shirt into a ball and throwing it in a drawer is normally not what you want to do. However, with this crumpled tie dye pattern, that is pretty much the technique! If your kid wants to take the design up a notch, they can add in a few rubber bands to make sure the crumples stay put. Not only is this the easiest tie dye design to master, but it is also great for little ones who want to get in on the action and can't manage the complicated folds and ties.

5. Ice Dyeing

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Sarah Stearns for Sarah Maker

If they like surprises and want to ditch the traditional tie dye designs, they are going to want to give ice dyeing a try. Ice dyeing swaps out traditional liquid dye for powdered dye and uses ice cubes to make a unique watercolor-like design. So, how does it work? The dye and ice cubes get scattered all over whatever you are tie dyeing. As the ice cubes melt, they drip down into the shirt, carrying the dye with them into the fabric. Since the ice cubes melt at different rates, there's no telling what the end product is going to look like, making the reveal extra exciting.

6. Shibori Tie Dye Design

When the kids have mastered the basic tie dye designs and want to up their game, have them try out the Shibori pattern. This modern design with traditional Japanese origins is way more technical than your average spiral. The intricate folds are worth the hassle and will give any item of clothing a unique upgrade. Once they've got this pattern down, they can use it to go a little tie dye crazy — they could try dying curtains, pillowcases, or sweatpants and give everything the Shibori look!

7. Watercolor Tie Dye Design

Turn tie dyeing into watercolor painting in this mashup your kid never knew they needed. All they'll need is a few paintbrushes and the typical tie dye materials to transform a t-shirt into a canvas. They simply dip the paintbrushes into the dye just like they would paint. When the dye hits the shirt, it creates a watercolor-like effect, turning their shirt into a work of art. Pro tip: keep an extra brush around just to dip in water to deepen the watercolor effect.

8. Heart Tie Dye Design

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Sarah Stearns for Sarah Maker

What better way to express your love than to put it directly on your t-shirt? You kid can share the love and show off their love for tie dyeing with this heart tie dye design. To make the heart stand out, they'll have to draw a heart on their t-shirt with a washable marker. Don't worry if it's not exact, the dye will fill in any of the cracks. 

9. Ombré Tie Dye Design

Everyone is going to want to know where they got their ombré tie dye t-shirt. Don't be surprised when they don't believe that it's homemade! To create this trendy item, have your kid pick one color to saturate the bottom of the shirt. Then, they'll use a thick paintbrush with water to spread out the dye towards the top of the shirt. The water will gradually spread out the color creating the ombré effect. Have them try it with one color or choose a few different colors that will seamlessly blend into one another. Either way — don't give up the secret on how easy it is to master this design!

10. Sunburst Tie Dye Design

There's never a lack of color when it comes to tie dye shirts — especially with a sunburst pattern. The sunburst pattern is the cousin to the bull's eye pattern. The design pretty much creates the same look, just in multiple areas on the shirt. How big your kid will want the bursts to look depends on how many colors they want to use. They should stick to two colors for small quick bursts or around the shirt, or go with three or four colors to make eye-catching pops of color all around.

11. Chevron Tie Dye Design

If they're a fan of the accordion pattern, they're going to be an even bigger fan of the chevron pattern. The design works pretty much the same but ties the shirt together on a diagonal to create that signature chevron look. They can match this shirt with a chevron friendship bracelet, and they'll have the ultimate summer outfit ready to go!

Need some tie dye supplies to get started? These kits have everything you your kid needs to transform their summer wardrobe!

Updated June 2022