How to tie dye paper

No t-shirt for tie dye? No problem! Plus, this tie dyed paper towel is a whole lot less mess! Find out how to make tie dye paper as a cool way to explore colorful process art with minimal supplies. In fact, I bet you can try it right now! Even learn a little about the science of how to tie dye paper towels and turn this into an easy STEAM project for kids!

HOW TO TIE DYE PAPER FOR KIDS!

How to tie dye paper

HOW TO MAKE TIE DYE

Tie dye is a way of producing fun colorful patterns in fabric by tying parts of it to shield it from the dye. The dyes used for tie dye are called fiber-reactive. That means a chemical reaction takes place between the dye molecules and the cotton molecules.

The dye bonds with the cotton and actually becomes a part of the paper or fabric. That is why the dyes are so permanent and vibrant on fabric even after several washings.

Can you use food coloring to tie dye? Yes, you can! Add a few drops of food coloring to water and mix well. Once you master tie dying paper, you could try actual clothing! It’s fun and beautiful!

You could also try it with our DIY watercolor paint recipe!

Grab this free process art project right now!

How to tie dye paper

TIE DYED PAPER

YOU WILL NEED:

  • White paper towels
  • Food coloring
  • Pipettes
  • Water
  • Small jars or plastic containers

HOW TO TIE DYE PAPER

STEP 1. Mix a few drops of food coloring with water in separate small shallow bowls.

STEP 2. Fold a paper towel in half and then in half again until you have a small square.

STEP 3. Quickly tip each corner of the folded towel into the colored water of your choosing.

TIP: Don’t leave in the water long or put it in too deep as the color will quickly travel beyond the dipped area.

STEP 4. Unfold and refold your paper towel in a different direction to dip and color the middle if desired. You can leave some sections white or you can saturate the towel with different colored hues. Experiment with your tie dye!

How to tie dye paper

MORE FUN ART ACTIVITIES

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

MAKE COLORFUL TIE DYE PAPER

Click on the image below or on the link for more art activities that contain a bit of science!

How to tie dye paper

Tie dye is a favorite at my house. We don’t do it terribly often because it is a big, stinkin’ deal. Usually it involves a sunny day, buckets, and a hose. Traditional tie dye is an outside only affair at our house. This easy tie dye process uses just food coloring and tissue paper. You get all the amazing designs without all the mess!

Tie dye with these materials, on this scale, allow for the same awesome patterns and vibrant color. This smaller scale is easier to control and allows for some awesome art making possibilities!

What you need for this easy tie dye process…

As do lots of my favorite projects this one begins with a trip to the pantry. These bright colors are all thanks to liquid food coloring. We used the basic set from our local dollar store. That means we started with just four colors , plus made some new ones by mixing.

Although if you wanted to splurge you could use this set with eight colors from Wilton. Extra colors are always nice!

The other items you will need are plain white tissue paper and rubber bands. All easy, right? If you don’t have tissue paper try subbing coffee filters. You’ll get some awesome tie dye radial designs!

How to tie dye paper

Fold it up, baby….

Remember folding up notes in intricate patterns in middle school? No, maybe you weren’t a 90’s teen as I was. Pre cell service folded notes were the mode of communication.

Take a square of tissue paper, any size, and fold it up. I give no specific instructions because we made a bunch of these and folded every one of them differently and they were all beautiful. Back and forth like an accordion, diamond shaped, football shaped, they all work.

Twist a rubber band around it if needed. This helped some shapes stay together while others didn’t need it.

(Edited to add- If you have no rubber bands continue on with this easy tie dye project.. As soon as the folded shapes get wet they stay folded.!)

How to tie dye paper

Preparing food colors for tie dye…

Distribute a little food coloring, and a little water in some small containers. Food coloring is concentrated so it doesn’t need to be pure. But the more color you use the brighter it will be.

Dip a corner into a color and watch how quickly the liquid travels up the absorbent tissue paper. You wanna’ be intentional about this or you will end up with only one color in your tie dye design!

Move around the folded tissue shape, dipping in corners here and there.

Try layering colors on top of one another. Dip the lighter color first. It will absorb completely. Then add an additional color on top. It usually shows up best only on the outer layers which adds a whole new dimension to those areas.

I love how amazingly vibrant these colors remained, even after drying.

How to tie dye paper

Patience, patience….

Leave them folded till they are dry. That’s right, keep your grubby little paws off the pretty folded paper till it’s dry. It’s hard, I know.

Leaving them folded allows the color to soak in and stay where they are. you want that, trust me. If you get impatient and try to unfold them when they’re still damp the tissue paper is super fragile making it almost impossible to do without some tearing.

Unfold them gently when dry. I went so far as to iron mine. Because I love them, and wanted them to look their best.

Easy tie dye possibilities…

When dry and flat this is some pretty paper. The possibilities for what to do with it are endless. As is, it’s striking. Think of the possibilities for using it as part of a collage, a paper quilt, or making prints on top of the tie dye patterns.

How to tie dye paper

No t-shirt for tie dye? No problem! Plus, this tie dyed paper towel is a whole lot less mess! Find out how to make tie dye paper as a cool way to explore colorful process art with minimal supplies. In fact, I bet you can try it right now! Even learn a little about the science of how to tie dye paper towels and turn this into an easy STEAM project for kids!

HOW TO TIE DYE PAPER FOR KIDS!

How to tie dye paper

HOW TO MAKE TIE DYE

Tie dye is a way of producing fun colorful patterns in fabric by tying parts of it to shield it from the dye. The dyes used for tie dye are called fiber-reactive. That means a chemical reaction takes place between the dye molecules and the cotton molecules.

The dye bonds with the cotton and actually becomes a part of the paper or fabric. That is why the dyes are so permanent and vibrant on fabric even after several washings.

Can you use food coloring to tie dye? Yes, you can! Add a few drops of food coloring to water and mix well. Once you master tie dying paper, you could try actual clothing! It’s fun and beautiful!

You could also try it with our DIY watercolor paint recipe!

Grab this free process art project right now!

How to tie dye paper

TIE DYED PAPER

YOU WILL NEED:

  • White paper towels
  • Food coloring
  • Pipettes
  • Water
  • Small jars or plastic containers

HOW TO TIE DYE PAPER

STEP 1. Mix a few drops of food coloring with water in separate small shallow bowls.

STEP 2. Fold a paper towel in half and then in half again until you have a small square.

STEP 3. Quickly tip each corner of the folded towel into the colored water of your choosing.

TIP: Don’t leave in the water long or put it in too deep as the color will quickly travel beyond the dipped area.

STEP 4. Unfold and refold your paper towel in a different direction to dip and color the middle if desired. You can leave some sections white or you can saturate the towel with different colored hues. Experiment with your tie dye!

How to tie dye paper

MORE FUN ART ACTIVITIES

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

MAKE COLORFUL TIE DYE PAPER

Click on the image below or on the link for more art activities that contain a bit of science!

Introduction: How to Tie Dye

This instructable will teach you how to get Tie Dye and what you will need to do so. It takes a little time but in the enc you’ll be happy with the results you get from using this method! The photo above shows a finish product of a tie dye shirt if you were to go about the following steps.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

First off, you’ll need to gather your supplies. You can buy individual dyes, rubber bands, and gloves or you can buy a kit and have all that work done for you. I’m lazy, so I opted for the kit. I got this one at JoAnn’s with a 40% off coupon, so it was about $6. You can also buy them online at Amazon in lots of color combinations. I’m going to show you how to use this kit in this tutorial, so if you opt for a different set of materials, follow the instructions for those dyes.

This kit said that it dyed “up to 8 shirts” but I only had enough dye for six shirts — one adult sized and 5 kid sized. I had to really stretch to get that 6th shirt dyed too, so I probably shouldn’t really count it in the total.

In addition to the supplies in the kit (pictured above), you will also need garbage bags to cover your work surface and ziplock bags to store your shirts in while the dye sets up. You will also need something to dye, of course.

Step 2: Fold Your Shirt

I’m going to start off showing you how to do a spiral pattern because that’s the most dramatic and fun pattern to make.

– First, lay your shirt out flat. Your shirt should be washed to remove any sizing if it’s brand new. It should also be a little damp when you fold it and add the dyes.

Step 3: Fold Your Shirt (Continued)

Next, pinch the shirt somewhere in the middle and start twisting the fabric around. Keep twisting until the whole shirt has been twisted into a disk. As you go, make little adjustments here and there so you have lots of folds and pleats in the fabric. This exposes more fabric to the dyes and will make for a more interesting pattern.

Step 4: Fold Your Shirt (Continued)

You should end up with a flat, twisty disc, like the one above. It should look kind of like a hurricane.

Step 5: Fold Your Shirt (Final Step)

Next, carefully wrap rubber bands around the shirt. Put the rubber bands on so they intersect over the center of the disc (or the “eye of the hurricane”). You should use at least three bands, which will divide the disc up into 6 segments. I used six bands on this one because this was an adult sized shirt and it felt a little floppy with only three.

If you’re doing other shirts, you should fold and tie those up now too.

Step 6: Dye Your Shirt

Prepare you work surface by putting garbage bags down. You can do this inside, but it’s messy enough that if you’re doing this with kids, you should just plan on doing it outside. Don’t work right on the ground though because your shirt will get dirty and mess up all your hard work.

Once your workspace is ready, put on your gloves and prep your dyes. The dyes in my kit were already in squirt bottles and all I had to do was add water and shake them. I found that it worked best to fill them about half way, shake until the dye powder was dissolved and then add the rest of the water and shake a bit more. Next, start squirting the dyes on the shirt. This is the fun part!

To make the the spiral pattern, you need to squirt the wedges between the rubber bands.You can see what I mean by looking at the pictures. Squirt both sides of the disc and open the folds of the shirt here and there to make sure the dye is getting to the fabric in the middle of the shirt too. If there’s no dye in the middle, squirt a little in.

Step 7: Dye Your Shirt (Final Step)

It’s OK if the dye crosses the lines a little and mixes — that will make your shirt more interesting. Keep in mind that if you mix some colors together — say orange and green — they will result in a muddy brown color. You’ll have better luck mixing analogous colors (ones that are next to each other in the rainbow). Since I used primary colors for the dyes I didn’t have to worry about that.

Step 8: Let the Dye Sit

Once your shirts are all dyed, put them in plastic bags to let the dyes set. You want them to remain damp, so sealing them in ziplock bags works well. The kit I had said to leave them 6-8 hours, but I left them overnight and found that that made the colors much brighter.

Step 9: Rinse & Untie

After the dyes have set up over night (or for 6-8 hours), rinse the shirt until the water runs clear.

Step 10: Fin

Then, it’s time for the big reveal! Pull the rubber bands off your shirt and shake it out to see your design.

Now, wash it in the washing machine. I highly recommend that you avoid putting your classic white button down shirt in with it. You might even go so far as to only wash your tie-dye shirt with other tie-dye shirts on this first round. After that, use your best judgment and enjoy looking like a hippie!

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2 Comments

How to tie dye paper

Question 10 months ago on Step 6

How will i mix the two colours

How to tie dye paper

Cool tutorial. I do have two suggestions. I run arts and crafts at a summer camp and before tie-dying them we soak the clothing or whatever in water mixed with soda ash (1 gallon of water per 1/2 cup of soda ash). The soda ash helps the dye set even more. And we usually let the shirts etc. sit for 12-24 hours if possible. However I know you were working off the instructions I just thought I would make the suggestion

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

A no prep paper towel tie dye art for kids to enjoy drawing patterns and create a tie dyed treasure with just paper towels, markers and water!

How to tie dye paper

Did you ever notice that paper towels have a pattern art design on them? How they lend themselves to some amazing paper towel art?

It’s true! Paper towels hold such a great opportunity for an easy tie dye art and drawing activity for kids (and adults).

This color fun activity is so simple, yet so much fun.

This no prep activity only requires a few basic, household supplies.

Supplies to Tie Dye Paper Towels

  • Paper towels
  • Washable markers
  • Dropper or baster for water
  • Cup

How to tie dye paper

Grab some Paper Towels & Make Design Patterns!

Grab some sheets of paper towels, either the bigger sheets or smaller half sheets are fine for the tie dyed art.

You’ll need one sheet to make the pattern art.

It’s important to place another sheet underneath it, as the marker bleeds through the paper towel.

Find a well lit area either inside or outside. Better lighting makes it easier to see the paper towel design.

Choose a variety of marker colors for your tie dye art and begin following the design on the paper towel.

Tip: It’s best to draw the tie dye pattern art with dots, versus tracing the lines. The dots provide spacing for the colors to blend.

How to tie dye paper

Once you have completed one design area, move onto another. Try to copy the same pattern of colors as used before.

My daughter is very meticulous. So she wanted me to draw a pattern first and then she would try her best to copy that pattern.

How to tie dye paper

Paper Towel Patterns are a Learning Opportunity

Learning Tip: Talk with your child about patterns. How they are designs that repeat, either with colors or shapes. You can even discuss number and letter patterns as well.

Don’t worry if the pattern isn’t perfect or if the colors don’t match. The design on the paper towel is actually an example of a patterned design.

Side note: if the paper towel you are using for your tie dye art doesn’t have a pre-made design, create your own.

Follow the paper towel design until it’s full. Keep varying marker colors.

How to tie dye paper

You may find that your child doesn’t want to fill-up the entire paper towel. That’s totally fine. Stop when they want to.

The tie dyed art will still work even if the paper towels aren’t filled up.

Time to Tie Dye Your Paper Towels

Making tie dyed art can sometimes be a time consuming process, but not this type of paper towel tie dye.

Important Note: if your child wants to keep their patterned paper towel art, don’t add the water. The pattern gets lost in the blending of the colors.

My son liked his paper towel pattern art so much, that he didn’t want to add the water to his own creation. But, he liked adding it to mine.

Choose a surface that can get wet and place a few sheets of blank paper towels on top of the surface.

Then place your patterned paper towel on the top.

The colors in the drawing will bleed through to create multiple tie dye paper towels! It’s like magic!

Fill a cup with water and show your child how to fill their dropper with the water in the cup.

This is a great exercise to strengthen those fine motor skills.

Have your child slowly drop the water over the colored patterns.

You’ll notice that the colors will spread through the paper towels and create a tie dyed effect.

How to tie dye paper

Add water to the full paper towel or just to one section, it’s up to your little artist.

Do not over water the paper towel. With too much water the designs disappear completely. And the paper towel gets soaked.

I encouraged my kids to squeeze droplets from the dropper as they moved across their tie dye drawings.

How to tie dye paper

Ta-Da! Watch the Magic of the Tie Dye Happen!

When your child finishes adding water to their tie dye, slowly separate each of the paper towel sheets.

You’ll notice that the colors from the top sheet, soaked onto some of the blank sheets below. Providing you with even more tie dyed fun!

How to tie dye paper

Once separated, let the wet tie dyed paper towel sheets dry.

We brought our designs outside to dry and placed a rock on top of them so that they wouldn’t blow away in the wind.

Paper Towel Tie Dye Art Extension Ideas

Here are some more ideas for what you can do with your finished paper towel tie dye art.

  • Cut out shapes and glue them on a piece of paper.
  • Make a banner using the sheets of tie dyed paper towels with string.
  • Frame and display as a piece of abstract art.
  • Turn the tie dye art drawings into butterflies like we did with coffee filters and clothespins
  • Crumble up the paper towels and have a colorful “snowball” fight.
  • Cut circles out of your finished tie dye drawings and turn them into flower like these cards

How to tie dye paper

Remember to have fun and enjoy the time together. And be creative with this simple and fun paper towel pattern drawing and tie dye art activity.

Introduction: How to Tie Dye

This instructable will teach you how to get Tie Dye and what you will need to do so. It takes a little time but in the enc you’ll be happy with the results you get from using this method! The photo above shows a finish product of a tie dye shirt if you were to go about the following steps.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

First off, you’ll need to gather your supplies. You can buy individual dyes, rubber bands, and gloves or you can buy a kit and have all that work done for you. I’m lazy, so I opted for the kit. I got this one at JoAnn’s with a 40% off coupon, so it was about $6. You can also buy them online at Amazon in lots of color combinations. I’m going to show you how to use this kit in this tutorial, so if you opt for a different set of materials, follow the instructions for those dyes.

This kit said that it dyed “up to 8 shirts” but I only had enough dye for six shirts — one adult sized and 5 kid sized. I had to really stretch to get that 6th shirt dyed too, so I probably shouldn’t really count it in the total.

In addition to the supplies in the kit (pictured above), you will also need garbage bags to cover your work surface and ziplock bags to store your shirts in while the dye sets up. You will also need something to dye, of course.

Step 2: Fold Your Shirt

I’m going to start off showing you how to do a spiral pattern because that’s the most dramatic and fun pattern to make.

– First, lay your shirt out flat. Your shirt should be washed to remove any sizing if it’s brand new. It should also be a little damp when you fold it and add the dyes.

Step 3: Fold Your Shirt (Continued)

Next, pinch the shirt somewhere in the middle and start twisting the fabric around. Keep twisting until the whole shirt has been twisted into a disk. As you go, make little adjustments here and there so you have lots of folds and pleats in the fabric. This exposes more fabric to the dyes and will make for a more interesting pattern.

Step 4: Fold Your Shirt (Continued)

You should end up with a flat, twisty disc, like the one above. It should look kind of like a hurricane.

Step 5: Fold Your Shirt (Final Step)

Next, carefully wrap rubber bands around the shirt. Put the rubber bands on so they intersect over the center of the disc (or the “eye of the hurricane”). You should use at least three bands, which will divide the disc up into 6 segments. I used six bands on this one because this was an adult sized shirt and it felt a little floppy with only three.

If you’re doing other shirts, you should fold and tie those up now too.

Step 6: Dye Your Shirt

Prepare you work surface by putting garbage bags down. You can do this inside, but it’s messy enough that if you’re doing this with kids, you should just plan on doing it outside. Don’t work right on the ground though because your shirt will get dirty and mess up all your hard work.

Once your workspace is ready, put on your gloves and prep your dyes. The dyes in my kit were already in squirt bottles and all I had to do was add water and shake them. I found that it worked best to fill them about half way, shake until the dye powder was dissolved and then add the rest of the water and shake a bit more. Next, start squirting the dyes on the shirt. This is the fun part!

To make the the spiral pattern, you need to squirt the wedges between the rubber bands.You can see what I mean by looking at the pictures. Squirt both sides of the disc and open the folds of the shirt here and there to make sure the dye is getting to the fabric in the middle of the shirt too. If there’s no dye in the middle, squirt a little in.

Step 7: Dye Your Shirt (Final Step)

It’s OK if the dye crosses the lines a little and mixes — that will make your shirt more interesting. Keep in mind that if you mix some colors together — say orange and green — they will result in a muddy brown color. You’ll have better luck mixing analogous colors (ones that are next to each other in the rainbow). Since I used primary colors for the dyes I didn’t have to worry about that.

Step 8: Let the Dye Sit

Once your shirts are all dyed, put them in plastic bags to let the dyes set. You want them to remain damp, so sealing them in ziplock bags works well. The kit I had said to leave them 6-8 hours, but I left them overnight and found that that made the colors much brighter.

Step 9: Rinse & Untie

After the dyes have set up over night (or for 6-8 hours), rinse the shirt until the water runs clear.

Step 10: Fin

Then, it’s time for the big reveal! Pull the rubber bands off your shirt and shake it out to see your design.

Now, wash it in the washing machine. I highly recommend that you avoid putting your classic white button down shirt in with it. You might even go so far as to only wash your tie-dye shirt with other tie-dye shirts on this first round. After that, use your best judgment and enjoy looking like a hippie!

Be the First to Share

Did you make this project? Share it with us!

Recommendations

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

How to tie dye paper

STEM Contest

How to tie dye paper

Role Playing Game Challenge

How to tie dye paper

Cardboard Speed Challenge

How to tie dye paper

2 Comments

How to tie dye paper

Question 10 months ago on Step 6

How will i mix the two colours

How to tie dye paper

Cool tutorial. I do have two suggestions. I run arts and crafts at a summer camp and before tie-dying them we soak the clothing or whatever in water mixed with soda ash (1 gallon of water per 1/2 cup of soda ash). The soda ash helps the dye set even more. And we usually let the shirts etc. sit for 12-24 hours if possible. However I know you were working off the instructions I just thought I would make the suggestion

How to tie dye paper

  • Stir well.
  • Using a spare piece of paper, test the color by dipping it directly into the dyebath. If the color is too light, add more dye; if it is too dark, add more water.
  • Dip paper directly into the dyebath. It will dye within a few seconds.

    How to tie dye paper

  • Important Note: Do not keep paper in dyebath for too long. It could warp the paper.
  • Optional Techniques:
    1. If you are looking to achieve a dip dye or ombré effect, dip the paper in quickly and then pull it out slowly, allowing the bottom portions of the paper to spend a few more seconds in the dye to achieve an ombré effect. The longer the paper stays in the dye, the darker it will be. A few extra seconds should be sufficient.

    How to tie dye paper

  • To create a batik-dyed effect, stamp, stencil or brush a resist medium, such as Crafter’s Pick Batik-EZ™ Resist Medium, onto watercolor paper before applying dye. Let the resist dry. Spray, drip, drizzle or brush the dye solution over the entire piece of paper using a spray bottle, Preval Sprayer or brush. Or you can dip dye the paper by dipping part of it into the dyebath. Place dyed paper with resist medium in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds. This helps the dye bond to the paper and dries the resist. Then rinse the paper under running water and use a sea sponge to remove the resist medium and excess dye.
  • To achieve consistent results, make sure the dye stays hot. This is especially an issue if you are doing a large project with a lot of paper. Dye can be reheated in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove paper from the dyebath and blot it with a clean paper towel to remove excess dye.
  • Lay paper out flat on clean dry paper towels until completely dry.
  • To help bond the dye to the paper and prevent bleeding if the paper gets wet, you can place it in on paper towels in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • A super kid-friendly way to learn how to tie dye using the ubiquitous paper towel!

    How to tie dye paper

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Explore symmetrical patterns when you make these beautiful tie dye paper towels. This project is from my book STEAM Play & Learn. You can see it on Amazon here and Bookshop here

    How to tie dye paper

    Materials

    • Paper towelsTip: Use super absorbent towels without any prints
    • Food Coloring in red, blue, and yellow
    • Pipettes
    • Water
    • Jars or small plastic containers

    Parent Prep: Mix the food coloring with water in three separate containers. It should be a strong solution.

    How to tie dye paper

    Instructions

    Time needed: 10 minutes.

    Fold a paper towel as small as you can. You can fold it into triangles, squares or any other shape. Hint: The more times you fold the towel, the more patterns you will see when you open it up.How to tie dye paper

    Drop food coloring on one side of the folded towel with pipettes.How to tie dye paper

    Turn over the folded towel and drop food coloring on the other side.How to tie dye paper

    Open up the paper towel to reveal a patterned design.How to tie dye paper

    Let’s Talk STEAM

    The Science: Paper towels are made from trees. Trees absorb water through a process called capillary action. This is the ability of a liquid to flow upward and through materials with many little holes in them, also called porous materials. As you drop colored water onto the paper towel it quickly spreads out and through the porous material.

    The Art: Red, blue, and yellow are primary colors. When they combine you may see a new color appear! This is called a secondary color. The secondary colors are green, orange, and purple.

    How to tie dye paper

    The Math: Symmetry is when you see the same image repeated along a line called an axis. Each fold of the towel creates a new axis. When you drop color on these axes, you create symmetrical patterns which are visible once you unfold the towel.