How to Tie Dye a Shirt With Food Coloring

Do you want a bold new look for your wardrobe? Instead of heading to the mall or buying expensive clothing, wear tie-dye! You can make your own tie-dye shirt with food coloring and freezer paper. 

Tie-dyeing t-shirts are an easy way to express yourself, and you can even create tie-dye clothes with your friends. Tie-dyeing is also a great way to recycle old clothes!

The best part is that tie-dyeing is a very affordable activity. All you need to get started are some white t-shirts, food coloring, freezer paper, and some other easily available things.

Can I Tie-dye With Food Coloring?

Yes, you can tie-dye with food coloring. In fact, food coloring is one of the most popular methods for tie-dyeing clothes. This is because food coloring is easy to use and creates vibrant colors. 

Food coloring typically comes packaged in little bottles that can be easily squirted into your tie-dye container. When you are finished with your masterpiece, you can just throw the bottle away since food coloring is completely non-toxic.

The only downside to using food coloring is that it may cause staining of certain materials or colors. For example, if you are using a white t-shirt as your canvas, food coloring may cause it to become slightly pink or purple.

So, if you are planning on tie-dyeing a light-colored item, be sure to test the dye first to make sure that it doesn’t cause any staining.

Overall, food coloring is a great option for tie-dyeing because the colors are vibrant and it is easy to use. If you’re looking for a non-toxic way to create incredible works of art, then food coloring is definitely the way to go!

Things I Will Need To Tie Dye A Shirt With Food Coloring

  1. Styrofoam Plates
  2. Scissors/X-Acto Knife
  3. Rubber Bands (Different Sizes)
  4. Plastic Gloves 
  5. Newspaper/Cardboard 
  6. Individual Bowls with Lid 
  7. Spoon 
  8. Water Bottles (Non-Aerosol Preferred) 

Steps To Tye-Dye A T-Shirt With Food Colouring:

1. Start by cutting the Styrofoam plate into four equal sections using scissors or an X-Acto knife. 

2. Next, take one section of the Styrofoam and cut it in half using scissors or an X-Acto knife. 

3. Cut the other two sections of the Styrofoam into thin strips using scissors or an X-Acto knife. 

4. Take one of the thin strips and cut it in half using scissors or an X-Acto knife. You will now have two thin strips. 

5. Cut each of the thin strips into smaller pieces (about 1/2 inch in size) using scissors or an X-Acto knife. You will now have 36 pieces of Styrofoam. 

6. Repeat this process with the other thin strip (you should now have 72 very small pieces of styrofoam). 

7. Take one piece of small styrofoam and squirt a small amount of food coloring onto it. 

8. Mix the food coloring into the styrofoam until it is fully absorbed. 

9. Take one of the rubber bands and place it around the piece of styrofoam, making sure that it is tight. 

10. Repeat this process with all of the other small pieces of styrofoam. 

11. Take your t-shirt and start placing the colored styrofoam onto it in any design that you want to create (it is recommended that you sprinkle some non-colored, larger pieces of styrofoam onto the shirt as well). Continue doing this until the entire shirt is covered and you cannot see any skin or white areas.

12. Tie a rubber band around the styrofoam, making sure that it is very tight (this will prevent the dye from leaking out of the styrofoam). 

13. Flip your shirt over and do the same thing with all of the other pieces of styrofoam. 

14. Leave the shirt in a safe place to dry (preferably overnight). 

15. Once the shirt is completely dry, untie the rubber bands and remove the styrofoam. 

16. Enjoy your newly tie-dyed shirt!

Things To Remember While Tie-dying a Shirt With Food Coloring

When you are placing the styrofoam on your shirt, it is best to place larger pieces of styrofoam on the outside of the design and smaller pieces on the inside. This will help prevent leakage from showing through to the front side of your shirt.

If you do get food coloring on a light-colored item, you will probably need to launder the shirt in a cup of vinegar and water. Rinse your shirt, then soak it in a mixture of 1/2 gallon warm water and 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar for approximately 30 minutes. Repeat this step if necessary.

If you do get food coloring on an item, remove the excess by blotting the fabric with paper towels. If dye is still visible on the clothing, mix 1/4 cup salt in a bucket of warm water and submerge the item to remove excess color.

If you are using rubber bands to create designs or to tie off areas, be sure to use 100% cotton or natural fiber bands that have not been dyed. Elastic can bleed through your design leaving you with white marks where the rubber band has worn away the design color.

Test your colors by placing a damp sponge against one of your shirt’s previously-dyed panels to see which food coloring color will make the lightest shade on your finished product. This way you won’t accidentally stain any areas too much.

Make sure to wash your shirt before dying it to remove any sizing.

How to Make Tie-Dye Patterns with Food Coloring

Making patterns is the easy part of tie-dyeing. Once you have your shirt, food coloring, and freezer paper ready to go, it’s time for action. 

Starburst: 

1. Squirt a color or two onto one of the small styrofoam pieces.

2. Mix the food coloring into the styrofoam until it is fully absorbed.

3. Take the rubber band and place it around the piece of styrofoam, making sure that it is tight.

4. Cut out a starburst shape in the freezer paper and place it over the styrofoam.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 with as many colors as you want.

6. Once you are finished, put the styrofoam in the freezer for about an hour.

7. Take it out and remove the rubber band.

8. Carefully pull the freezer paper off of the styrofoam.

9. Place the styrofoam in a bowl of water and let it soak for about 15 minutes.

10. Take it out and gently squeeze the excess water out of the styrofoam.

11. Set it aside to dry.

Swirls: 

1. Squirt a color or two onto one of the small styrofoam pieces and mix it in until fully absorbed.

2. Take another piece of styrofoam and place the rubber band around it tightly.

3. Cut out a swirl shape from the freezer paper and place it over the styrofoam, making sure to cover all of the areas.

4. Repeat steps 1-3 with as many colors as you want then put all of them in the freezer for an hour or so.

5. Once they are frozen, take them out and carefully remove each design from its rubber band and plastic baggie, being careful not to let them thaw at any point during this process if possible (trust me, it’s much easier to do this while they are still frozen).

6. Gently pull the freezer paper off of each design.

7. Lay all of your designs on a piece of wax or parchment paper and allow them to dry for about 10-15 minutes then flip them over and let the other side dry as well.

8. Once they are dry they’re ready to be dyed! 

Spiral:

1. Grab one of the small styrofoam pieces and squirt a color onto it. Mix the color into the styrofoam until fully absorbed then take your next color and repeat this process until all of your colors are mixed in little piles on the piece of styrofoam.

2. Take an empty plastic baggie, or sandwich bag if it is big enough, and cut out a spiral shape from the freezer paper (alternatively, if your plastic bag isn’t big enough to fit around your styrofoam without slipping off or bunching up in places just tape two together before drawing your spiral).

3. Place one color spiral inside each baggie making sure they aren’t touching each other.

4. Take the rubber band and place it around the baggies, making sure it is tight.

5. Put all of your styrofoam spirals in the freezer for an hour or so.

6. Once tHey are frozen, take them out and remove each spiral from its baggie and rubber band being careful not to let them thaw at any point during this process if possible (again, trust me, it’s much easier to do this while they are still frozen).

7. Gently pull the freezer paper off of each spiral.

8. Lay all of your spirals on a piece of wax or parchment paper and allow them to dry for about 10-15 minutes then flip them over and let the other side dry as well.

9. Once they are dry, they are ready to be dyed!

Stripes: 

1. Take one of the small styrofoam pieces and squirt a color onto it, mix it in until fully absorbed then take your next color and repeat this process until all of you colors are mixed in little piles on the piece of styrofoam.

2. Cut out a long thin rectangle from the freezer paper (or use a ruler if you want them to be perfectly straight). 

3. Place one color stripe at the top of the styrofoam, making sure that it is touching the edge and continuing down the length of the piece of styrofoam.

4. Repeat step 2 and 3 with as many colors as you want then put all of them in the freezer for an hour or so.

5. Once they are frozen, take them out and remove each stripe from its baggie and rubber band being careful not to let them thaw at any point during this process if possible (trust me, it’s much easier to do this while they are still frozen).

6. Gently pull the freezer paper off of each stripe.

7. Lay all of your stripes on a piece of wax or parchment paper and allow them to dry for about 10-15 minutes then flip them over and let the other side dry as well. 

8. Once they are dry they’re ready!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Tye Dyeing

What kind of freezer paper should I use?

If you can find the non-stick stuff that’s even better but any type will work fine.

What is a good substitute for styrofoam?

Dixie cups work great if you don’t have any styrofoam, just make sure to poke some holes in them before using them with food coloring or it might dissolve and ruin your design!

How many colors should I use?

It really depends on how big your shirt is but 4-5 is generally pretty safe unless you’re going for a tie-dye pattern then it can be anywhere from 6-10 depending on how subtle you want the color to be and how large your shirt is.

How can I make sure my design doesn’t smudge?

If you’re using a freezer paper stencil then just hold it down with some clothespins or tape it down if you’re worried it might move. If you’re free handing it, just wait for each step to dry before moving on to the next one.

What should I do if my food coloring starts to thaw?

If your food coloring starts to thaw at any point during the process, put it back in the freezer for a little while until it’s solid again. Trying to dye your shirt while the food coloring is in liquid form will not give you very good results.

What can I do if I make a mistake?

If you make a mistake, just wet the area with some water and start over. It’s not the end of the world!

What should I do if my shirt doesn’t turn out the way I wanted it to?

If your shirt doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, take it off immediately. Don’t leave your shirt on while applying the color or you might end up with a mess on your clothes!

Conclusion:

I hope this tutorial was helpful and that you’ve learned something new today! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Have fun dyeing!

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