Acrylic Paint Tie Dyeing

My husband was recycling some old dingy white undershirts into rags for the garage and I snagged one with the intent of turning the bottom half of it into a fringed infinity scarf. When I saw the faded white color of the fabric, my first thought was to dye it  – then I had the fun idea to tie dye it! I haven’t tie dyed something since I was in the art fraternity in college and I always love a fun, creative project.

The Acrylic Technique

I really didn’t want to buy a dying kit so I came across a new technique on Ricochet & Away using acrylic paints. Having an abundance of paint colors in my collection, I thought I’d give this a try because it wasn’t costing me a penny if I happen to mess it up. One great thing about acrylic paint is it’s very inexpensive and the color options are abundant.

For this technique to work properly, acrylic paint only must be used. It is based on the fact that acrylic paint is water soluble and can be diluted into a dye-like substance when mixed with water. Once it is dry, however, it becomes non-soluble and almost plastic-like so it won’t streak or run when it becomes wet again. This allows the dyed fabric to be ran through a washing machine once it is completely dry without any fear of ruining your other clothes or having the dye coming off the fabric. Kind of neat, huh?  The dyeing possibility are endless!

The Dyeing Process

My supplies: acrylic paint colors of my choice, plastic cups, rubber bands, water and an old white t-shirt. I laid a plastic garbage bag down under the project to avoid painting my counter tops and made sure to have a roll of paper towels handy for any spills.

I cut the bottom half of the t-shirt at 18″ wide and wet the fabric under the faucet and wrung it out until it was just damp. I laid it flat on the counter and was ready to begin!

I decided on using the spiral technique for the actually dyeing process. There was a helpful website I found that shows and describes the different folding technique for tie dying. For the spiral fold, you basically start in the middle of your fabric and start twisting it into a spiral form, making sure the fabric stays flat and even like a pancake.

Once the fabric was completely spun into the spiral form, I took a handful of rubber bands to secure the shape and create white lines for the overall dyeing affect.

Once my fabric was ready, I prepared the dye. I poured a bit of acrylic paint into a plastic cup, filled maybe 1/3 full with water and mixed with a plastic spoon. That was it for the dye!  Easy enough. From what I read, there is no perfect water-paint ratio and I wanted my tie dyeing to be more vibrant than faded, so I may have erred on the side of too much paint.

Then came the actually dyeing. I held the fabric bundle over a plastic bowl and literally drizzled the water paint over the fabric slowly, creating the overall look I wanted. It was recommended to also use a spray bottle and spray your fabric, but not having any handy (or wanting to go out and buy supplies), I found that drizzling the water slowly provided a nice effect. My personal preference was to cover all the fabric with dye because of the original color of the shirt was dull, so I made sure no white space remained when I was done.

I let the wet fabric sit for a couple of hours in the evening, but because I was anxious to wear the infinity scarf the next morning, I blow dried the shirt for 15 minutes. I noticed as the shirt was drying, the colors were starting to become more vibrant and I got really excited!

Right before I went to bed, I unraveled the rubber bands and this is what my damp fabric looked like 3 hours after dyeing. I laid it out flat for the night to dry out completely.

The next morning I ironed out the wrinkles in the dried fabric and then cut the bottom portion into a fringe decoration.

Viola! A new tie dyed infinity scarf with fringe from acrylic paints. And it literally did not cost me a penny!

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8 thoughts on “Acrylic Paint Tie Dyeing

  1. hi! this is great and I really want to make one with acrylics so this is very helpful!! thanks! I was also wondering, does the material then go hard afterwards because I know acrylics tend to do that? Also, have you ever washed it – because I’m scared the colour may come out? Thanks.

    • Hello Laura! The great thing about this process is acrylic paint is water soluble and it becomes non-soluble and almost plastic-like when it dries completely so it won’t streak or run. This allows the dyed fabric to be ran through a washing machine once it is dry without any fear having the dye coming off the fabric. The washing machine does tend to fade the colors a bit, so I would suggest hand-washing the fabric and letting it air dry if you can. Thanks for reading!

      • Hello, the second to last picture is really vibrant whereas the last i only half as vibrant, (Still looks great!) so, is the last picture of when you had washed it? Thanks.

    • Hello! The rubber bands are what give the dying process the white marks when you undo your fabric. The way you fold the fabric also has a lot to do with the shape of the colors when it’s dry as well.

    • I’m so glad you’re trying this! How did your project turn out? I’d love to hear about your results and I’m glad you decided to give it a try – we had so much fun with this dyeing! Thanks for reading and sharing with us!

  2. I am actually in the works of tie dyeing white fabric with black dye. I want it to be very black on white-white (no bleeding or black turning to green, white turning gray or purple) I’m going to attempt the acrylic (I’m very low 😦 ) but either way, I’m sure it will look awesome.

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