How To Dye Fabric: Painting with Dye

By painting fabric with dye, you can create beautiful watercolor effects by blending and bleeding colors. It can be as simple or complex as you want.  I actually like how the back side turned out better because there was more bleeding and the plastic under it created some interesting effects. You can combine this painting method with other techniques like batik dying or create a multi colored ombré.

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Instructions

Step 1: Paint with dye

Make sure your work space is covered with plastic or something to protect it from staining. I’m also putting down layer of plastic wrap a little larger than the piece of fabric. This is so I can easily wrap it up in the plastic to microwave later.

How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Covering with plastic
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Covering with plastic

For best results, use a fabric made from natural fibers like cotton, and pre-wash the fabric.  Soak it in warm water while you mix the dye.

Heat water to near boiling and pour into cups. Shake the dye, add it to the water and stir. The more dye you use, the darker and more saturated the color will be.

How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Preparing the dye
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Preparing the dye
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Preparing the dye
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Preparing the dye

Squeeze out excess water. If you leave the fabric pretty wet, it will bleed more, or if you use dry fabric, the bleeding will be minimal.

Lay the fabric flat on the plastic. Use a foam brush or paint brush to apply the dye. A large brush will cover bigger areas or use a small brush or eyedropper for more detail.

How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Painting
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Painting
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Painting
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Painting

Step 2: Set the dye

Using fixative is optional but recommended to help preserve the color. Attach a spray nozzle to the fixative or put it in a spray bottle and saturate the fabric. Let it sit for 20 minutes.

Rit dye loves heat, so to further set the color, I’m going to microwave it. Cover the fabric with another layer of plastic wrap and fold it up.  Press the edges of the plastic together to seal it.

How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Setting the dye
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Setting the dye
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Setting the dye
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Setting the dye

You can place it in a microwave safe bowl or on top of paper towels and microwave it for 30 seconds. Check to make sure the fabric is not getting scorched and the plastic isn’t melting, and then microwave for another 30 seconds.

How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Setting the dye
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Setting the dye

Step 3: Rinse

Remove the plastic and rinse in warm water, then cold, until the water runs clear.

Machine wash on cold and dry.

How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Rinsing
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Rinsing
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Finished
How to Dye Fabric - Painting with Dye - Finished
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