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Imaginary Zebra’s Guide to Tie-Dye t-shirts in 4 steps

This was my second-time tie-dye, which made me an expert to compose this guide. Read on with confidence. 

Prior to being the design studio that we are today, Imaginary Zebra was a clothing brand. Naturally, I kept the shirts in the vault. 

While organizing the vault, I rediscovered some t-shirts that I released more than a decade ago. It reminded me that these were the shirts that never sold. I wiped my tears, tossed those aside, and was delightfully surprised by what was underneath them—the colorful prototypes of the OG timeless tees

I liked them, but the material wasn’t the best. So being the prototypes that they were, I decided to try them out with a few tie-dye techniques I’ve recently been seeing on the gram acquired by studying other experts in the field. 

Disclaimer: I did no dyeing. I bleached. 

Step 0. Prep

The things

  • Rubber-bands
  • A container with a nozzle for precision spraying
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Shirts (cotton)
  • Gloves

The workspace

Not all workspaces require prepping, but I was doing this on a wooden table and bleach don’t go well with wood, so I covered the desktop with a water repellent cloth. 

Step 1. Soak & Mix

To get the shirts (or whatever it is you’re dyeing) ready, soak them in water, then wring it. We want the shirts damp, not drenched. If it’s dripping, keep wringing. 

The solution: we’re mixing bleach and water 1:1. 

As tempting as it looks, don’t drink this.  Though, it is true that by drinking this, you won’t technically die from Covid-19.

Step 2. Tie or die & Dye

Let the fun part begin. The tie & dye patterns here dictate the look of the result. There are outlandish ones, but I’ve only tried the basics. For this project, I’ve tried the following four methods.

NOTE: a large part of the excitement for a tie-dye project is the final reveal. Let me save you the disappointment—don’t bleach red shirts. The bleach barely faded the red.

A. Spiral

Pinch any area of your shirt and that’d be the center of your spiral. Twist and bound the shirt with a rubber band. Use additional rubber bands to split the shirt into different sections. Bleach every other section.  

B. Stripes

Fold the shirts vertically. Use rubber bands to split the shirt into different sections. Size of the section will translate to the size of the stripe. Bleach every other section. 

C. Dots

Pinch and band little bits of the shirt. Bleach those little bits. 

D. Rainbow

Pinch and pick up from the bottom of the shirt. Use rubber bands to split the shirt into different sections. Bleach only the mid to upper part of the shirt. 

yea, we didn’t do good job depicting a rainbow here.

My personal favorite is the spiral.

After about 10 minutes, you’d begin to see the transformation

Step 3. Rinse & Dry

Run and rinse under cold water for a few minutes to wash off the bleach. Or at least dilute it enough to not irritate your skin when wearing later. Some have told to throw these in the washer to completely clean off the bleach. Your call.

Air dry or machine dry, your choice. We did both because I ran out of patience. 

As you can see, the patterns become more visible as the shirts dry.

Step 4. Flaunt

’Til next time, Benson