How to Tie Dye Using Rit Powder

How to Tie Dye Using Rit Powder

You love the whimsical patterns and vibrant colors of tie dye and want to make your own design. You might be a free spirit looking to express yourself, or you might be a fan of artistic, handmade creations, and want to showcase your own talents. You’ve decided to use Rit dye, and that is an excellent choice because it’s affordable, easily accessible, and versatile, working on a variety of fabrics. And while the powder and liquid forms work equally well, you will have more control over mixing colors if you use powder. Now, get creating and remember, the sky’s the limit.


[Edit]Preparing to Tie Dye

  1. Choose your fabric. Rit dye is a union dye, meaning that it’s universal and works on cellulose and protein fibers, which most fabrics are made of.[1] While some fabrics, such as those that are bleach damaged or 100% acrylic, won’t accept dye, most will. When deciding what you’d like to tie dye with Rit dye, choose:[2]
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 1 Version 3.jpg
    • Rayon or nylon
    • Cotton, linen, silk, wool, and ramie
    • Nylon-based plastic
    • Natural materials, like wood, paper, feathers, and cork
    • Fiber blends with at least 60% cotton. Blends will tint evenly but won’t fully accept the color of the dye.
  2. Gather your supplies. It’s best to get everything together before you start dyeing your fabric so that you don’t run the risk of getting dye on yourself or, worse yet, your floor, clothes, or other fabrics. Each method is a little different, requiring different tools, but you will generally need:
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 2 Version 3.jpg
    • Plastic bags (preferably bags that seal)
    • Newspaper (to protect your work area)
    • Gloves (to keep dye off your hands)
    • Rubber bands (to make patterns)
    • A large tub – plastic tub, a sink, a washing machine, a child’s swimming pool, etc.
    • A clear work space
    • Enough dye for your project – 1 package of Rit powder for approximately every pound/3 yards of fabric
    • Hot water – heat locks in dye
    • Salt, vinegar, or laundry detergent (depending on what fabric you’re using)
  3. Clean your fabric. You want to start out with clean fabric. Wash and dry your fabric and ensure that there are no stains. Stains will prevent the fabric from picking up the dye, so look over your fabric for any blemishes and use a stain remover if necessary.[3] You’ll thoroughly wet and ring out the fabric again right before you begin dyeing it.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 3 Version 3.jpg
  4. Follow the package directions. The hotter the water that you use, the more vibrant the dye will be. Always follow the package directions when preparing your dye, which should direct you to dissolve one package of Rit powder into two cups of very hot water. You want to make sure that the powder is thoroughly dissolved before you use the dye solution.[4]
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 4 Version 3.jpg
  5. Choose salt or vinegar. Just like when dyeing eggs, you want to add a color booster to the dye solution. While this isn’t imperative, you’ll achieve brighter, more vibrant colors if you thoroughly dissolve a booster in your liquid. What you add will depend entirely on the type of fabric that you’re using.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 5 Version 3.jpg
    • 1 cup salt – add this to a dye bath if you’re dyeing cotton, rayon, ramie, or linen.
    • 1 cup white vinegar – add this to a dye bath if you’re dyeing nylon, silk, or wool.

[Edit]Choosing a Pattern

  1. Determine what pattern you want. You’ve seen all types of tie dye patterns – some may have swirls, whereas others have boxes, and even others have lines. Every pattern is achieved by manipulating the fabric in a particular way. There are hundreds of designs that you can perfect with some imagination and practice.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 6 Version 3.jpg
  2. Dye a stripe design. Fold your fabric in short layers to form a tube, and then put rubber bands around the tube at intervals. Each fold creates a new line in the pattern. The rubber bands will create a line that spans the length of the fabric, as it is wrapped around everything and will prevent the dye from reaching the fabric.[5]
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 7 Version 2.jpg
  3. Dye a bullseye design. Pick your fabric up in the middle and twist, forming a band or a twisted tube. Place rubber bands around the twisted fabric band at intervals. The twists will create a swirled bullseye, while the rubber bands will separate the colors.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 8 Version 2.jpg
  4. Dye a spiral design. Pick your fabric up in the middle and twist, but form a disk instead of a band. Place rubber bands around the disk as if you were portioning it into six, ten, or even fourteen equal parts. This spiral design will appear to be turning in the direction that you twisted the fabric.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 9 Version 2.jpg
  5. Dye multiple donut-shapes. Pick up small, random portions of your fabric and twist, forming small pillars. Secure with rubber bands and even place one or two rubber bands up each pillar. This technique is busy, but it allows you the opportunity to work with several color combinations and have more than one focal point in your fabric.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 10 Version 2.jpg

[Edit]Using the Dye

  1. Go from light to dark. Immerse your fabric in the lightest color dye that you’re using for the time indicated on the Rit powder directions, usually 4-10 minutes. The longer you let the fabric sit in the dye, the more vibrant the color will be. Keep going through your dye colors, working to the darkest color.[6]
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 11 Version 2.jpg
    • Because Rit dye is a union dye, the colors won’t be quite as vibrant as those from other dyes. The versatility of this dye more than makes up for any lack of vibrancy, though.
  2. Use the bucket method. Use a 3-gallon bucket for every color dye that you’re using instead of a sink or bathtub. This method offers complete portability, allowing you to tie dye anywhere that you choose. The bucket method is great for larger dye jobs, or dipping your fabric, but doesn’t allow you as much precision as some other methods.[7] The bucket method also allows you to dye larger pieces or do batches, which is handy if you are going to do several pieces.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 12 Version 2.jpg
  3. Use the squirt bottle method. For this method, you’ll wet the fabric first, ring it out, and set it aside. Then, mix one color per squirt bottle (you can pick these up at any dollar store, usually two for $1.00). Fold or band the fabric as you want it, and then squirt the dye solution on your fabric.[8] This method allows you the most precision, but isn’t as quick as the bucket method. The squirt bottle method also allows you to do very detailed designs and color patterns.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 13 Version 2.jpg
  4. Ice dye your fabric. You won’t make a solution when you ice dye your fabric; instead, you’ll carefully apply the powder directly to the fabric. To begin, wet and ring out your fabric. Then, scrunch up the fabric over a rack of some kind, like a baking rack. Put ice on top of the fabric, and tap the dye powder on to the ice with a spoon. Cover your creation with an old sheet for 24 hours. When you return, the ice will have melted leaving a magical, blended design unlike any other.[9] Just as with the squirt bottle method, ice dyeing fabric is really for smaller jobs.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 14 Version 2.jpg
    • Because you’re tapping loose powder on to the ice, you’ll need to wear a face mask for this method.
  5. Use the spray bottle method. This method works best if you are in an open area, or if you use large plastic bags to contain any overspray. Fill one spray bottle per color of dye that you’re using. Prepare the fabric as normal, and either place in a plastic bag or set in an open, protected area. Spray the fabric with your spray bottles until the desired effects are achieved. This method offers some precision, but likely will not fully saturate the middle of your fabric.[10]
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 15 Version 2.jpg

[Edit]Setting the Dye in your Tie Dyed Fabric

  1. Bag it and let it sit. Some tie dye artists prefer to let their project sit in a sealed, plastic bag for 24 hours before they rinse the dye out. The idea is that this allows the dye time to set or cure, yielding a more hearty, long-lasting dye job. Other artists insist this step isn’t necessary, so it’s really up to you whether you bag your project or not.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 16 Version 2.jpg
  2. Rinse your project. Whether you bagged your project or not, you will rinse your fabric after you’re done dyeing it. Remove any bands in the fabric and run the whole piece under hot water. Gradually decrease the water temperature until the water runs clear (or almost completely clear).[11] Once the water runs clear, immerse your fabric in ice water.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 17 Version 2.jpg
  3. Apply a fixative. While not required, some tie dye artists choose to apply a dye fixative to their work, locking the dye into the fabric and preventing fading. You can find dye fixatives, such as Retayne, at some craft stores and many online stores.[12]
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 18 Version 2.jpg
  4. Wash your project. Hand wash your fabric in warm water with a mild detergent. Rinse your project thoroughly and then dry it, either by hanging it up to dry or in the dryer. If you hang your fabric up to dry, put old newspaper underneath to catch any dyed water drips that might fall.
    Tie Dye Using Rit Powder Step 19 Version 2.jpg
    • Wash your fabric alone the first two or three times, so that you don’t run the risk of dyeing your other clothes, as the dye will still potentially bleed if you haven’t applied a fixative.


  • Prepare all the dye baths before starting to tie-dye.
  • Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from staining.
  • Check the color wheel. When tie dyeing with two or more colors, plan to put adjacent primary or secondary colors next to each other. In the areas where they run together, they will create a third color. For instance, Scarlet and Golden Yellow will produce Orange. Royal Blue and Kelly Green will make Aqua. Fuchsia and Royal Blue create Purple.
  • You can use leftover dye for other projects. Just heat it up first.

[Edit]Related wikiHows


[Edit]Quick Summary

Back to blog