During our Starflight Adventure Weekend last April, children got the chance to participate in some exciting activities such as a dinosaur egg hunt, pioneer outdoor cooking, and touch tanks! One of the most popular activities that the families were involved in was tie-dying, but with a twist. We all used acrylic paint! Join us in a do-it-yourself (DIY) activity that you can share with your friends and family!

Have you ever wanted to tie dye with acrylic paint?! Now you can! Here is one way to reinvent an old idea. Grab a shirt, blanket, or anything that needs a spruce of color and let’s get to tie-dying! Follow these steps below to create your own masterpiece and share them with us!

You will need:

Empty buckets alongside spray bottles filled with acrylic paint.
Almost ready to start dying your shirts!
  • White T-Shirt (plain or with a design on it)
  • Rubber Bands (different widths and sizes)
  • Various Colors of Acrylic Paint
  • Empty Spray Bottles
  • Water
  • Towels for Clean-Up
  • Buckets or Bins
  • Large Work Surface
  • Newspapers (optional)

Step 1: Setting it all up!

To start off, you will need an article of fabric. For example, a plain white cotton T-shirt. The fabric can have something written on it if you wish, or it can be plain. This will not affect the outcome of the colors. For this particular DIY, we will be using a T-shirt.

Make sure that you grab a bag of rubber bands with various sizes in order to tie up your T-shirt into the design you want. It will be helpful to have rubber bands with different widths in addition to the various sizes because that will allow you to have more options in which design(s) you choose.

Collect some different colors of acrylic paint along with a couple of empty spray bottles. Lay out some paper towels or newspapers so you don’t get any paint on your work surface. Pour some of the paint into a spray bottle and wipe off the rim to make sure there is no paint left on the outside. Add some water to the spray bottle, about ¼ of the bottle, and shake it until it’s all mixed up! *Note: If you add too much water, the paint will come out looking like colored water.* Now all you have to do is make one spray bottle for every color you want to use. We made 7 spray bottles of paint because we had a lot of kiddos, but you can use less if you don’t want to use as many colors.

Step 2: Choosing a design!

Now for the hardest part…choosing which pattern you want to fold your T-shirt into! To give you some ideas, we’ve listed some popular folding patterns below. These patterns can include, but are not limited to:

  • Accordion Fold
  • Crumple Technique
  • Roll
  • Sunburst
  • Stripes
  • Spiral
  • One Color Spiral
  • Bullseye
  • Folded
  • Diamond Pattern
  • Box Pattern
  • Folded Accordion Stripe Pattern

Some popular designs that we saw being used were the accordion fold, the sunburst pattern, and the spiral technique. Take a look at some of our pictures for more examples!

Step 3: Time to start!

Once you’ve decided on which pattern you want to use, go ahead and begin folding! Use your rubber bands to help you hold pieces of the T-shirt in place. Just remember, wherever there is a rubber band, the spot will be white in the finished product. This can range in color depending on how tight the rubber bands are.

Lay out a couple of towels or newspapers on your work surface and place a few buckets on top of them. This will be where you spray your T-shirts so that spray paint doesn’t get everywhere. After you’ve set up your station, grab you shirt and start spraying! Be sure to spray downwards, towards the buckets, so that the spray does not get all over you, the ground, or anything else you don’t want acrylic paint getting on. You can spray multiple colors all over the shirt, or stick to just a few colors. It’s all up to you! If you want some ideas about color choices, take a look at some of the creations our campers made!

Step 4: Drying your shirts!

After you’ve finished spraying your shirts, set them out to dry out and allow the colors to settle. Another option is to place each T-shirt in a plastic bag and wait for the colors to set for about 24 hours. Once dried, take the shirts, with the rubber bands still attached, and gently rinse under cold water until the water runs mostly clear. Make sure to flip over your shirt while rinsing to get all the excess dye out!

Next, lay down your T-shirt onto a protected surface and remove the rubber bands. If it helps, feel free to use scissors, just be careful if the children want to use them! But beware…your shirt it not done yet! As you are unfolding the fabric, run it under cold water again to allow the excess dye to be rinsed off. Continue to do this until the fabric runs clear.

When you are done rinsing your T-shirt(s), hang them up to dry. It might be helpful to put them outside since they will be dripping. After they are dried, you have a couple of options. You can either hand-wash your shirts or run them through the washer using cold water. Just don’t put any other laundry in there with it if you chose the second method. You may have to wash your fabrics a couple of times before they are ready, it just depends on what you decide to tie-dye. You will know it’s ready when there are no more colors left behind in the sink or in the washer after being washed.

Share it with us!

When you’re all done tie-dying, send us a picture of your new T-shirt! We would love to see all of your creations and maybe one will even make its way onto our website! Have fun tie-dying with acrylic paint!