Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sharpie, Alcohol "Tie Dye"

As I was surfing the Internet looking for tie dye ideas, I came across this post that uses Sharpie permanent markers and isopropyl alcohol.  It looked so neat, that I had to try it!

 All you need is a T-shirt, cup, rubber band, strong (I used 91%) isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, and sharpie markers.  I tried out 50% alcohol at first, and it didn't work nearly as well.  There's no gloves, no tub, and no dye solutions involved!
First you stretch the T-shirt over the empty cup, and secure it with a rubber band.  Take the Sharpies and draw a small circle of dots, or lines, or squiggles, or just about anything you want in the very center, then take a dropper and drop the alcohol in the center of the design and watch the science take place before your eyes. 

The alcohol "dissolves" the Sharpie dye and causes it to migrate through the T-shirt.  It reminds me of the thin layer chromatography that I used to do in the hospital lab!  Very very cool!!

Once the T-shirt is done, you need to heat fix it.  The site I looked at recommended letting the alcohol dry first, then throwing into a hot dryer, but ours is gas, and this just didn't seem prudent, as it seemed to be a fire potential, so I just ironed it with a hot iron.  It's in the wash right now, so I'll have to let you know how color-fast it is.

The only downside of this technique is that it creates some strong fumes, and should be done in a well ventilated room, or outside.  I was mesmerized by it and used an old T-shirt to practice how different colors and patterns would work out.  So much fun!  I have all sorts of ideas now on how to make a neat T-shirt.


  1. Cool!!! wonder what would happen if you stretched it over plastic covered cardboard...and did the same thing? maybe a more uneven migration.... I suppose the suspension over the cup.... allows for the even migration and round pattern.

  2. Okay that rocks! Do show how they look after washing! Stay cool my dear!

  3. Oh, the one I saw in the design magazine (that I mentioned on FB) put it on sheets - just drew lines across the tops and on the edges of sham, and then sprayed it with alcohol in a diffuser - it made this amazing obmre effect. She did it with black sharpie but it turned out a soft lavendar. And she said it IS colour fast.


  4. Okay...I so have to try that!! And not necessarily on a tee-shirt. I'm thinkin' a series of 6.5" squares...