E-Z Dye Fabrics

based on 19 ratings
Author: Judee Shipman

Color Science

Grade Level

2 & up

Difficulty Level




Safety Issues


Material Availability

All necessary materials are readily available.

Project Time Frame

2-4 weeks.


This project explores the plus side of permanent markers.  

The goals of this project are: 

  1. To create cool new colorful fabric pattern designs.
  2. To experiment with the mixing of colors. 

Materials and Equipment

  1. Computer with internet access
  2. Digital camera
  3. Typical office/craft/hobby supplies (paper, pens & poster-board, glue, etc.)
  4. Rubbing alcohol
  5. Medicine dropper
  6. Plastic cups
  7. Rubber bands
  8. White cotton T-shirts (or any plain white fabric) 

All materials can be found in your home, at local stores, or on ebay. 


If permanent markers won’t come off your clothes, we might as well make the best of it. This project explores a fun and hassle-free way to give your favorite fabrics that 60s tie-dyed look. We will also experiment with the ways in which colors combine to form new colors. 

Research Questions 
  1. How does ink react with rubbing alcohol?
  2. What can be used besides ink for dyeing fabrics? Would food coloring work? How about iodine? 
  3. How do colors mix when applied to fabrics?           

Experimental Procedure 

  1. Research related materials (see bibliography shown below)
  2. Get some white cotton T-shirts, or any other plain fabric samples you like.
  3. Stretch any part of the fabric tightly over the top of a plastic cup, and secure it with a rubber band.
  4. Using ONE sharpie marker (any color), make a dot in the middle of the fabric over the cup. Do this by applying gentle pressure for several seconds.
  5. Using the same marker, make a circle of 6 dots around the center dot.
  6. Make another circle of many dots around the smaller circle.
  7. Fill a medicine dropper with rubbing alcohol, and apply it slowly, one drop at a time, directly onto the center dot. Allow each drop to spread before adding the next drop.
  8. For best results, stop applying the alcohol before the ink reaches the edge of the cup.
  9. Notice how the rubbing alcohol affects the ink, causing it to “bleed” outward, creating a pleasant tie-dye effect.
  10. Reposition the fabric onto the cup and do another area the same way. Repeat as often as needed, until it looks the way you want it to look.
  11. “Fix” the color by throwing the fabric into the clothes dryer for five minutes.
  12. Repeat all of the above steps on another piece of fabric, this time combining different colors. See how they mix.
  13. Try the same procedure without the center dot. Notice the difference?
  14. Photograph each completed piece.
  15. Explain what you did in a detailed report.
  16. Include your original tie-dye looks in your science fair display.
  17. Set up a demo display so other people can try it too.
  18. Show interesting photos taken throughout the course of the project. 


Wiki topics: “Tie Dyeing”

Internet searches of your own choosing: Search for any of the terms listed above (or make up your own phrases to search), and click on any results that interest you. Also, check youtube for relevant videos. Have fun surfing the net!


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