How To Tie Dye With A Sharpie

tie die collage

My 6-year-old daughter came home from school with a simple science assignment. They are currently studying how properties change. For instance, water freezes to ice, paper tears and string can be cut. All of these things changes the object’s properties in some way. The homework assignment was to do something at home to change an objects properties. Then she had to record it in her little science journal. So I thought long and hard about what sort of little experiment we could do. I could have done something simple like freeze some water or maybe even go one step further and make a homemade popsicle. But ohhhh No! I just can’t leave anything well enough alone. My creative mind always runs away with me and I find myself often making large-scale plans with a small-scale time budget. Never fails. But even considering the fact that I had to go to work, and I had a lot of baking for orders I needed to get done, I decided to go a few steps past freezing water. I decided to make homemade tie dye shirts. This experiment/craft is so easy, fun and rewarding for parents and kids alike. When it’s all done the kids have a really cool shirt to wear and show off.

I remember doing this at a sleepover in junior high at my best friend’s house. Her awesome mom got out a bunch of sharpies the rubbing alcohol and we went to town. A group of girls sitting around a table, making tie dye and laughing it up lead to one of the best memories from my adolescent years. I have wanted to make this for some time with my girls but just never have got around to it. This was the perfect opportunity to not only make some creative tie dye but also demonstrate the chemical reaction of rubbing alcohol and the sharpie ink. Science can truly be fun!

Why It Works

Sharpies are well-known for their permanent ink markers and pens. The ink in these will not dissolve in water. However, the ink does dissolve in rubbing alcohol. As the shirt absorbs the alcohol, it begins to pick up the ink and move it along with the alcohol as it spreads. The more alcohol you use the more it will spread. The ink will then dry when the alcohol evaporates. Because Sharpie’s ink doesn’t dissolve in water, these shirts are machine washable!


  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Washed and dry white shirts. White works best as all colors are visible.
  • Eye dropper
  • Plastic cups
  •  Rubber bands


Rubberband cups

Place a cup on the inside of the shirt and rubber band the shirt onto the lid of the cup. This way the shirt won’t move.


Using the Sharpies, draw dots around the rubber band circle.

  1. Spreading dots

Using the  eye dropper, drop rubbing alcohol onto the dots. The ink will begin to spread. 

More spreading
Continue to add rubbing alcohol until you achieve the desired look. You can even tip the cup to the side so the alcohol runs as you drop it onto the dots. As it runs it will pick up the color and move it around creating the tie dye effect.

Tie Dye and cups

Once you have made all of your designs, place the shirt in the dryer to evaporate the rubbing alcohol. Voila!



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