The Ultimate Guide to Personalizing a T-Shirt at Home, Part 1: Dyeing a Tee

With three boys, I’ll admit I do get jealous of all the cute dresses and frilly things I see other moms making their girls. I just can’t do that for my boys! They wear t-shirts day-in and day-out, so that’s usually what I make them. Tees are fun, but it can get monotonous following the same design format every time. There are so many ways to personalize a tee. Sometimes it just takes a kick in the pants to change it up, so here’s that kick for you (and me)! Whether you are coming here to learn how to add a design to an existing shirt, or need some t-shirt sewing inspiration, I bring you: the ultimate guide to personalizing a t-shirt at home.

I initially planned to make this all one post, but the truth is there’s a lot of ways to customize a tee! So I’m breaking it up into four posts that I’ll be sharing over the next couple of weeks: this one (Dyeing); Adding a Design; Color Blocking, Necklines, & Sleeves; and Adding Special Touches. So if you aren’t into sewing, I have plenty of no-sew methods for personalizing a plain tee you can buy at the store. Or if you want to really customize a t shirt, you can color block, change the shape, add pockets, etc. Keep checking back to make sure to catch the whole series.

For added inspiration, stay tuned for the Changing Up the Tee blog tour, kicking off on Friday. It will feature 15 sewists who are exploring how to personalize a t-shirt for boys. Sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss it!

Enough chit chat. Let’s dye some tees!

How to Dye a T-Shirt

First off, I’m here to say I am no expert at dyeing. The tutorials below are created by other bloggers, whose tutorials I have linked to, and I claim no credit to their content. But wow, you can find some great inspiration for customizing t-shirts here!

No matter what method you choose to dye, you’ll need to pick which dye to use. Rit liquid dye is the most common for natural fibers. Rit also carries powdered dye which I’m anxious to try out, but you need to be careful not to inhale the powder when using it. If you need something for synthetic fabric, Jacquard iDye is a good way to go. Are you oing the tie-dye route? check out the Tumble Dry selection of tie-dye kits, which contain several different bottles of dyes for you to use.

Let’s get onto the different dyeing techniques, shall we?

How to Customize a T-Shirt: Immersion Dye by Made for Little Gents

Immersion dyeing is a simple way to change the entire color of a tee. This and the other dyeing methods work best with a white t-shirt, but you can get some creative colors by dyeing a colored tee as well.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Tie-Dye by Made for Little Gents

I always think of tie-dye as something you do if you’re trying to dress like a hippie, but this is absolutely not true! There are some epic designs you can come up with tie-dye. Check out this tutorial on Instructables for some basic tips. Some of the ideas below follow the same concept but with different techniques, resulting in some incredible patterns.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Ice Dye by Made for Little Gents

Have you ever heard of ice dyeing? I had no idea this was a thing! I love this beautiful dyed t-shirt that Dharma Trading made using this technique.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Dip Dye by Made for Little Gents

I love that the title of Bustle’s article on dip dye says that it’s “basically tie dye for grown-ups.” So true! This look is so classy, though I know it would look great on any age.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Shibori Tie-Dye by Made for Little Gents

The Online Fabric Store has several excellent tutorials on different tie-dye methods, including this method of shibori. Don’t you want a t-shirt with this pattern? I know I do!


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Shibori Pole Dye by Made for Little Gents

A variation on shibori dyeing is the shibori pole dyeing method. This is a beautiful way to add some unique stripes to your tee.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Ombre Dip Dye by Made for Little Gents

Don’t you love the trend of ombre? Now you can have ombre on your hair and on your t-shirt! The Online Fabric Store shares with us how to achieve this design.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: No Wax Batik Dye by Made for Little Gents

You can make any pattern on a dyed shirt by using this no-wax batik technique. You just use craft glue to draw, and voila! A custom drawn, colored tee.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Paint Fabric With Dye by Made for Little Gents

Another option for being more exact with where the dye ends up is to paint the dye by hand. It ends up looking like it’s been watercolored. I would love to see what kids can come up with doing this method!


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Spray Paint Ombre by Made for Little Gents

Coolest of all cool things is fabric spray paint. Think of it: you can spray your shirt with paint! I love what Handimania did to create another ombre look using the fabric spray paint on her t-shirt.


How to Customize a T-Shirt: Bleach Spray by Made for Little Gents

If you have a colored shirt you want to change up, you can of course use bleach. Six Sisters Stuff shows how to use bleach spray to add some fun designs to a colored tee. I imagine you could put bleach on a paintbrush and paint your own designs directly instead of using the spray. 


I hope you found some great inspiration for ways to dye a t-shirt! Pin this for later, and don’t forget to follow along for the next post in the Personalizing a Tee series: Adding a Design.

Learn and be inspired by all the different ways you can dye a t-shirt! #diy #dye #tie-dye #tiedye #fabric #tee #customize #personalize