How to Ice Dye
Thanks to the pandemic and people’s subsequent search for joyful hobbies during the on-going stay-at-home mandate, 2020 has unofficially officially become the Year of Tie Dye. Now, we assume most of you reading this have tried classic tie dye, where you bind up fabric and squirt or dunk liquid dye onto it to produce classic designs like swirls, bullseyes, and scrunches. But have you ICE DYED yet?!
Ice dye is the art of placing ice cubes on top of fabric, then sprinkling dye powder on top of the ice, letting the melting process dictate how the dye splits and bleeds, and where it ultimately lands on the fabric–leading to surprising and delightful results every time!
Did you know that dye powder is made up of multiple color pigments mixed together to create a single hue? When that dye powder is mixed with water, the dye becomes a single unified color. BUT, when the dye powder is let loose over ice, those hidden pigments have the chance to seep down to the fabric on their own. That’s why you might see dots of red appear from black dye, and specks of blue appear from purple dye! You truly never know what to expect when ice dyeing for the first time.
This magical process might look familiar to you by way of some of our friends & fellow DIY mavens Erica Chan Coffman of HonestlyWTF and Julia Sir Wester of Camp by JW. Erica shared this incredible denim ice dye project exactly 1 year ago and, more recently, Julia shared her top ice dye tips in a super helpful IG Live! (Julia is currently working on an expert ice dye class so be sure to sign up for her newsletter here to be notified when her class is live!!) Major thanks go out to both of these ice dye mavens for sharing their unequivocal ice dye know-how!
Since we’re more than a little obsessed with all forms of tie dye here at TNTP, we wanted to adapt this mesmerizing technique for our favorite easy-to-use dye — Tulip® One-Step Tie-Dye® — so that you can try it out too using our TNTP Tie Dye Kits! This tutorial does still include info on how to ice dye using other dye powders, so regardless of which dye you use, you can follow along!
(Note: Different dyes split differently, so if you’re really committed to figuring out the ice dye results you prefer best, we encourage you to test out a variety of different powder dye brands!)
If you try out ice dyeing using this tutorial, be sure to tag us on Instagram @theneonteaparty!!! WE CANNOT WAIT TO SEE HOW YOUR CREATIONS TURN OUT!!!!! Happy ice dyeing!!!!!!
HOW TO ICE DYE
- Items to dye (100% all-natural fibers are best: cotton, rayon, linen, silk, wool, etc.)
- Tie dye powder* (this tutorial shows ice dye with Tulip® One-Step Tie-Dye®)
- Plastic spoons
- Cardboard or poster board cut into 2-3″ wide strips (they should be pliable enough to bend into a ring shape)
- Strong tape, like masking or duct
- Tie dye rack with tray or cookie rack + plastic container or tray
- Plastic table cloth* or garbage bag to protect your work surface
- Small paper cups (optional)
- Rubber bands* (optional)
*Indicates item comes in our TNTP Tie Dye Kits!
PREPPING YOUR ITEM FOR DYE
For best results regardless of dye brand, pre-wash your items.
If you’re using a dye other than Tulip® One-Step Tie-Dye®, you will want to soak your items in a mixture of water and soda ash, according to your dye manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to ring out water before applying ice and dye powder, starting the ice dye process with your item(s) slightly damp.
If you’re using Tulip® One-Step Tie-Dye®, there’s no need to soak your items in soda ash (hence the “one-step” in the name!). We tested out ice dyeing with both damp items and dry items. We found ice dyeing with dry items to yield varied color intensities (our preference – pictured throughout this tutorial!), while the damp samples came out more muted and watercolor-y. We encourage you to test both and see for yourself which method you prefer!
Place a baking/tie dye rack on top of something that can catch dye drippings, such as a tray, plastic bin, or layers of paper towels.
Scrunch your item on top of the baking rack.
Create a paper hoop to go around your item, using poster board or cardboard strips taped together with strong tape. This is used to keep the ice on top of your item. Your hoop should be large enough to fit snugly around your item. Your item should have lots of nice little folds but still be laid out flat enough to ample surface area for dispersing color powder.
Another option for prepping your items for dyeing is to band them up in classic tie dye patterns to achieve ice dye versions of fun patterns such as swirl and mini bullseyes. Check out this fun swirl example:
The shape and size of your ice matters when it comes to ice dye. Ideally, you want ice crushed to a small-to-medium size and in a variety of sizes. This is ideal for a couple of reasons: 1. it helps make sure all the nooks and crannies of your item are covered by ice and 2. it makes for even patterning. (Large ice blocks will create blank spots.)
If your ice is large and chunky, you can smash it up with a hammer or mallet to make smaller pieces.
HOW TO ICE DYE
Cover your scrunched up item with ice per suggestions above. At this point, your fabric should be inside a hoop on a baking/tie dye rack. The ice should be an even-ish layer covering the entirety of the fabric.
Next, apply the dye powder directly onto the ice by gently pouring the dye powder onto a plastic spoon and gently sprinkle the powder onto the ice. Try to avoid large mounds of dye powder in any one section. You can also pour the dye powder into small paper cups before scooping some up with your spoon, which works especially well when tie dyeing with kids!
Add colors one at a time, evenly dispersing the colors across the surface of your ice. Be mindful of color placement and avoid placing two colors next to each other that may turn brown when mixed (unless that’s the look you’re going for!).
Depending on how much of your item you want to be filled with color, you can fill in all spots with color or leave some areas blank — up to you!
CONTROLLING COLOR INTENSITY
Once all of the ice melts, take the item out of the rack/paper ring setup and lay it flat on a surface. If there are rubber bands around your fabric, feel free to take those off at this point and lay your item out flat.
If there are any blank spots on your creation or if you would like to layer on more colors, now is the time to ice dye those patches. Place ice cubes on the area to which you’d like to add dye, then sprinkle on dye powder and wait for the ice to melt, filling the space with dye.
Conversely, if any of the dye spots look too intense, you can place ice cubes on top of those spots and let them melt to help mute the too-saturated dye spots.
Depending on how pastel/bright you want your colors to be, you can either wash your item right away (pastel) or let it sit out for 8-24 hours (bright).
WASHING & CARING FOR YOUR ICE DYE
Ice dye is simply another tie dye pattern! You can follow our recommended instructions for washing and caring for your tie dye found at the bottom of this page!
We so hope you enjoy trying out this super cool tutorial! 😜 Be sure to leave any questions in the comments section below and show us what you create by posting to Instagram and tagging @theneonteaparty!
Peace, love & neon,