How to Tie Dye Canvas Sneakers
Yep, you read that title right — today we’ll be sharing all of our best tips for tie dying SNEAKERS!! Tie dyeing canvas sneakers is a total breeze…and there isn’t even any tying required!
In this post we’ll break down for you:
- Tips for choosing shoes to tie dye
- The two main methods for applying dye to shoes
- Different patterns to explore
- How to care for your shoes once they’re dyed
Let’s kick it off!
HOW TO TIE DYE CANVAS SNEAKERS
- Canvas sneakers — Unsure if your shoes will work? Check out the FAQs at the end of this post!
- Tulip® One-Step Tie-Dye® refills*
- 4oz dye bottles*
- Rubber gloves*
- Paper towels
- Optional: Tie Dye Rack
- Optional: 1.25ml tie dye powder scoop* or 1/4 tbsp (for making custom dye colors)
MIXING YOUR DYE
In this tutorial, we’re using Tulip® One-Step Tie-Dye®. This dye is especially beneficial when it comes to dying shoes because, unlike most other dyes, you do not have to prep your fabric with a fixative before applying the liquid dye. If you’re using another brand of dye for your canvas sneakers, be sure to follow the instructions on your dye package.
If you’re using Tulip® One-Step Tie-Dye®, follow these instructions here to activate your desired dye colors ⬇️
First: put on gloves before touching your dye powder!
The powder will stain your skin, but if it does, note that it’s non-toxic and will come off after a couple of showers. Depending on what colors you’re wanting to dye your shoes, you can mix your dye one of two ways:
- Full-intensity color: Pour an entire (or almost entire) packet of dye powder into a 4oz squeeze bottle, top off with water and shake well until all dye powder is blended.
- Pastel and/or custom color: Use a 1.25ml scoop or 1/4 tbsp and consult our Tie Dye Color Chart to create your desired colors! Scoop the indicated dye powder amounts into 4oz squeeze bottles, top off with water and shake well until all dye powder is blended.
When it comes to tie dyeing sneakers, you have two options: the ‘wet’ method or the ‘dry’ method.
Wet Method — As you can probably deduce from the name, this method entails applying dye to a wet shoe. When working with a wet shoe the dye will expand quickly and will result in a watercolor effect. You can’t really control the end result with this dyeing method, but it also doesn’t require any ‘patterning’ so beginners may find that this is the easier of the two methods.
Dry Method — This method entails applying dye to a dry shoe. When working with a dry shoe, you’ll have more control over your dye placement, and designs are easier to achieve. The dye will spread through the fabric a bit, but much less so than the wet method.
PREPPING YOUR SHOES
If you decide to tie dye your sneakers using the wet method, your first step is to dampen your shoes by running them under water (no preferred temperature here). Some canvas shoes have a slight protective coating to prevent staining, so be sure that all of the fabric is wet to the touch.
Whether you’re using the wet OR dry method, the next step is to stuff your shoes with paper towels from toe to heel. This will minimize the dye bleeding through the fabric and prevent future unintentional tie dye socks. 😉
APPLYING DYE – TIPS
- No matter your preferred method, we recommend starting at the back of your shoe or the insole as you get the hang of it!
- When applying the dye, move slowly — barely even squeeze of your dye bottle will do the trick.
- Leave white space between dye applications, especially when using the wet method. The dye will spread over time, so give it some room! You can always apply more dye if, after 10-15 minutes, the white space is still too large for your liking.
APPLYING DYE – WET METHOD
As mentioned above, when applying dye to a wet shoe the dye will spread quickly so less is more here.
You really have no control as to how wide or where the dye will spread, but the one aspect you do have control over is the color layout. Your colors will be most saturated at the points where the dye is applied, and lighter in color where it spreads.
As you’re choosing your color placement, keep in mind that the colors will blend where they touch! The more white space you leave between each color, the more of an ‘ombre’ and/or blending will result.
Moving slowly, apply dye to your shoe 1-2 drops at a time, allowing the dye to spread. Continue adding your dye until your entire shoe has been covered to your liking!
WET METHOD ALTERNATIVE APPLICATION – FOAM BRUSH
A simple and effective way to have more control over applying dye to your wet sneaker is to use a foam paintbrush. Squeeze dye directly onto the foam brush or squeeze a little onto a tray or your plastic-covered work surface and dip your foam brush in to absorb the dye, then gently dab your damp sneakers. You’ll want to use a different brush for each color or simply rinse off the foam before using a new color. The benefit of the foam brush is that you can apply color a lot more intentionally and prevent dye from dripping down where you may not have wanted.
APPLYING DYE – DRY METHOD
As mentioned above, when working with a dry shoe you’ll have more control over your dye placement, and designs are easier to achieve.
Tip: As you dye each section, make sure the shoe is horizontal to your surface so the dye doesn’t drip down.
To create dots: hold your dye bottle above your shoe (4-6 inches) and let 1 drop fall at a time. Give the dye 10-15 seconds to penetrate the surface of your fabric and settle before moving on to the next dot. Move slowly! (Notice a trend here?! 😂)
To create stripes: touch the tip of your dye bottle to the surface of your shoe, VERY gently squeeze the bottle, and slowly the drag bottle in the direction of the stripe. Just like the dots, give the dye 10-15 seconds to penetrate the surface of your fabric and settle before moving on to the next stripe.
When working with the dry method you can also achieve a splatter effect by holding your dye bottle 12-15 inches above your shoe with one hand, and tapping the tip of the bottle with the other (gloved!) hand.
You’ll get larger splatter dots by moving your dye bottle closer to your shoe, and smaller dots by holding it further away.
LEVEL UP YOUR TIE DYE SNEAKERS – GALAXY EFFECT!
Once your tie dye sneakers have fully dried, you can level them up with a fun and easy galaxy pattern using a combination of bleach and water! Simply mix 1 part bleach to 1 part water in a spray bottle, hold your bottle about a foot from your tie dye sneakers, and lightly mist them, taking your time between each spray to see how the bleach settles on the surface. Continue until your sneakers are covered in bleach “stars”!
A note about crafting with bleach: Be sure to wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when handling bleach! Even better to wear a face mask, as well!
After all of your dye has been applied, use a wet paper towel to gently clean any dye drips off of the rubber soles. If you used the dry method be especially careful here — if any moisture from your paper towel gets on the dry fabric it could cause your dye to spread!
Now the hard part – WAITING!
Let your shoes dry completely. The timing can vary here depending on the shoe and the method you chose, but you can estimate ~36 hours for the dry method, and ~48 hours for the wet method.
Once your shoes have completely dried remove the paper towels and run your shoes under warm water to remove any excess dye.
Let the shoes dry completely once more, then you’re ready to rock!!!
CANVAS SNEAKER TIE DYE FAQs
We’ve taught quite a few sneaker tie dye private workshops, and here are the questions that usually come up:
Can I dye any white shoes?
What shoe you choose to dye is TOTALLY up to you! The one important requirement for anything you’re dyeing (not just shoes) is that it’s a natural fiber: 100% cotton, silk, rayon, and wool are all great options. Acrylic/polyester fabrics won’t work take the dye, however, some blended fabrics containing those fibers may take if the blend is at least 50% cotton.
When in doubt, perform a small patch test on the back of one of your shoes before fully committing.
Will the sole of my shoes get stained with dye?
Not if they’re rubber! Rubber, along with the metal gromets of your sneakers, will resist the dye so they should stay white. For best results, be sure to wipe off the rubber right after dyeing to avoid any possible faint staining.
Can I dye my shoelaces?
Maybe! The same rule applies here as it does for the fabric of your shoes — if you’re looking to dye your laces, make sure they’re 100% cotton, like these from Dharma Trading!
Let us know of any other questions you have in the comments below! We can’t wait to see your new kicks!!!
Happy crafting and be sure to share your tie-dyed creations with us on Instagram @theneonteaparty!
Peace, love, and neon!