Tutorial: Dye the Shit out of It.


So as promised there is a tutorial today! Hooray!  Also if you haven’t already you should check out my awesome facebook page where I post funny cosplay shit I find and also offer updates on when I make posts. You should like that page because it has a good personality even if it’s still going through the facebook equivalent of acne.

But enough housekeeping. Onto the shit you’re here for.

How to Dye Fabric

(Without Dying Yourself)

So let’s say you find the perfect fabric for a project, of if you’re one of those hunter-gatherer type cosplayers, you find the perfect pants/skirt/brassiere but there’s a problem. It’s the wrong colour.


‘Way to let me down’, you may say. ‘But it was so perfect’.

Well. Don’t dispair, there’s this stuff that’s called fabric dye, and sometimes it goes on sale for the magic price of 3.50$ which in my case added to the 3$/m jersey for Wendy’s dress was so much cheaper than the next alternative that I decided to give it a shot. The 24$/m fancy-pants jersey could wait.

…also I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to pretend to be a mad scientist for a night.

Step 1: Read the Instructions

No, really. I’m sure some dyes are different or ask for vinegar instead of salt, so double check on the instructions what you’ll need. I used Dylon and the instructions below will be tailored for that. But I mean, core concept right? Onward!

Step 2: Buy/gather materials

Gloves and sink

Dye, salt, cloth

You will need:

  • Dye (duh)
  • fabric
    • check to see what it’s made from.
    • Polys and Rayons won’t dye as well as natural fibers.
  • Protective Gloves (unless you want dyed hands)
  • Salt
    • The salt helps set the colour
  • Tablespoon measure
  • A sink

Step 3: Wet material

If confused, see Step 1.

In IT we have a saying for this: RTFM. It stands for Read the fucking Manual. As an IT person, I feel that I need to offer solidarity to this saying. But this step may be crucial, but it’s still boring.

Wet material

Oooh wet material! How ‘exciting’.


Step 4: Mix Dye

So I kind of cheated here. You’re supposed to do this scientifically with 500mL of water, but I guesstimated.

Dissolving Dye

That’s Science bitches!

(note: only kind of science.)

Once the Dye is dissolved, add in the required amount of salt and then add more hot water, stirring as you go to help dissolve the salt crystals. The heat of the water will help dissolve the salt by hypersaturating it. (hah! I remembered stuff from chemistry class. Awesome.)

Dissolved dye with salt

So it’s a bit hard to see here but the dye dissolved into something like purple, and I was moderately concerned. But I mean 3$/m fabric, so I was willing to take some risks. Which leads us to…

Step 5: Dye that Shit

Awh yeah.

This is the part where you get to pretend you’re a mad scientist, at least until your arms get sore. You take your wet fabric and immerse it into the dye and salted water.

Dye the fabricYou can see here that the dye has already started to affect the fabric. Now comes for the really fun part. Stir the fabric constantly for 15min, making sure that all surfaces are exposed to the dye. This bolt was 3m long, so I had to kind of knead and pull it apart to get it all covered.

Step 6: Take a Break

No, really. Your arms are probably like ‘wtf’ right now, and it has to sit for a while yet anyhow. The longer you let it sit, the more dye the fabric is likely to absorb to a point. As mentioned above, some fabrics won’t take the dye as well as others, and will never get as vibrant period.

I didn’t want the dress to get too dark blue, so I let my fabric sit for a little while before I rinsed a section to see how the dye was holding.

Step 7: Rinse

You can either let the dyed water drain, or if you’re lucky and have a dual-sink, move your fabric over to the other side to rinse it in cold water. Much like hair dye, you want to rinse until the water runs clear.

RinsedPretty different from the pre-dyed fabric eh? Just keep in mind that this is wet, and wet fabric is always darker than dry. It’s, oh I don’t know. It just is.

Step 8: Wash

After you rise, you’re supposed to wash the fabric in warm water. Keep in mind the hot water earlier has probably done the majority of the shrinking for you, so you can just wash by hand. I was tired by that point and wanted a beer, so I wrung the worst of the water from it and tossed it into the washer with other blue things.

Once it’s washed you can either toss it into the dryer, or hang it to dry. I chose to hang it, because I felt too guilty running the dryer for just a bolt of cloth.

That’s it! Not too hard, eh?


  • If you have a fabric that frays a lot, serge the ends first, or if you don’t have a serger, trim the edges with pinking shears.
  • Read the instructions. No, seriously.
  • Be patient, my cloth ended up not being as dark as I had hoped, but by then I had let the dye-bath drain. Stupid, stupid Calamity.
  • Use a non-staining sink, or barring that, a bucket.
  • Try to do this in a well ventilated area. I did it in my basement. The dye-hangover after was not worth it my friends.

First real-life tutorial complete! Now it’s time for a beer,

xoxo Calamity

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