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How to Tie Dye Shoes & Sneakers

Learn how to tie dye shoes and sneakers in this Howcast video.


For this project, I'm going to teach you how to tie-dye sneakers.

Sneakers can't really be tie-dyed in the perfect sense of the word. It would be really hard to scrunch them and to tie them, but they can be painted to pretend that they were tie-dyed.

So for my sneakers, I took out the laces. I soaked them in water. I also already soaked them in the dye activator solution which is made with water and washing soda for 5 minutes, and then I wrung them out. So they're ready to be dyed.

I selected 5 colors and I tested them out in a paper towel. So you see, I'm going to go for the sort of rainbow, gradient look. From yellow to pink to purple to aqua blue, and ending in green. So we'll see how this will go.

One suggestion that I'll make to you, and this is how I'm going to do my work, is to work on both sneakers at the same time. And that's also to avoid having one sneaker look different from the other. That way if you make a mistake, you can kind of replicate the mistake in the other sneaker, so I think that's just a good tip.

I'm going to start with a brush and I'm going to start with the yellow. So the way I'm going to address this, the way I planned it, is that the top of my sneaker is going to be white and then I'm going to have yellow in this part. And then towards the middle I'm going to start working the purple color, pink, and towards the heel, the aqua and the green.

Okay, let's get started.

You can use any kind of brush to do this technique. I'm starting with a smaller one because I want to have more control over the quantity of dye that I'm putting. I'm unsure how the dye is going to run in this sneaker, so I want to make sure that I'm not putting a lot of quantity at once. But so far so good, and it's looking great. And the feathered edges, kind of the tie-dye'ish look, will happen just by the dye running in the sneaker's material. So don't really worry about having rigid lines. Of course you can always work it out with your paint brush, somehow, pulling the dye towards the front. But I'm kind of happy how the yellow is looking in the front right now, so I'm going to move to my pink color.

For the pink color, because I don't know really well how this transition is going to end, so instead of starting it right where the yellow ends, I'm going to start a little bit backwards to give space for the dye to run.

You could decide while dying these sneakers that maybe you wouldn't want the top dyed, and that would be a cool look too. If you wanted to go for that, it would be a good idea to put masking tape on the areas that you don't want the dye to go. In this case, I actually want to dye them all including the parts where the laces go, so I'm not worried with that.

Okay, going to work a little bit on the second shoe.

And again, in this technique, it's really important to test how the colors mix with each other, because that's what you're trying to mix in the transition area. So always test the colors, especially if you're unsure about them and have never worked with them before. It's better to prevent than to have a garment not as pretty because you didn't like the colors in the end.

I'm done with pretty much all of the colors. I did the yellow, the pink, the purple, the blue. I went back a little bit to work the transition area, and I just did that by going with almost a dry brush and kind of like pushing the dye into the areas I wanted.

I'm ready for my final color which is green, and that will go in the heel part. And I'm really happy with how this is looking so far. As you can see it was pretty easy.

So again, I'm working the transition area by just pushing the dye.

Okay, if you think that some areas are a little bit lighter than you wanted them to be, you can always go back and apply a second layer of dye. And again, I just wanted to remind you, if you wanted to make a different pattern or if you didn't want to dye all of the sneaker, you can block certain areas using masking tape. I wanted to dye them all and I did. And this is the final result.

This is how to tie-dye sneakers.

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