Tie Dye Shorts

bright pink american apparel shorts with white trim dyed in a spiral design with black dye and the title says "tie dye shorts"

Make your own tie dye shorts at home. With just one color of dye or multiple, you’ll be able to make these fun custom shorts!

Table of Contents

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With all the other tie dye items I have, I wanted to make a pair of tie dye shorts to see how they’d turn out. Since they’re shorts, there’s not much room to create a clear design, but I wanted to see how a spiral might look on them.

If you don’t know already, I rarely ever wear the tie dye clothing I make (aside from the tie dye sweatshirt, I actually do wear that one.. and I do also wear the tie dye Crocs around the house). I would ideally like to actually use the items I make so I thought my best chance would be to dye them in colors that I love. And one of my favorite color combinations is pink, black and white. I ended up finding some cute American Apparel looking shorts in pink with white trim on Amazon that’d be perfect.

So you can follow the steps below to make your own tie dye shorts with a spiral design! I also include the basic steps to tie dye shorts if you don’t want to do a spiral. You could even use the ice tie dye technique or any other tie dye pattern!

Be sure to also check out this guide on the best tie dye kits to find the right one.

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Which Shorts are Best to Tie Dye?

The best material for dyeing would be 100% cotton, but that can often be rare to find for shorts. Therefore look for shorts that have at least 50% cotton. This is because polyester and other synthetic materials don’t absorb the dye from tie dye kits very well. This is why the white stripes on my shorts remained white!

For color, if you want to have black tie dye shorts like mine, any color will work! But if you want the dye to stand out, pick a lighter color. Keep in mind, unless the shorts are white, the colors of the dye will likely look different on the colored fabric. Another option you can go with for colored shorts is using the bleach tie dye method in which you don’t use any dye at all!

To make it easy, below are some shorts from Amazon that have a high percent of cotton, including the ones I used. Most come in white and other colors.

Don’t forget to pin it so you can easily come back to it later!

top image is bright pink american apparel shorts with white trim dyed in a spiral design with black dye and the bottom image is adding dye to the shorts wrapped in rubber bands, the title says "step by step tutorial -tie dye shorts, abcrafty.com"

Materials to Make Tie Dye Shorts

How to Tie Dye Shorts

For these tie dye shorts, I went with an offset spiral design. The reason I made it offset is so the spiral didn’t look as though it was, let’s say, emanating out of me.

The biggest challenge and the genuinely unique part to dyeing shorts or pants is you have to pay attention to how the pattern is going to turn out. When making a tie dye shirt, it’s difficult to make the design look silly. But with shorts, you want to look out for putting something directly in the middle on the front or the back. (Or you could go the complete opposite route and make a heart design!)

That being said, here are all of my tie dye patterns.

Prepare the Tie Dye Shorts

I always recommend first washing clothes before tie dyeing them. This removes any chemicals, oils, or anything else that may prevent your shirt from accepting the dye.

So if you wash them first, then you can simply take them out of the wash. Otherwise, first wet the shorts and squeeze out the excess water.

Then you can fold or scrunch them however you’d like, being sure to avoid directing the focus to the middle.

For the offset spiral tie dye design, pinch the top corner and begin to twist it. Make sure you’re also grabbing the back of the shorts.

pinching the top corner of bright pink american apparel shorts with white trim

Continue to twist the shorts into a tight spiral.

Tip: Use your other hand to make nice clean folds while you wrap it around.

twisting the top corner of pink shorts with white seams

Tie the shorts in rubber bands. You can place them randomly or for a spiral design, place 3 evenly across the shorts.

pink shorts completely twisted into a disc and wrapped in rubber bands

Prepare the Soda Ash Mixture and Shorts for Dye

If you’re using a kit without soda ash, you can skip this step, though I don’t recommend it. I always recommend using soda ash when tie dyeing to get the most vibrant color. This is especially important when dyeing colored fabric.

Therefore next, you’ll want to mix 1 cup of soda ash to 1 gallon of warm water. Mix it until the soda ash is completely disolved.

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pouring soda ash into a clear plastic tub of water

Then soak the shorts in the soda ash mixture for at least 20 minutes.

Tip: It’s a good idea to squish the shorts and flip them over to make sure the soda ash gets all throughout.

(It’s currently soaking with one of the shirts that also just uses black tie dye)

white shirt and pink shirt tied up and and soaking in a bowl of water and soda ash

Prepare the Dye

Prepare the dye according to the instructions on the tie dye kit. Typically you fill the bottle to the line with warm water and then shake it until the dye dissolves.

Tip: Wear gloves starting now. I also recommend filling the bottle only a little bit and dissolving the dye in that. Then fill the bottle the rest of the way. This helps minimize spills and leakage.

(In theory, another way to dye with only one color is to simply soak the item in the dye, but I personally like to have more control so I still like to use a squeeze bottle)

Dye the Shorts

Lay down plastic wrap on the table and place the shorts on top.

Place the dye wherever you’d like. But if you want to make the spiral design, start by putting the dye in one section. Press the dye into the shorts and make sure to get it between the folds.

Tip: If you use multiple colors, start with the lightest color first.

pouring black dye from a squirt bottle onto pink shorts tied with rubber bands

Then skip the next section and dye the next. Repeat it so that there are 3 sections with dye and 3 without. Be sure to flip the shorts over to dye the bottom as well.

If you use multiple colors, continue to add each color wherever you’d like.

Tip: Make sure to use enough dye so that it’s fully saturated, but not dripping. Especially when using black, make sure there is enough or it will look more like grey. See my black tie dye post to see more tips on how to use black dye.

adding black tie dye to pink shorts wrapped in rubber bands in 3 different sections

Finish the Tie Dye Shorts

Once the shorts are dyed how you like, wipe up any excess dye with a paper towel. Then wrap it tightly in the plastic wrap.

Leave it to set wrapped up for at least 6 hours. However, I recommend leaving it for at least 24 hours to get the most vibrant colors.

While it’s setting, make sure it doesn’t dry out. The moisture from being wrapped in the plastic helps the dye process.

covering the pink shorts freshly dyed with black dye in plastic wrap

After the time is up, rinse it until the water runs clear.

I like to use cooler water first and then increase the temperature as the hotter water will cause the color to leave more quickly. Tip: Wear gloves while rinsing since there will still be some dye that comes out.

Then run it through the washing machine with other tie dye clothes just in case there’s an extra color bleeding.

Lastly, toss it in the dryer and your tie dye shorts are ready to wear!

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finished pink shorts with black tie dye in the shape of a spiral from the top corner

If you dye your own shorts, I’d love to see them! Tag me on Instagram @ab.crafty!

More Tie Dye Projects to Try

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top image is bright pink american apparel shorts with white trim dyed in a spiral design with black dye and the bottom image is adding dye to the shorts wrapped in rubber bands, the title says "step by step tutorial -tie dye shorts, abcrafty.com"

Spiral Tie Dye Shorts

Make your own tie dye shorts at home. With just one color of dye or multiple, you’ll be able to make these fun custom shorts!
Yield 1 Pair of Tie Dye Shorts
Project Time 20 mins
Setting Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 20 mins

Materials
  

  • 1 Pair Cotton Shorts
  • Tie Dye Kit
  • 1 Cup Soda Ash
  • 1 Gallon Water
  • Rubber Bands
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Paper Towels

Equipment

  • 1 Bucket or Plastic Bin

Instructions
 

Prepare the Shorts for Dye

  • Soak the shorts in squeeze out the excess water. Pinch the corner and twist. (These are the ones I used)
    1 Pair Cotton Shorts
    twisting the top corner of pink shorts with white seams
  • Continue to twist the shorts into a tight spiral.
    twisting the top corner of pink shorts with white seams
  • Tie the shorts in rubber bands.
    Rubber Bands
    pink shorts completely twisted into a disc and wrapped in rubber bands

Prepare the Soda Ash Mixture and Shorts for Dye

  • Soak the shorts in soda ash solution for at least 20 minutes. Mix 1 cup soda ash with 1 gallon of warm water.
    1 Cup Soda Ash, 1 Gallon Water
    white shirt and pink shirt tied up and and soaking in a bowl of water and soda ash

Prepare the Dye

  • Prepare the dye according to the instructions on the tie dye kit. Typically you fill the bottle to the line with warm water and then shake it until the dye dissolves.
    Tie Dye Kit, Rubber Gloves

Dye the Shorts

  • Lay down plastic wrap on the table and place the shorts on top. Add the dye into one section.
    Plastic Wrap
    pouring black dye from a squirt bottle onto pink shorts tied with rubber bands
  • Skip the next section and dye the next. Repeat so there are alternating sections of dye and no dye.
    adding black tie dye to pink shorts wrapped in rubber bands in 3 different sections

Finish the Tie Dye Shorts

  • Clean the plastic wrap with a paper towel and wrap the shorts. Leave to set for 24 hours.
    Paper Towels
    covering the pink shorts freshly dyed with black dye in plastic wrap
  • Rinse them until the water runs clear. Then run them through the washing machine. Then your tie dye shorts are ready to wear!
    finished pink shorts with black tie dye in the shape of a spiral from the top corner

Notes

I used only black to dye these shorts, but you can also use multiple colors. I recommend getting a kit that has colors and black, such as this one.
Keyword Clothing, Shorts, Spiral, Tie Dye, Tie Dye Kit

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