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Market Colors is an online store and nonprofit organization. Our team collaborates with craftsmen in Africa and India to create handmade products that will sell well throughout the world. We exist to equip African men and women with a sustainable income, generated through the sale of their products.


How To Make an Ombré Shirt

Lizzie Randazzo

by Erin Lawless

Ombré is everywhere! This dye technique can be used for hairstyles, apparel, and homegoods. While ombré inspired hair color may require a professional, making your own ombré t-shirt is surprisingly easy to do! Once you learn the simple technique you may be inspired to take on bigger challenges, like an ombré window curtain or pillow cases! Why not? This dye technique is easy and fun… also a little messy. So, pick a pretty day and spend some time outdoors getting creative!

What you will need:
Cotton T-Shirt
Fabric dye
Hot water
Sponge brush
5 plastic cups


Making the dye mixture:
One of the most important steps to making the ombré effect is making the dye mixture. The goal is to have five cups of dye that start with the highest concentration of dye in the first cup and the lowest concentration in the last cup. Do this by keeping the same amount of water in each cup and add less and less dye as you go along. Dye package instructions may vary, but most will require hot water and salt. Salt is very important because it acts as a binder between the cotton fibers and dye. I put around ½ tablespoon of salt in each cup but you really can’t put too much. After the salt dissolved in the hot water, I added around 1½ tablespoons of dye in the first cup and gradually added less dye in each cup. There is room for error during this process. As long as the color gradually shifts from light to dark, it should work great.

Dying the shirt:
I started with the darkest color on the bottom so that the ombré went from light at the top to dark at the bottom.  

Start by wetting the fabric. The easiest way is to pour clean water onto the shirt after the cardboard is in it, making sure to wet the entire shirt before you start painting.  

Start with the darkest color. You will want to paint from side to side going up the shirt. As you move from one cup to the next, the dye will naturally blend. If stripes become apparent, you can blend the colors with the sponge.


After you have painted around ¼ of the shirt with the darkest color, move to the next cup. ­­


Note: I wet the area I was working on as I went but I think it would be easiest to wet the entire shirt before you start painting.


When you are about halfway up the shirt, move to the third cup. Continue painting and use the forth and fifth cups to paint the remaining top half of the shirt.


Once the front is completely painted, flip the shirt over to paint the back. It might look something like this but don’t worry -- the marks will blend in with more dye!

Wet the entire back of the shirt and repeat the steps as done on the front. Once the back is painted, lay the shirt out to dry.

When the shirt is dry, the dye is set. Rinse the shirt to remove the excess dye. When the water runs clean your shirt is ready! Dry the shirt and enjoy!