DIY Tissue Paper Tie Dyeing

I recently stumbled upon a dyeing project, using tissue paper (gasp), on Pinterest and for days, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It seemed too good and easy to be true. After much experimentation, I'm happy to report that, indeed, tissue paper legitimately dyes fabric! Testing this also quickly became a lesson in dyeing natural versus synthetic fabrics. I started by dyeing a polyester slip dress and loved the muted pastel outcome so much, I actually preferred it despite reading warnings against dyeing synthetic fabrics. Of course, I had to try it on silk as well, which turned out equally as beautiful. Again, dyeing with tissue paper will give you a soft, pastel-like palette and it'll be even more muted and faded with synthetics. I've documented both examples below and hope you give either one a try!

You'll Need:

  • spectra tissue paper (must be "spectra tissue paper" or "bleeding tissue paper" or the colors may not bleed onto your fabric)
  • light colored silk, satin or polyester silk slip dress or skirt. preferably choose a natural fiber fabric versus synthetic.
  • spray bottle
  • water
  • white vinegar (for silk or satin dyeing)

Let's start with silk. Note that this skirt is 100% silk. When dyeing anything, preparing it for dye is very important. Hand wash the silk in lukewarm water and a few drops of dishwater or laundry detergent. Rinse clean and then soak in white vinegar and water (approx 1 cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water). Let it soak for an hour.

You can either hang your skirt to dry or lay it down immediately to dye. I like to do this outside on the grass to give myself more room. Start tearing pieces of tissue paper and laying it on the damp skirt. If your fabric starts to dry out before you're finished, you can rewet it with your water sprayer and then add the tissue.

Note: The tissue paper will bleed onto your fingers when wet. Gloves are a good option to have on hand. Also, when tearing your pieces, don't stress about being too exact. The colors will bleed and the edges will most likely blend together.

If any tissue paper flutters away, you can use your spray bottle and give it a few sprays of water to keep it in place. Cover the entire surface of the clothing and spray it down with water. You'll really want to saturate the paper with as much water as possible. This is what makes the color bleed from the tissue onto your fabric.

After a 10-15 minutes, occasionally spraying with water in case any areas dry out, remove the tissue paper. Notice that because the skirt was wet when I started, I couldn't get a totally even spread on the dress. So the tissue paper didn't bleed into folds. If this bothers you, you can always work on a dried dress or just take the time to pay the dress totally flat.

Rinse under lukewarm water and hang to dry. I personally wanted the colors more muted so I let it soak in lukewarm water for about an hour, occasionally squeezing the water from it and starting a new warm bath. Hang to dry and and then heat set by pressing it with an iron. Dry clean or hand wash to clean.

Notice that the color is more saturated with silk versus polyester. Shapes are also a bit more defined. Dye takes to natural fibers far better than synthetic fabric . . .

Now, let's see what happens when I attempted to dye polyester.

Wash your dress with soapy water and then soak in a diluted vinegar bath (4 cups water to 1 cup vinegar). Soak for an hour. Lay the dress down and start adding tissue paper. Make sure the dress is plenty wet/damp before adding your paper. This will allow the paper to saturate the fabric better. This time, I tried horizontal long strips for a bit of an ombré look.

Spray with hot water and leave the tissue on for at least an hour (even better in the sun) to allow the colors to saturate. When I did this for the first time, I quickly realized that almost all the color faded after washing. So I went back and added several more layers of paper and allowed it to sit longer, spraying water every half hour. You want it as saturated as possible.

After removing the tissue paper, allow the dress to dry completely. Polyester takes dye better with heat so run an iron, on the proper setting (no steam), over the dress to help heat set it. It is very important to heat set the garment properly. Take the time to run a hot iron over every section for at least 2-3 minutes each. It's the only way the color will stay in the fabric. To clean, hand wash with cold water. Note that when you wash it, more color will wash out.

Let me know how your tissue paper tie dyeing experiments go! And remember, silk works best as far as locking in color. I found the polyester to be more tedious, as I had to repeatedly re-dye it with tissue until I got the right saturation. And if you're looking for a saturated, bolder dye job, I would definitely recommend ice dyeing!

images and tutorial by HonestlyWTF

Leave a Comment

53 Comments

  1. Bi Stauthamer wrote:

    Its a great idea!!

    4.27.20
    Reply
  2. Harper wrote:

    I am dying (pun intended) to try this and I haven’t even begun reading the post! I just want to say thank you for always bringing such unique projects. Super inspirational!

    4.27.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Aww, thank you!! Excited for you to try it!

      4.27.20
  3. Helena wrote:

    Fun! Where is your polyester dress from?

    4.27.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      it’s from Banana Republic. I’ve linked to it in the supply list!

      4.27.20
  4. Sofia wrote:

    Will definitely give this a try! It seems like a fun activity to do with my girls.
    Where is your ball chain necklace from?

    4.27.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Awesome! It’s from Zappos.

      4.27.20
    • Ester wrote:

      I am wondering , silk usually shrinks when you wash it with water. How do you manage it?

      4.30.20
    • Erica wrote:

      I hand wash in cold water and hang to dry and it doesn’t shrink for me.

      5.4.20
  5. Mary wrote:

    I wonder if it works with linen or cotton?

    4.27.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      I haven’t tried but I cant imagine that it wouldn’t since they’re both natural fibers?

      4.28.20
  6. Kelly wrote:

    Love this! Does the dye bleed through to the other side or do you have to dye each side of the dress separately?

    4.27.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      The color will bleed through the other side, depending on how thin the fabric is. You can test a section and if it’s too thick, you can place a plastic trash bag inside the dress or skirt and then dye the other side. It should bleed through though.

      4.28.20
  7. Hi, I like this; but I am french (who looks frequently your site) And I Don’t understand what is this sort of tissue paper. Is it colored tissue paper (like for pic-nic?). Can you explain or show a photo?
    It seems so simple!
    Thanks!

    4.28.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      I’ve linked to it in the supply list. It’s “spectra tissue paper” also known as bleeding art tissue.

      4.28.20
  8. Maria wrote:

    This is a great idea! Love it

    4.28.20
    Reply
  9. Meredith wrote:

    I purchased the same BR slip skirt. Did you dye each side (front and back) of the skirt separately or did you just let the color bleed through from one side? Can’t wait to do this project this weekend! Thanks!

    4.30.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      The color bleeds through!

      5.4.20
  10. Helen wrote:

    O.M.G. This is stunning. This is the first time I’ve stumbled in your page and it won’t be the last; your projects are so fun! 🙂 Thank you for sharing such a beautiful project. Can’t wait to try it! Stay safe!

    4.30.20
    Reply
  11. Julie wrote:

    I love this! It’s so pretty and looks kind of like watercolor. My question for you is… I’ve been looking for an ombre or lightly dyed comforter and haven’t found much that I like that isn’t way over my budget(even those are all pretty meh), so I was thinking of dyeing a duvet cover and thought maybe this would work? If I were to use this method but instead try doing it in sections from lightest tissue shade to darkest, going down the length of the fabric, do you think I could get a good ombre effect? I was thinking a light linen or cotton fabric? Thank you so much and I love your blog! I’ll definitely be subscribing!

    5.2.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Julie, I’m sure it could work as long as the fabric is natural (i.e. cotton or linen) and you pre-treat it by washing it and then pre-soaking it in soda ash or in a salt, vinegar and water solution!

      5.4.20
  12. Melissa wrote:

    Did you have to die each side of the dress separately or does the die reach through to the back?

    5.2.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Depends on the thickness of the silk. Mine dyed through to the back.

      5.4.20
  13. I’ve been eyeing the tie dye slip dresses as danijo, but I’d much rather make one myself. This one looks spectacular. Thank you for sharing

    5.3.20
    Reply
  14. GORGEOUS! Does the polyester hold onto the dye after washing? I’ve tried to tie dye 100% polyester before without much luck. Just curious! Thanks!!

    5.5.20
    Reply
    • txilibrin wrote:

      NO! I tried twice (I’m a crafty person) and after I don’t even know how many hours ironing, IT IS GONE. All the color gone

      5.28.20
  15. Supposed to go through both sides of a scarf a slip at Cetera first time doing it go to see what happens wrote:

    Is it Supposed to go through both sides of a scarf a slip at Cetera first time doing it go to see what happens

    5.6.20
    Reply
  16. Pasqualine Parparian wrote:

    does this bleed on other side of garmet ???

    5.6.20
    Reply
  17. Alyson wrote:

    Not all tissue paper is the same. Gift tissue paper may not release as much color as bleeding tissue paper. I’d recommend checking that the label specifically says “bleeding tissue paper” and test it before laying it on your fabric. From my experience, if it doesn’t say “bleeding” it’s not going to give you much color.❤

    5.8.20
    Reply
  18. stylish nice and colorful

    5.8.20
    Reply
  19. Daisy Den wrote:

    Wow man! This looks stunning

    5.14.20
    Reply
  20. txilibrin wrote:

    Biggest fail ever using same BR dress and same paper. I tried twice. And after XXX hours, ironing, washing, ALL GONE. I have never felt this sad after a DIY. I’m going to try tomorrow on silk, hope I don’t regret it 🙁

    5.28.20
    Reply
    • Nichole wrote:

      Same thing happened to me!!! I followed all the steps and let’s it sit for three hours and took so long applying heat. Literally allll of the color is gone after hand washing it. I don’t understand.

      6.12.20
    • Erica wrote:

      Hi Nicole,

      Are you dyeing polyester? Sadly, I’m discovering that not polyester is the same. It worked on one dress but not another. Silk seems to be the best bet.

      6.16.20
  21. txilibrin wrote:

    and I just tried today with silk, everything seemed to be going perfectly and after washing with lukewarm water ALL the color was gone. I’m at a loss here as to what I’m doing wrong.

    5.29.20
    Reply
    • Nichole wrote:

      Same thing happened to me!! I followed every step. I don’t know why it isn’t working. Literally all of the color bled out and I tried it three times.

      6.12.20
  22. Katie wrote:

    Wow this is gorgeous! thanks for the tutorial!

    5.29.20
    Reply
  23. Eileen wrote:

    Thank you very interesting luv to try soon as l get paper

    6.4.20
    Reply
  24. Moeie wrote:

    Used this technique to dye some silk lamp shades for our Woodstock/Hippie Theme guest room….came out amazing…thanks for sharing… Moeie

    6.14.20
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      AWESOME!!!

      6.16.20
  25. Tracy wrote:

    OMG I am so stoked to try this out!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    7.5.20
    Reply