How to sun dye fabric

DIY fabric dyeing
Sun dyed fabric

design your own fabric

Print your own designs on fabric using dye activated by the sun!

Try creating a botanical design using collected leaves. Kids can help hunt for greenery around the neighborhood or in the backyard and then arrange their finds into a collage that will preserve summer's foliage all year long.

Inkodye is a new, water-based dye that develops in sunlight and produces permanent color on natural materials like wood and cotton. Areas shielded from the sun remain uncolored, but when the fabric dye is exposed to light, it changes color before your eyes. The process is magical, making this an entertaining project to do with children — and the results can be quite beautiful!


sun fabric dyeing supplies


Step 1: Prepare a work surface by securely wrapping a sturdy sheet of cardboard with a garbage bag or other waterproof plastic. Place the fabric you're dyeing on the wrapped board and tape down the edges with masking tape.

Step 1: tape fabric

Step 2: In a cup, mix Inkodye with water in a one-to-one ratio. The dye is concentrated and can be used straight from the bottle, but equally vibrant results can be achieved while conserving dye.

In a dim room away from direct sunlight, brush the dye evenly over the surface of the fabric.

Step 2: apply the dye

Step 3: Layer leaves, grasses and stems in a pleasing arrangement on the fabric. Turning leaves face down can help make better contact with the surface, reducing shadows.

Step 3: place leaves

Step 3: leaves close up

Step 4: Place the board in direct sunlight for eight minutes, being very careful not to disturb the leaves or turn the board. The dye will instantly begin turning color, from a pale tint to a deep, vibrant hue.

Step 4: sun dyed fabric time elapse

Step 5: Remove the board from the sun, slide off the leaves and immediately wash the dyed fabric in hot, soapy water. Scrub thoroughly, rinse and your leafy design is now preserved permanently on fabric!

Step 5: wash the dyed fabric

Step 6: Air or machine dry, iron and consider framing your print, sewing it into a pillow or bag or upholstering a chair seat. The design on the dyed fabric is permanent and may be machine washed and dried.

Step 6: final fabric design

Step 6: dyed fabric on chair

More craft articles

DIY illuminated LOVE canvas
Add some flair with a DIY painted wood bead necklace
5 DIY gifts with printable templates


Recommended for you


Comments on "How to sun dye fabric"

Verlie March 15, 2014 | 12:32 PM

Can you do this a second time...and over dye with a different color? If so with it become a mix with the previous color when the sun sets on it? Like if you do a red dye...wait and let it dry..then do a different leaf arrangement...say with blue dye...will parts become purple?

Christine August 10, 2012 | 12:13 PM

Thanks so much for the info! I had used sun-dyes from Klutz, had almost run out, and needed to find new dyes, so your listing the site to order them was great! I made a few things with my 3.5-year-old, and will be making some cloth napkins for my parents for xmas (what do you give old folk who don't need anything? Something their granddaughter helped make, which is actually functional!)

sketchedsoul July 18, 2012 | 8:50 PM

Wow, this is so awesome! And the chair is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing.

Jessica July 17, 2012 | 11:55 AM

Debbie, dye comes in red, blue, and orange, and you can mix them to get other colors. Barbara, you can wash the fabric twice in soap and hot water in a washing machine to make sure the dye is set permanently. I haven't had any rub off on my chairs.

Twinsmama July 16, 2012 | 3:14 PM

Oh my goodness!! I am so excited about doing this with my kids! It is gorgeous and I have been looking for a new idea for covering my couch pillows!

Debbie July 16, 2012 | 6:28 AM

looks like fun are there other backround colors available.

Barbara July 12, 2012 | 8:51 PM

I would like to try this and cover my dining chairs. I understand that the rinsing etc. is to set the dye but I do wonder if the dye would possibly transfer onto clothing? If anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear them. I have thought about a heavy clear plastic to protect the fabric.

Madison July 11, 2012 | 9:28 PM

Oh my gosh this really works I tried it and it turned out great I made it with my three year old daughter and it was fun for her to help make it also.

Daisy July 11, 2012 | 9:12 AM

I remember doing this with paper as a kid. I can't wait to try it with fabric!

+ Add Comment

(required - not published)