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How to sun dye fabric

Jessica Jones

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

DIY fabric dyeing

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!


  • Photo-sensitive dye
  • Fabric
  • Cardboard
  • Garbage bag
  • Masking tape
  • Paper cup
  • Foam brush
  • Collected leaves


Step 1:

Step 1: tape fabric

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 2:

Step 2: apply the dye

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 3:

Step 3: place leaves

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: leaves close up

Step 4:

Step 4: sun dyed fabric time elapse

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 5:

Step 5: wash the dyed fabric

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 6:

Step 6: final fabric design

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: dyed fabric on chair

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