Over Dyeing with Black


Heather models a Rainbow Spiral Black Over Dye by Up and Dyed

One of the most enduring color combinations that I have marketed over the years is the Rainbow spectrum with a black over dye spiral, and its cousin, the black over dyed rainbow fan.


Eric in a Rainbow Fan with Black Over Dye by Up and Dyed

Over Dyeing with black changes the entire dynamic of the rainbow spectrum, adding depth, contrast and motion to the eye-pleasing color sequence of the rainbow. It is common for patrons to ask if this process began with a black garment to achieve this end result.  No, it began life as a white garment. It is probably my most requested secret. If I had secrets.

Over dyeing with black is doing exactly that==  Applying black dye over fabric already dyed another color.  

  • Mix the black dye powder at the ratio of 1 Tblsp of dye powder and 1 Tblsp of table salt per 4 ounces of warm water.
  • Thickener can be added to the black dye to reduce spreading.
  • The garment is dyed to the saturation point on both sides in the 6 colors Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple, Blue, and Green.
  • Allow dyed item to batch for 10 minutes.
  • Apply a heavy over coat of black to ONE side of the garment.
  • Leave the item black side up on a drip rack.
  • Allow item to batch for 12 – 24 hours.
  • Wash out in very hot soapy water.

Another method for over dyeing with black is to dye or tie dye a garment, wash it out, re-pre-soak, then re-tie using arashi shibori resist techniques.  The over dye with black in shibori creates stunning contrast.

Recently, a patron requested an earth with a black over dye rainbow fan.  I took pictures along the way to share with you.  My camera is not the best and I am a poor photographer, but perhaps the lesson is illustrated well enough to follow.


  1. The globe was painted using thickened Turquoise and Kelly Green fiber reactive dyes on the waist of a pre-soaked tee shirt, directly below the sleeve.
  2. Shirt was allowed to batch for 48 hours or until the dye is completely dry.  
  3. Re-dampen garment with water in a spray bottle, protecting the globe image from the spray.
  4.   Accordion pleated around the globe.
  5. Place bindings about two inches a part, the length of the garment.


Dye in the rainbow spectrum repeating pattern.


Black dye covering one side.


Finished product.

I hope you found this information useful.  If so, please consider making a donation to help keep my site advertisement free.



Filed under How to, Using Fiber Reactive Dyes

10 responses to “Over Dyeing with Black

  1. April Wood

    Does the back look the same as the front on this since you added the black to only one side?

    • Hi,April.
      Good question!
      The back is identical to the front. When only one side is dyed, alternating bands are formed on both sides due to accordion pleating.

  2. Thank you for the instructions. My special ed class has learned about rainbows and chemical reactions. We’re combining the 2 lessons. I appreciate your instructions.
    Tricia Archie ☺

  3. Tricia Archie

    Do you sell your items?

  4. Kim Conover

    When you say only one side of the fabric is dyed with the black, is this referring to two sides of the shirt- like chest front and the back or the back of one layer- the inside back of the front? I’m not sure exactly what you mean- just want to make sure -like, if I wanted to do this on a panel of fabric- not a tshirt, it would only have one layer,

    • Hi, Kim,
      Even a single layer has two sides when pleated. The goal is to achieve alternating black stripes. Try it by pleating a paper towel, dye both sides in color, then only one side with black. When the towel is unpleated, the black will be in stripes.

      • Kim Conover

        Gotcha. I think putting black next to vibrant color makes me nervous- ha! I’ve been doing some tray dyeing this week and I did one with a two color stripe. I think I’ll try this in a tray since I’m doing a single layer of fabric and not a tshirt. Your dye patterns are really beautiful- and look deliberate- I like that a lot. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. It’s not always given so generously by others. I appreciate you taking the time to respond

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s