How to Tie Dye Shirts with Water Balloons

Aug 4, 2022 | Outdoor Activities for Kids, Project Ideas, Screen Printing, Summer Fun

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Tie dying t-shirts has become a fun summer activity in our family.  Last year, we used the Texas heat and ice to dye our shirts. We've also done a dip dye technique to get an ombre effect and a watermelon design.  We've even experimented with bleach dying shirts

This year, we combined tie dye with another summer staple…. water balloons.  We filled water balloons with tie dye solution and tossed them at our shirts. Not only was this a fun activity for my daughter and her friends, but the shirts turned out really amazing – different from any of the other tie dye techniques we have tried!

Here's how we did it.

Supplies Needed for Tie Dye Water Balloons

tie dye water balloons how to

Screen Printing + Tie Dye

If you have a logo or design that you want on the shirt, you can screen print on them BEFORE you tie dye. This works great if you want the kids to take their shirts home the same day.  

You can use any color ink.  I used white ink on the white shirt.  The design is pretty faint on the shirt at first, but as you add the tie dye, your design comes to life. 

screen printing vinyl white ink

Step 1: Screen Print Your Design on White Shirts

Using vinyl cut on my Cricut machine, I screen printed the design with Comet white ink on the white shirts.  If you have never screen printed with vinyl before, be sure to check out my screen printing beginner page for more details on this part of the process.

Once I printed all of the shirts, I removed the vinyl and washed my screens. I used my heat gun to dry the ink on the shirts (you can also let them air dry).  

Lastly, I heat cured the ink by pressing the shirts at 360 degrees for ~90 seconds. 

Step 2: Prepare the Dye

I used the Tulip tie dye kit that includes the dye inside of bottles plus one refill packet of each color. Typically, you would fill the entire bottle with water for traditional tie dye projects.  Since our water balloons are going to be filled with additional water, we want the dye solution in the bottles to be stronger. I added the extra packet of die to each bottle, then filled with water about half way. 

Step 3: Fill the Water Balloons with Tie Dye

This part can get messy.  I recommend wearing the gloves included in your tie dye kit.  I didn't wear them and my hands ended up purple for 2 days!

Take one water balloon and squirt the tie dye solution into the balloon. We used 2-3 squirts to just fill the little balloon without inflating it. 

Carefully attach the balloon to your hose attachment (this piece came with the water balloons). Turn on the water to fill the balloons.  We filled them to about baseball size. If you make them larger, you'll end up diluting your dye colors.  If you make them too small, they become hard to pop.

Tie the filled balloon and place them in a bucket filled with water (this helps keep them from popping). 

TIP: We tried to match the dye color with the balloon colors so the kids would know what color they are using.  Once the balloons are filled, it's hard to tell what color is inside.

water balloons tie dye how to fill

Step 4: Prepare Your Shirts

The tie dye works best when your shirt is damp.  We used the hose to get the shirts wet then squeezed the water out.

The dye can stain concrete so we decided to do this project in the grass.  You are going to want the shirts to be on a hard surface so the balloons will break.  I had some leftover flooring samples that worked great.  You could also use plywood.  

Spread out your shirt on the hard surface and get ready to tie dye!

TIP: The dye splashes pretty far. Make sure you have plenty of space so you don't splash the other shirts or anything else.  The dye will likely splash on the person throwing the balloon so wear old clothes.

tie dye water balloons activity tutorial

Step 5: Decorate Your Shirt with Tie Dye Water Balloons

This is the fun part.  Grab your dye filled water balloons and throw them at your shirt.  The kids determined that you need to throw the balloons with some force to get them to pop on the shirt. 

Let the kids get creative and toss as many balloons at their shirt as they want. 

dye shirts with tie dye water balloons

Step 6: Put Shirts in Plastic Bag

To keep your tie dye color vibrant, the tie dye instructions say to wrap your shirts in plastic wrap.  We used plastic bags and carefully situated each shirt inside the bag. 

Leave your shirt in the bag for at least 8 hours. 

Step 7: Rinse Your Shirt and Wash

The final step to tie dying shirts is to rinse out the dye.  Run each shirt under cold water until the water runs clear.  Now your shirts can be washed and worn!  

Here's how our shirts looked after washing:

tie dye with water balloons

I'd love to see how your projects turn out.  Be sure to tag me @pigskinsandpigtails when you post on social media.


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I’m Jennifer, your go-to for all things vinyl screen printing. I offer both in-person and online classes to help you craft better quality shirts. This blog is full of screen printing inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. Roll up your sleeves and get ready to learn all about screen printing with vinyl!

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