Learn how to make Red White and Blue Tie Dye sublimation T-shirts with JenniferMaker's tutorial! Four sublimated tie dye shirts with fireworks-themed designs sit on a star-spangled backdrop.

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Learn how to make Red, White, and Blue Tie Dye Shirts with sublimation!

Want to try tie dyeing T-shirts but not sure you’re up for the mess? Not only that, but how do you know you’re tying the shirt the right way to get amazing patterns? I’ve got an easier way to get perfect, predictable results — with sublimation! With the Fourth of July just around the corner, I’ll show you how to make red, white, and blue tie dye shirts using sublimation designs and techniques — with no strings, rubber bands, or dye spills to worry about. Plus, I’ll show you how to add my cute new fireworks-inspired sentiments to your designs!

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Tie dye looks super fun, right? But if you’ve ever tried it, you know how messy, finicky, and unpredictable it can be. Sure, tie dye kits make it a little easier to round up the supplies and tools you need to carry out a traditional tie dye project, but wouldn’t it be nice if the dye you used was completely hands-off and mess-free? I’ll show you how to make a red, white, and blue tie dye shirt with sublimation so you can dye happy — and keep your hands clean

Learn how to make Red White and Blue Tie Dye sublimation T-shirts with JenniferMaker's tutorial! A sublimated tie dye shirt with a design reading "Free To Sparkle!"

I can’t wait for you to try this alternative method to regular tie dyeing! The results are beautiful like hand-dyed designs, without having to deal with string, rubber bands, or complicated twists and ties — not to mention having to wait a long time (or even until the next day!) to see your results.

I’ve got two new tie dye designs and three new fireworks-inspired sentiments to create your own perfect patriotic flag shirt just in time for Independence Day. How festive!

Learn how to make Red White and Blue Tie Dye sublimation T-shirts with JenniferMaker's tutorial! A sublimated tie dye shirt with a design reading "Fireworks Director: If I Run, You Run."

First you’ll need a T-shirt, but not just any T-shirt — you’ve got to make sure it’s made out of the right material. Polyester is a must for sublimation, because the dye is infused into the polymer fibers. I used short sleeve shirts for summer, but you can use whichever style you want. 

Just a note: While you can’t successfully sublimate a cotton shirt, if you want more of a breathable fabric, try a cotton/poly blend with at least 65% polyester. The design may be a bit less vibrant, but it may feel less hot than 100% polyester in the warm July temperatures. If you want the super bright colors, though, it’s a good idea to opt for a high polyester count shirt. 100% polyester is best for the best-looking results.

Learn how to make Red White and Blue Tie Dye sublimation T-shirts with JenniferMaker's tutorial! A sublimated tie dye shirt with a design reading "Little Firecracker."

You’ll also need the standard sublimation supplies like a sublimation printer, a heat press, and some other materials and tools you’ll find in my materials list below. I’ve got links where to find them easily! If you have any further questions about sublimation, check out my Sublimation For Beginners post, and my Sublimation Startup course to help make sure your sublimation crafting is smooth and FUN!

Let me show you how easy it is to make red, white, and blue tie dye sublimated shirts! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.

Materials to Make Sublimated Red, White, and Blue Tie Dye Shirts

View my Amazon shopping list with the exact items we used on the original project

Learn how to make Red White and Blue Tie Dye sublimation T-shirts with JenniferMaker's tutorial! Four sublimated tie dye shirts with fireworks-themed designs sit on a star-spangled backdrop. Want to make this? Design #619 is free at jennifermaker.com/619.

How to Make Your Own Red, White, and Blue Tie Dye Shirts

White sublimation tie dye shirt with multicolored swirl designs and a Be Kind illustrated design laid on a beach scene.

How to Make a Cool Tie Dye Shirt With Sublimation

Yield: 1 Shirt
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Estimated Cost: $15 - $25

Learn how to get a tie dye effect with sublimation.

Materials

Tools

Instructions

STEP 1: GET OR PREPARE A SUBLIMATION DESIGN

If you want to use a printed sublimation design, you can use any of my Sublimation Tie Dye files from my resource library, Design #465.

NOTE: If you want to use the Infusible Ink technique, the details are at the bottom of the directions.

Download the files and pick your design. There are seven PNGs to choose from.

A tie dye blue rainbow background design.

tie dye sublimation designs blue rainbow png

A tie dye red rainbow background design.

A tie dye with cool colors blue, green and purple background design.

sublimation cool color tie dye png design

A tie dye with warm colors red, orange, and yellow background design.

A Positive Energy design

A Happy design.

A Be Kind design.

You can use the backgrounds and designs one at a time or combine them.

Open Google Docs in the Google Chrome web browser on your computer. You can also download and open the Google Docs app, but be aware that you won’t be able to install or access any printer profiles from a mobile device, and you’re also limited in features, so I do not recommend it on a mobile device. (Note: You will need a free Google account to use the free Google Docs software.)

With Google Docs open, click on "Blank" in the upper left corner to open a new document.

opening blank document google docs

Go to the "File" menu and select "Page Setup". Change your margins to “0” and change your Paper Size to match your sublimation paper size. Mine is 8.5" x 11".

Go to the "Insert" menu, select "Image", and select "Upload from Computer". Locate the sublimation design you want to use (hint: it’s probably in your Downloads folder), and click "Open". I'll use the blue tie dye background and the Happy design. The image or images will appear and fill your page — but will not necessarily come in at the size originally designed.

To resize, right-click the image, select "Image Options," make sure the "Lock aspect ratio" box is checked, and change the Width or Height field.

If you are just printing the tie dye backgrounds, make sure they are sized to fill your 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. If you are also printing a design image, make sure to change the image size. For the happy image, I set my image size to 7.5" x 1.8".

change the happy image size to 7.5 x 1.8 inches

For the other designs, resize them to:

Positive Energy 7" x 2.74"

Be Kind 7.5" x 2.56"

Adjust the image on your page by selecting it, then click on the second icon from the left in the menu below it, which means Wrap Text.

Now, you can click and drag the image anywhere on your page. I recommend putting your design in the center of your page, as that ensures it won’t get cut off at the edges and you have plenty of space for cutting/tearing edges if needed.

centering happy image on google docs page

Print the design following my earlier Sublimation Design Printing tutorial. I used a few rounds of twisting and sublimating the shirts to get more color on the fabric, so I printed two copies of the background.

STEP 2: PREPARE YOUR T-SHIRT

Preheat your press 385° and set the time to 10 seconds. And be sure to open a window or set up a fan to improve your ventilation. 

Since we'll be sublimating all over the shirt, lint roll it all thoroughly to remove excess lint or debris.

lint roll the entire shirt for sublimation tie dye

We also need to preheat the entire shirt before sublimating. Working in sections helps.

preheat the entire shirt in sections ten seconds

Since I'm combining a printed design with the tie dye background, I want to leave some white space for the image. Adhesive paper will act like a mask during the first round of sublimation. It won't block all of the ink, but it will be significantly lighter, which will let the additional design look more clear.

To make the mask the right size, trim your design close to its outline and place it face down on the adhesive's backing. Trace the design, then cut the sheet just a little larger than the outline.

Using the t-shirt guide, find where you'd like to place the image.

place tshirt ruler on shirt

Peel the backing off and place it on the shirt. Press it down so it can fold with the fabric without coming undone.

place cut adhesive sticker sheet on shirt for masking

STEP 3: FOLD AND SUBLIMATE YOUR SHIRT

I have a few ways to get a tie dye like effect.

CIRCULAR FOLD

I used two rounds of this fold to make a more intricate tie dye design, but you can use however many you want.

Place a clean piece of white cardstock on the pressing area. Then lay your t-shirt face up on the cardstock.

circular tie dye fold place shirt face up on press

Pinch the center of the shirt, making sure you grab both layers. While still holding the shirt center, twist counterclockwise just a bit. You will start to see folds form!

Here's the trick to getting a great print. Keep defining the formed folds by pinching them tight. The top white section is what you really want to dye to get a fun pattern, so making sure the folds that form are pretty consistent will help. Keep twisting and defining the folds.

If you're using the adhesive, you'll really need to pinch up the folds under it. That way, the design won't look totally different on each side of the design space.

As the center gets bigger, you will eventually be able to smooth the folds around the center circle that you have formed.

completed circular tie dye sublimation fold

Once you are satisfied with your folds, place the sublimation print on top of the shirt. Make sure that the shirt is covered by the paper. The folded shirt is pretty thick and will squish down during pressing, but we want to keep it as still as possible to retain the twirled design and avoid ghosting. Taping the design paper to the cardstock instead of the fabric makes a little package to help contain the shirt!

Place a clean sheet of butcher paper on top, completely covering the project.

Press at 385° for 60 seconds.

When the time is up, you can remove the butcher paper. To prevent ghosting, let the print cool for a couple minutes to let the sublimation process complete. After it has cooled, remove the tape and paper.

tie dye circular fold first press colors

Open up your shirt. Looks good, but I want more color! Let's do another round.

Place a clean piece of cardstock on the pressing mat and put your shirt back on top. Make sure it's smoothed out so the folds will be more consistent.

We'll use the same twisting method but this time we are going to look for folds that don't have color. Try to tuck colored areas inward so that we get more color on the shirt.

circular second fold white areas showing

Tape your next print on top in the same way. It can be the same print/pattern or something different. That's the fun part of this project all the different results you can get!

Put a clean piece of butcher paper on top and press again at 385° for 60 seconds.

When the time is up, you can remove the butcher paper. To prevent ghosting, let the print cool for a couple minutes to let the sublimation process complete. After it has cooled, remove the tape, paper, and adhesive mask.

To add the final design, place your t-shirt on the pressing mat on top of clean cardstock. Put a clean sheet of cardstock in between the front and back layers where the design will go to protect from ghosting.

secure image with heat resistant tape

Tape the image face down to the shirt and cover the entire shirt in the pressing area with a clean sheet of butcher paper. That's important to keep the heating element clean since there's lots of dye on the fabric.

cover entire area with butcher paper

Press at 385° for 60 seconds.

final circular fold tie dye sublimation shirt

NOTE: You can also do the back of the shirt if you choose. I would recommend doing both sides before placing the image on the front.

ACCORDION FOLD

Put a clean piece of cardstock on the pressing mat and then place your shirt on top of that.

Starting at the bottom of the shirt and working upward, make accordion folds horizontally.

starting at bottom shirt make accordion folds upwards

When you have folded the length of the shirt, gently fold it in half at the center to make a U shape.

accordion fold make a u shape

Place your print on top and start taping and tuck the shirt under the print.

tape sublimation print on top accordion fold

Place a clean sheet of butcher paper on top.

Press 385° for 60 seconds.

If you choose to do another pressing, accordion fold the shirt again but this time make sure the top of the folds have more blank white space. When you are satisfied with the folding, gently make another U shape. Place your print on top of the shirt and secure with heat resistant tape. Cover with butcher paper and press.

Repeat the steps until you get the result that you like.

accordion fold second time more white shirt showing

If you placed any adhesive on the shirt, take it off when it has cooled down. Put cardstock in between the front and back layers of the shirt. Put a clean piece of butcher paper making sure it covers the entire shirt - we want to protect the heating element. Press your design.

final accordion fold shirt

SCRUNCHING

This method is the easiest out of the three.

If you choose to use an image, put the adhesive sticker sheet in place using the t-shirt ruler.

Put clean cardstock on the heat press.

Put your shirt on top of the card stock. Now all you need to do is scrunch the shirt towards the center so that it is small enough to fit under the print.

Place the print on top of the shirt and secure with heat resistant tape.

Cover with butcher tape and press at 385° for 60 seconds.

You can do multiple pressings with this method, just repeat scrunching the shirt, making sure that you show more blank white space each time you refold.

When you are satisfied with the result, cold peel the adhesive. Place cardstock between the front and back of the shirt and secure your image with heat resistant tape. Cover the entire pressing area with butcher paper and press.

STEP 4: VARIATIONS

If you don't have a sublimation printer, this is a great project for Infusible Ink sheets!

You can fold up your shirt using the methods above, then cut an Infusible Ink transfer sheet large enough to cover the project or use the entire sheet. Place the Infusible Ink sheet face down on top of your folded shirt, and secure with heat resistant tape. Cover the shirt with butcher paper and press.

You can do multiple pressings with Infusible Ink sheets as well.

tie dye sublimation with infusible ink sheets



Or, do you hoard your small scraps of Infusible Ink sheets or keep old sublimation prints? This project is a great way to use up some of those scraps. Just cut or tear pieces and fit them on your shirt like puzzle pieces. Since this project is more free form, I did not tape the individual scraps to my shirt, but you can feel free to do this if you'd like.

use infusible ink scraps sublimation tie dye

Cover the shirt with butcher paper and press. You can do as many pressings as you like, just keep refolding your shirt so that no blank space is showing. I found that doing the scrunch fold method works best with the scraps.

STEP 5: SHOW IT OFF

I washed my shirts in cold water with regular detergent, no bleach and dried with medium heat.

Notes

Typefaces used: BFC Hippie Chick and Brenson Charlotte

Free Alternatives: Abstract Groovy and Simplisicky

Answers to Your Questions About Making Sublimated Red, White, and Blue Tie Dye T-Shirts

Q: Can you show me how to do red, white, and blue tie dye?

A:  While this isn’t a traditional tie dye tutorial, I can show you how to make a red, white, and blue tie dye shirt using sublimation techniques. Just follow the tutorial and use my new designs, or the ones from the original tutorial. 

Q: Can you teach me what colors not to mix in tie-dye?

A: This is a general guideline you’ll want to follow in traditional tie dye, but I tend to agree when it comes to mixing colors in general. Avoid mixing complementary colors like purple and yellow, blue and orange, and red and green. The results will be brown and muddy and not what you expect. 

Q: What is the easiest tie dye pattern?

A: When doing traditional tie dye, the bullseye pattern is a pretty easy beginner tie to try. But sublimation makes them ALL easy — no tying necessary. 

Q:  Can you do sublimation on tie dye?

A: I’ve never tried to sublimate directly on a traditionally tie-dyed shirt, but in this tutorial I teach you how to create a sublimated tie dye shirt with a sublimated design on the front. 

Q: What kind of shirt should I use? 

A: The shirts I linked in my materials list are adult sizes, but these designs work on child size shirts, shirts with a unisex fit, tank tops, and more. Not sure if you’ve found the right shirt? Check out the T-shirts in my materials list above, or do your own shopping and be sure to check the product description to make sure the shirt is at least 65% polyester, and the size chart to make sure it’s the right fit. 

Learn how to make Red White and Blue Tie Dye sublimation T-shirts with JenniferMaker's tutorial! A sublimated tie dye shirt with a design reading "Sparkler Crew."

Q: Why does my sublimation print look dull? 

A: When you print your image on sublimation transfer paper, the visual appearance of colors will look dull and washed out. That’s because the dye needs heat applied to become fully vibrant! Even if your image looks different than you expect, your real life shirt colors should match the ones on your screen once sublimated. 

Q: How long does dye sublimation last?

A: Indefinitely! Sublimation transfers won’t crack or peel over time like vinyl, and with proper care (and 100% polyester fabric) the designs should stay vibrant for the life of the shirt!

Q: What are the fonts that you used?

A: I used Wonderful Display Font Regular (free alternative: Golden Smile) and Tingler (free alternative: Happy Memories).

Q: Can I use these designs for other projects? 

A: Absolutely! You can use these designs (and all others in my free library) for any project you’d like! These designs would make great sublimation designs for mugs, socks, tumblers, bandanas, and more. 

Q: Are your free SVGs and PNGs just for personal use or also commercial use?

A: First thing, I’m honored that you’d ask! Yes, you can sell completed projects using these designs (with limitations) along with other designs in my free library — please read about licenses here so you know what you can and cannot do. If you use them, please share photos with us! We love to see them. 

Always ask permission from independent artists before using their work in your crafts, especially those you plan to sell. 

Q: What causes ghosting on sublimation?

A: Ghosting refers to a blurred or smeared-looking sublimation result, and is caused by moving the sublimation paper while the materials are still hot and before the sublimation process has finished. To avoid this, do not move your sublimation project while it’s still hot, and wait until the sublimation transfer sheet (and the shirt) is cool before removing it. 

Q: Do you have other unique sublimation ideas to make?

A: I sure do! Check out these fun sublimation projects: 

Get my free PNG files to create sublimated red, white, and blue tie dye shirts!

I love seeing what you make with my designs and how you use them! Please share a photo of your Red, White, and Blue Tie Dye T-Shirts in our Facebook group or tag me on social media with #jennifermaker.

Love,

JenniferMaker.com

Want to remember this? Save this Red, White, and Blue Tie Dye Sublimation T-Shirt tutorial to your favorite Pinterest Board!

Learn how to make Red White and Blue Tie Dye sublimation T-shirts with JenniferMaker's tutorial! Four sublimated tie dye shirts with fireworks-themed designs sit on a star-spangled backdrop.

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