With these simple instructions and basic materials, your child can make colorful tie-dye shoes at home.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Young girl wearing a tie dye shirt posing in front of a garage wall
Credit: NATASHA SIOSS/Getty Images

Looking for a unique tie-dye project for kids? Ditch the plain white T-shirt and transform a pair of shoes instead! With six simple steps and a few basic materials, your little one will soon be strutting in style.

Step 1: Acquire Materials

Here's a list of materials needed to tie-dye shoes.

  • White canvas sneakers: You can buy a cheap pair of white canvas sneakers in stores or online (like these from Amazon). Alternately, kids can upcycle a worn-out pair of shoes they already own. Thoroughly wash and dry them before starting this project.
  • Fabric dye: Parents can buy an easy-to-use tie-dye kit, which usually retail for around $20-30 at craft stores or online. You can also make your own dye for longer-lasting colors; most instructions call for mixing fiber-reactive dye with water.
  • Gloves
  • Paintbrush

Step 2: Prepare the Shoes

If you don’t want tie-dyed shoelaces, unlace and remove them. Otherwise leave them in place (although this might prevent the shoe's tongue from being dyed). 

Whether you’re using a tie-dye kit or making your own dye, soak the shoes in soda ash for better color absorption. Soda ash (sodium carbonate) can be found at craft stores and online, and some tie-dye kits also contain the powder. Follow the instructions on the packaging; you'll probably need to mix soda ash with warm water, then let the shoes soak for at least 10 minutes. Let dry completely afterwards.

Step 3: Prepare the Dye

Put on gloves to prevent staining your hands. These can be kitchen gloves, rubber gloves, or the gloves that come with your tie-dye kit. Then it’s time to start preparing the dye!

Follow the instructions that come with your tie-dye kit. The highly-concentrated colors will probably come in squirt bottles. In most cases, you’ll need to add water to activate the dyes, then shake it to mix everything together. Take the tops off the squirt bottles for this project because you’ll need to dip paintbrushes inside. 

Step 4: Choose a Design

At this point, kids can plan out their tie-dye shoe design. Do they want ombre strips, colorful swirls, a groovy watercolor pattern, or something else? Let the imagination run wild! Here are some inspiration photos.

Step 5: Tie-Dye Your Shoes

Head to a designated workspace, whether it's your driveway or table covered in garbage bags. Consider stuffing the shoes with the paper towel to maintain their shape during the dye process.

Grab any paintbrush you want (keeping in mind that smaller ones offer more control) and dip it into the dye. Paint the shoes based on your chosen design. Start with lighter shades (yellow, pink, light orange, etc.) since darker colors will show up over them. Clean your brush in water between each color to prevent accidentally mixing shades. 

When making your pattern, remember that the tie-dye will run. Keep some space between colors knowing that the dye move from its original location. You don’t want the shades to accidentally bleed together!

Once you finish applying the colors, take a look at your tie-dye shoes. If you’re seeking a watercolor or gradient effect, blend the colors together with a dry brush. Make sure to do this before the dye dries. Those struggling to blend can try dipping the dry brush in water. 

Step 6: Let The Shoes Dry

It’s important to let the colors set. Cover your wet shoes in plastic wrap or a plastic bag, then let them sit for 12-24 hours. 

Step 7: Wash the Tie Dye Shoes

Wash the shoes in the washing machine (nothing else should be inside the machine) or by hand with dishwashing liquid. If hand-washing, keep scrubbing until the water run-off is clear. Let the shoes dry, put the laces back on if needed, and they’re ready to wear!