Painting Tie Dye Backgrounds with Watercolors

design team - shannon painting Jul 13, 2021
How to paint tie dye backgrounds using watercolor

Hey creatives!  Today we’re tie-dying ….. using watercolors! At one point or another, I’m sure you’ve tried tie-dying and if you haven’t then you’re definitely missing out. It’s super fun and a little unpredictable and that’s how our paintings will be today. 

I’m Shannon from The Pigeon Letters Design Team and today we’re going to be using the wet on wet technique to create 2 beginner friendly watercolor tie-dye patterns! So let’s get started!


You can also watch the tutorial if that's more your jam!


  • Watercolors (red, yellow, green blue and purple)
  • Watercolor paper
  • Round brush 
  • Flat brush (optional)
  • Masking tape (painter’s or washi tape works as well)
  • Tissue


Striped Pattern

Step 1: Prepare the Paper

Use the tape of your choice to secure the borders of the paper to your desk/work surface. Then use a large paintbrush and clean water to wet the entire paper. This can be a flat brush or the largest round brush you have. To ensure that the colors bleed easily, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t add too much water to the paper. The surface of the paper should appear glossy and without puddles! 




Step 2: Paint the Stripes

Using the color of your choice and a round paintbrush, draw a few stripes of color while leaving some white space in between them. You’ll need to work very quickly for both backgrounds in order to make sure that your paper doesn’t dry. This will cause the paint to dry with harsh edges rather than the feathered look we’re going for.






Step 3: Bleed the Colors

Using only the tip of the paintbrush, pull some of the color into the white areas.




Step 4: Add Contrast

Using a darker shade of your color, add a few short lines and dots to the center of the stripes. Depending on how saturated you want the colors to be you can repeat this step using an even darker shade afterwards.



Step 5: Let It Dry

Allow the paint to dry completely and then remove the tape! 





Rainbow Spiral

Step 1: Prepare the Paper

Similarly to step 1 for the previous pattern, tape the edges of the paper and evenly wet the paper. 


Step 2: Paint the First Spiral

Starting with yellow, paint a simple spiral starting in the center of the paper. Don’t worry if the line is not smooth or even all around. That’s the beauty about tie dye patterns, they don’t need to be perfect!



Then use the tip of your paintbrush to pull some of the color away from the spiral and into the white space around it.




Step 3: Add the Surrounding Colors

Use the body of your paintbrush to add green to the inner edge of the yellow spiral and red to the outer edge of the spiral. You can use the tip of the brush to pull the colors into the yellow at certain spots. 





Add purple next to the red. As you continue to add colors, use the tip of your brush to pull them into certain areas when necessary. 



Then add blue next to the purple and it should also be in between the green and purple at the center of the spiral.




Step 4: Darken the Colors

Using a darker shade of your colors, add a few short lines and dots to the center of their respective colors. 



To remove white areas from the paper simply clean your brush and then use it to lift color from certain areas.



Step 5: Finishing Touches

You can continue building up your colors until you get them how you want and then allow the background to dry completely before you remove the tape! 



And that’s it! Now you should have 2 super fun tie dye backgrounds. 


Shannon is a freelance artist from a small island in the Caribbean called Barbados! She creates fun and unique content, whether it's with markers, watercolors, acrylics or on the iPad to inspire other creatives. Check out more of her tutorials here!


Wanna get your tie dye on another time? Pin this blog post for later!