Create and customize your own psychedelic 60s-inspired tie-dye texture in Adobe Photoshop, without all the mess!
Tie-dye has made a strong impression down the runway, in graphic design, and everything in-between. This psychedelic trend made a major comeback when our world started embracing do-it-yourself projects in 2020 and is here to stay for the year to come.
You can use your own tie-dye textures to liven up your social media graphics, make wall art, or create fun printable materials.
Read along for a detailed summary of this tutorial or watch the video below. Let’s open up Photoshop, create a new document, and jump right in!
Create a Color Palette or Source Photo
This step is optional if you want to use a specific color palette or a source image using the Eyedropper Tool. This will make it easier when we create our gradient to copy over these exact colors.
First, open up your new document. For this example, I’m working with a perfect square of 1500 x 1500 pixels. You can go by any dimensions or color mode that work for you. Next, open up your color palette or image next to your new document.
Now, click and drag your color palette off from the top menu bar and keep dragging it next to your Toolbar until you see a blue line. From there, you should have a split screen with your new document and color palette (or image) you’re using.
Make a Custom Gradient
Our next step will be making a custom gradient. This will be the foundation of our tie-dye pattern. To get started, click the Gradient Tool, or use “G” as a shortcut. Next, click the top bar where you see the current gradient. This will open up the Gradient Editor.
Once inside this window, we’ll start creating our custom gradient. Click the existing swatch in the gradient to edit. You can either use the split screen image we set up before or double-click the swatch to add your own color code.
Keep clicking next to the swatch to add more and use the Eyedropper Tool to source your color in your color palette. Keep going until you repeat your colors at least twice. You can keep adding as many colors as you like and move them around as you desire. The goal here is not to make things too uniform as it’s supposed to be an imperfect pattern. Once you’re done, press Ok and your gradient is ready to go.
Next, we’ll be adding our gradient on our document. I suggest using either the Linear or Radial Gradient. For this example, I used the Radial Gradient and clicked from one corner to the next diagonally, so my tie-dye pattern comes out from the bottom corner. If you’re unhappy with your gradient placement, press Command + Z to undo and try again until you find what works best.
Lastly, be sure to double-click your layer to unlock it as a background layer and name it whatever you’d like.
Now that our gradient is done, we need to distort it so it doesn’t look perfect. Head to top menu > Filter > Liquify. This will open up a new window where we can start distorting our pattern.
For this example, I’m only using the Forward Warp Tool. You can also experiment with the Twirl Clockwise Tool and the Pucker Tool. Start with a low pressure and work your way up. I started with my Pressure set to 17 and increased as I went on.
You can also change the brush size by using the [ ] on your keyboard. Click and drag to push and pull the pixels to distort the pattern. Take your time with this and when you’re happy with what you created, press Ok. Photoshop will save the changes in your document.
Add Texture on Top
1. Duplicate Layer
Next, we’ll add a texture on top of our tie-dye that imitates what dye looks like on fabric. To do this, let’s start by duplicating your layer. Go to the Layers Panel, right-click, and select Duplicate Layer from the menu.
2. Add a Black and White Adjustment Layer
From here, we’ll add a Black & White Adjustment Layer by going to the circular icon at the bottom of your Layers Panel and selecting Black & White.
3. Merge Both Layers
Once you have these two layers ready, select both the copy of the tie-dye layer and the Black & White Adjustment Layer, leaving the bottom tie-dye layer out. Right-click and select Merge Layers. Now that your layers are merged, you can rename the layer.
4. Render Difference Clouds
Let’s finish making this texture by rendering the layer. Go to top menu > Filter > Render > Difference Clouds. Here, you’ll see your layer turn into dark-colored clouds. You’re almost finished!
This is where our tie-dye pattern will come alive. We’ll be blending the top layer into our bottom tie-dye pattern underneath. Blend Modes can be found in the Layers Panel and the default is always set to Normal. Click it to get a dropdown menu with all of the Blend Modes.
You can experiment with different ones and see what it looks like once you hover over it. My favorites to use for this tie-dye pattern are Color Dodge, Linear Dodge, Soft Light, and Subtract. For this example, I went with Color Dodge.
Blend modes work great to blend two layers together, but can often change the colors in a way that may not be desirable. We can use Adjustment Layers to correct this and get your pattern looking exactly the way you want. I suggest using either Hue/Saturation, Levels, or Color Balance.
For this example, I added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, which you can find at the bottom of your Layer Panel as the circular icon. From there, you can find all your adjustments and what works for you. I put my Hue to -2, Saturation to +17, and Lightness to -3. Experiment with these various adjustments to bring your tie-dye pattern to life.
Keep in mind that a tie-dye pattern is imperfect, so embracing these various tools in your own way will make your pattern unique. This is simply one way to go about making this texture, but feel free to play around with what you’ve learned today.
Colors are inspiring and just plain fun. Take a look at these other color-inspiring articles: