If you want to add some ambiance to your patio, try making outdoor curtains by dyeing canvas drop cloths. It’s a simple DIY project where you can customize the color and size for covering a pergola, framing a porch, or sectioning off backyard areas.

It’s easy to use fabric dye to color plain canvas tarps any shade you want, offering you more flexibility and choice than you’d have when purchasing pre-made curtains. Follow the below steps to dye canvas and create beautiful, budget-friendly DIY patio curtains. 

1. Get Materials for DIY Drop Cloth Curtains

To make dyed canvas DIY drop cloth curtains, you can source most products on Amazon or local craft or big box stores. Purchase the following: 

  • Canvas drop cloths: You can find these at hardware stores like Home Depot or Lowes in various sizes. Get enough to cover the area — don’t forget about overlap. It’s better to have more than less.
  • Fiber reactive dye: Make sure whatever you buy is appropriate for cotton canvas. Craft stores have this, and you can buy it in the color of your choice. 
  • Plastic bins or kiddie pools: This is where you’ll do the dyeing. 
  • Rubber gloves:  Using these will protect your hands from turning colors.
  • Squeeze bottles: You’ll need these to mix and apply the dye.
  • Liquid softener:  Adding a bit of softener helps the canvas absorb the dye evenly.
  • Spoon or stick: Use this to stir and move the canvas in the dye.
  • Scissors: You’ll use this to cut the canvas post-dyeing.

2. Prepare Your Workspace

You’ll need adequate space to dye several yards of canvas, so it’s best to choose an area where you have enough space for bins or your kiddie pool. You can do this DIY project indoors in an area like a garage or basement or outside in a driveway or yard. Just know that dye can stain areas like the driveway or the garage floor, so choose accordingly. You’ll definitely want to avoid doing this in a living room because ingredients like bleach and dye can get on and stain furniture and rugs. Lay down plastic or cardboard to protect the surface where you plan to work.

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Set up bins on the protected area and place materials nearby for easy access. Don’t forget to wear old clothes and gloves since dye can permanently stain. Now, you’re ready to begin.

3. Mix the Dye

Follow the specific mixing instructions that come with your dye. Different brands may vary, so make sure to read the package instructions. Typically, you should mix dye powder with very hot water at a 1:1 ratio. Note that a bit of liquid softener can help with the absorption.

If you pour into squeeze bottles, it’s easier to apply. 

4. Dye the Canvas

Now it’s finally time to dye your fabric — follow these steps to successfully dye the canvas:

  • Set up the canvas: Unfold it, lay it flat in a bin, and smooth it out.
  • Add the dye: Squeeze dye directly onto the canvas in lines from top to bottom. Go horizontally and vertically for even coverage.
  • Stir: Move sections around with a stick or spoon so the dye reaches all areas. 
  • Wait: Once saturated, soak for at least an hour. For darker colors, soak overnight.
  • Squeeze it out: Wearing gloves, squeeze out excess dye back into the bin. 
  • Rinse: Wash thoroughly with cool water.

5. Dry and Hang the Curtains 

Air drying your curtains is the easiest way to dry them, and preferably in the sun by hanging them from a curtain rod. Once dry, you can trim and shape to fit your patio using scissors. Finally, it’s time to hang your curtains, using grommets and pockets. 

Tips for Dyeing Drop Cloths

  • Use 100% cotton canvas for the best absorption.
  • Avoid getting dye on other surfaces as it stains.
  • Wear an apron over old clothes for extra protection.
  • Add vinegar to rinse water to remove excess dye.
  • Test dye a swatch first to ensure you like the color.
  • One dry, run your cloth through the washer to seal the color.
  • Don’t use the washing machine until the cloth is completely dry.

So, Should You Dye Your Own Patio Curtains?

If you want inexpensive custom patio curtains in your favorite color, dyeing drop cloths is an easy and effective DIY project. With some time and effort, you can create custom curtains for a fraction of the store-bought cost. With a few supplies and a short, easy process, you can have inexpensive custom patio curtain panels. Plan to change them seasonally for quick and affordable decor updates.

FAQs About Dyeing Canvas Drop Cloths

How much dye per drop cloth?

One standard box (1-2 ounces) should work for a 9′ x 12′ canvas. Mix the whole box into a gallon of hot water.

What kind of softener to use?

Liquid, not dryer sheets. Add around 1/4 cup or less per gallon of dye. Any brand.

How to get an ombre effect?

Dye a third of the canvas first, then dip a third less time. Leave the last third undyed. Rinse and dry for ombre.

Can printed canvas be dyed?

Yes, the original pattern will show through after dyeing. The dye acts as a colored filter over the design.

What other fabrics can be dyed this way?

Fiber reactive dyes work on natural fabrics like cotton, linen, hemp, and ramie. Dye bedsheets, tablecloths or anything made from them.

Learn more in this how-to video and article from Checking in with Chelsea!

Editorial Contributors
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Coty Perry

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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