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Dye Expectations

Dyeing is a craft, not a pure science, and like all crafts, there is a learning curve and many nuances that affect the outcome. Be advised - we do not guarantee the result you wind up with will be what you want. One needs to read the directions carefully, follow them step by step, and test first when the results are more critical. If you are not sure about which dye to use after reading our descriptions, give us a call! We are here to help! However, in the end, you should still test, because many situations are unique. Also, when kids are tie dyeing, they are delighted no matter how the shirts look. We adults are much more critical and hard on ourselves, or we just have a vision in our head of what we think it should look like. For those trying to match the color of something else exactly, you can get lucky, or it can take days of testing and tweaking, even if you are an experienced dyer. (Folks who do color matching charge about $80 per hour! Sometimes even they can talk a couple of days to get a particular match.) Keep reading if you really want to understand your craft. Otherwise, just enjoy!

The color, evenness (or lack thereof), and total effect produced depends on many factors that you control:

* the amount of dye used, for example, Fuchsia can vary from a light Pink to a dark Magenta just by varying the quantity of dye used

* the temperature of the water of the dye bath - too cool and the chemical reaction is sluggish; too hot and way more of the dye "hydrolizes", i.e. magnetically attaches to the water molecules and not the fabric, so way more dye washes out and doesn't stick.

* the temperature in which you cure your tie-dyes or dye paintings - if the ambient temperature is less than 70° F, you will get paler color after the washout. The warmer the ambient temperature, the better the color, with less time curing.

* the fabric - folks don't expect this, but if you put different fabrics in the same dye bath, even different cottons, like t-shirts from different manufacturers or different dye-lots, they can all come out variations of the color, especially if the color is a mix. They will not necessarily match. For example, if you mix Rayon and cotton in a dye color that is a blue mix, the rayon "sucks up" all the blues first, and leaves little for the cotton, so if you are doing green, the cotton may come out chartruese, and the rayon more of a blue green! You can dye 100 % cotton t-shirts from several different manufacturers in the same dye bath and have them all come out a slightly different color or shade. On silk, the colors can shift dramatically - mixes with blue in them more than others. In the extreme, the black Fiber Reactive dyes on silk (a protien fiber) will yield shades of brown or maroon, Forest Green yields Chartreuse, and Royal Blue yeilds more of a Royal Purple!

* whether you pre-washed or not - pre-washing with hot water and Synthrapol or our Dharma Textile Detergent removes unseen oils, dirt, and fingerprints that can cause a splotchy dye job. Dharma recommends always pre-washing for best results.

how you dissolved the dye and at what temperature - cold water doesn't dissolve the dye very well. Adding powder to water doesn't dissolve the dye very well. Both cause "freckles" of undisolved dye on the fabric. Best to paste up the dye by adding lukewarm water gradually while you are smashing it with a hard spoon, like making lump-free gravy with flour and water. Hot water kills some colors, making them wash out.

your particular water chemistry - hard water causes dull colors, excess chlorine causes some colors to wash out more, etc. Also we have had folks who travel and dye stuff tell us that colors can vary in every city they visit, water chemistry being the only variable.

does the fabric have any treatments on it - was the fabric optically whitened by the fabric mill that produced it? Optic white fabrics dyes differently than true PFD, which is natural colored. Cheap fabrics that were unevenly optically whitened will dye splotchily. Fabrics treated with Permanent Press dye poorly, as do fabrics treated with Scotch Guard type products, etc.

*  age of your dye - shelf life of powdered fiber reactive dye, for example, varies from 1 year to 5 depending on the color, and it just gradually starts to loose it's strength.

how you have stored the dye - shelf life is severly shortened by extreme heat, light, and moisture.

*  Wash fastness, light fastness, fading, bleeding, all depend not only on the type of dye you use, but on what you are dyeing and what it will be exposed to.

As you can see, there are a lot of variables! That is why the craft of dyeing is part science, part art, and a lot of experience and practice.

With our Dharma Fiber Reactive dyes, a color will produce a range of shades from pastel to vivid in it's color range. The color and evenness depends on the factors above and more, most of which you can control, some of which you cannot. Colors also can vary from dyelot to dyelot because the pure primary colors used for mixing can vary a little from the original manufacturer, which can affect the mixes made with them. To repeat a color exactly, you need to use the same dyelot, and you need to do everything exactly the same as you first did it. Weighing the fabric and dye with a scale is much more accurate than measuring with spoons and cups. The colors on our color chart are meant to be used as a guide, but they are only as accurate as the printer's ink, your computer monitor, or the eye of the person who made the chart. Also, the color chart was developed from dyeing cotton. Throw in the variables above and you get what we are saying. Experienced professional dyers keep notes on what they did, and a scrap of the dyed fabric to refer to for future. 

The main thing is to have fun. Like other arts and crafts, dyeing is fun!!! And remember, it is always best to test the suitability of a product (as well as your technique) before using it extensively or on big production runs when you are doing resale. Like other companies, we have to limit our liability for replacement or refunds for defective products only, and just cannot take financial responsibility for time or other materials when a dye job doesn't come out the way you expected it to. We can make no guarantees about how products will work in your situation, although we try harder than most companies to help you to choose the product most likely to succeed for you. So test, test, test!


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