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Dharma Pigment "Dye" System Instructions

Here's a really exciting product! Dharma Pigment Dye is a concentrated, non-toxic pigment system that when applied to fabrics, looks and feels like dye. The big thing is that, unlike dyes, you can get wash-fast, dry-cleanable, permanent results without the use of steamers, chemical fixatives, or extensive heat-setting. Just dilute it to taste (we recommend 1 part pigment to 2-4 parts water), apply it, and let it dry and air-cure for at least 24 hours. (If a 24-hour air cure is a problem for you, you can speed up the process with a hair dryer.) We have found that a bit of heat-setting (20 or so minutes in a home dryer or a quick 1-3 minute run-over with an iron) will produce the strongest colors.

We recommend Dharma Pigment Dyes mainly for direct-application, i.e. hand painting, tie-dyeing, squirting, dipping, crinkle effect, and even marbling (with the use of a dispersing agent). It works great on cotton, rayon, silk, silk velvet, and also most synthetics including polyester and nylon. Pigment Dyes are not recommended for solid color dyeing, as they do not set until they are dry, which means that the color will migrate while drying. Neat effects, but no solids.

On cotton and rayon, especially if you don't heat-set, you get a cool distressed or "stonewashed" effect after washing, which is a soft faded look. Light heat setting, like a hot dryer for 20 minutes or a 1-3 minute run-over with an iron gives brighter color retention. It's also possible to get a "crinkle" effect. It gives results completely different from the usual tie-dye, yet in some ways it's easier to use. Let the garment dry as much as possible while still tied, then hang or lay flat to finish drying. Pigment Dyes are a viable alternative to using our Dharma Fiber Reactive Dyes, at a comparable cost, when doing projects with small children and/or when you prefer not to work with the chemicals. Pigment Dyes are totally non-toxic.

On silk, we have found that a bit of heat-setting is required. Unlike the silk paints we carry, you can heat-set the Pigment Dyes in a home dryer or with a quick 1-3 minute run-over with an iron. The Pigment Dyes don't spread as much as other silk dyes and paints, making it easier to do detail work without the use of resists. Alcohol and salt techniques work as well. On silk velvet we've gotten fabulous results, but the setting must be done in the dryer (with iron-setting, too much excess pigment remains and the pile sticks together.)

On nylon, which is very much like silk, we've found that it works best if it's PFP (prepared for printing). Non-PFP nylon is usually treated with oils and other substances to make it easier to weave, but that also interferes with the absorption of the pigment and will produce less than optimal results.

Dharma Pigment Dyes are available in 12 standard colors, plus white and black. The white is also called a "pastel base." The primaries are yellow, scarlet or rubine, and blue. It is a very concentrated pigment, so a 4 oz. bottle yields approximately 12-20 oz. of dye. The pearl base adds pearlescence and requires iron-fixing in order to be washfast. Thickener makes it more like a paint and must be blended to avoid clumping. Bases should be added to the colors, not the other way around, to achieve the desired effects. They may, if over-used, add more "hand" or feel to the fabric. None of these bases make pigment dye "opaque". Best results are achieved on white or light fabrics.


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