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 end up with will be exactly what you want. 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.
When kids are tie-dying, they are generally delighted no matter how the shirts look. 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!) It can take a lot of time and effort to match another color. Keep reading if you really want to understand your craft. Otherwise, just enjoy!
If you are just getting your feet wet (hopefully not with dye) and you feel a bit overwhelmed by the 160+ color choices we offer, or you are interested in mixing your own custom colors, then you might want to keep it simple and start with the "basics" - our 12 pure single color MX dyes are made for mixing and easier to use when making gradation (ombre') effects.
Pure (non-mixed) Fiber Reactive Dye Colors - PR1 Lemon Yellow, PR3 Golden Yellow, PR6 Deep Orange, PR12 Light Red, PR13 Fuchsia Red, PR22 Cobalt Blue*, PR23 Cerulean Blue*, PR25 Turquoise* (T), PR26 Sky Blue, PR117 Grape, PR175 Neutral Gray (also a HWD) - and our NEWEST pure color PR186 Nebula Navy**
No matter which colors are used, one needs to read the directions carefully, follow them step by step, and test first when the results are more critical. The color, evenness (or lack thereof), and the total effect produced depend on many factors that you control. Here are some things to consider:
* 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
* 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.
* Curing temperature at which you leave 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.
* Your fabric - just because your fabric is a natural fiber does NOT guarantee it will dye well! Folks don't expect this, but if you put different natural fabrics in the same dye bath, even different types of the same fabric, like say, bolts of "identical" cotton fabric from different manufacturers or even bolts from the same manufacturer but a different fabric mill, they can all dye slightly differently; this can be especially true if the dye color is a mix. 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 chartreuse, 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, Fiber Reactive colors can shift dramatically - mixes with blue in them more than others. In the extreme, the black Fiber Reactive dyes on silk (a protein fiber) will yield shades of brown or maroon, Forest Green yields Chartreuse, and Royal Blue yields more of a Royal Purple - the variables can be endless. Then consider the factory finishes present on most commercial fabrics - these finishes are the enemy of dye! So with all of this to consider, we repeat - TEST FIRST and if it's super important, be prepared to test again.
* Pre-washing? - 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.
* Mixing your dye for use - temperature matters! Cold water doesn't dissolve the dye very well. Adding powder to water doesn't dissolve the dye very well. Both cause "freckles" of undissolved 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. Better yet, use dissolved urea water to do your dye paste up.
* Water Chemistry - hard water causes dull colors, excess chlorine causes some colors to wash out more or fade before they ever fix to the fabric, etc. Also, we have had folks who travel and dye fabric in different environments tell us that colors can come out differently in every city they visit, water chemistry being the only variable.
* Fabric finishes - was the fabric optically whitened by the fabric mill that produced it? Optically whitened fabrics dye differently than true PFD fabrics, which is natural colored. Cheap fabrics that were unevenly optically whitened will also dye unevenly. Fabrics treated with Permanent Press dye poorly, as do fabrics treated with Scotch Guard type products, or starches etc.
* How old is your dye? - the shelf life of powdered fiber reactive dye, for example, varies from 1 year to 5 depending on the color, and it will gradually start to lose its strength.
* Storage conditions - IMPORTANT - shelf life is severely shortened by extreme heat, light, and moisture.
Wash fastness, light fastness, fading, bleeding, all depend on many factors; the type of dye you use makes the biggest difference but the fabric you are dying and what it will be exposed to play a part too. 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, colors can be anything from pastel to deep, intense, vivid. The color and evenness depend on the factors above and more, most of which you can control, some of which you cannot. Colors also can vary from dye lot to dye lot 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 dye lot, 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 charts 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 (and is looking at) the chart. Also, the color chart was developed for 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 for future reference.
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!