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How to Paint with Fiber Reactive Dyes

Learn how to paint with fiber reactive dyes in this Howcast video about tie dyeing.


Painting fabric can be really fun and painting with fiber reactive dyes is pretty easy. All you need is to prepare a couple of different dye solutions, as many as you want and you prepare them in squeeze bottles or any containers by simply mixing the dye with a little bit of urea, will just keep them moist. And you put as much dye as you want them darker. And as you see I prepared plenty.

You'll prepare your fabric by soaking it in an activator solution, which was prepared just by mixing washing soda or soda ash with water and that will make the fabric receptive to the dyes. So I have my fabric that has been pre-wet as it should be for any dyeing technique and I'm going to soak it in the dye activator solution for about 5 minutes.

While it soaks, I'm going to take that time to actually decide what dyes I want to use. As you can see, I went a little crazy and I prepared a bunch of colors so I'm going to decide which ones I want. I really like the aqua so I think that should be the pick and I'm going to try to keep the colors all within the same color scheme because sometimes when you mix colors that are really different, you end up with really muddy and ugly results so you want to like always test out the colors look like. And I think I'm going to use the black and maybe the nickel. I'm going to keep this pretty, pretty dark, maybe too dark. I think the black and the nickel are too similar so maybe a little bit of yellow.

I think this is going to be my color selection. Aqua, black and the yellow. So I'm keeping my bottles here to make it easy access and since I'm painting, I'm using paint brushes. So I don't need the tops so I'm going to remove all of them so I have an easier time. Always make sure that your surface is clean because if there's a little bit of dye in it, as soon as you put your activated fabric will take on the dye and that might ruin your project. So you might want to be a little bit obsessive-compulsive about cleaning your working surface.

So I'm rigging out my activated fabric and I'm going to lay it flat on the table. And this is a great technique if you want any more particular designs or if you want to do a little bit of a faux-tye dying. I imagine that you're not really good at getting some of the patterns, you can totally pretend you did them by just applying the dyes directly into the fabric.

I have a couple of tools and I'm going to show the different effects. I have foam brushes which can be really fun and absorb a lot of dye so you can make pretty teak stripes and I have just regular brushes. And I have some of my favorite things which are just regular droppers and that enables you to apply the dye very locally and just do like dots that then look spread.

So for instance, I'll start by showing out the dots look like. And you want to just apply a small quantity and see how it spreads. So I'm going to make a couple. It's always a good idea to wait a little bit of time in between applications with the dropper because the dye will continue running so you want to see how much you actually run before you put your next color on, so maybe I'll do a little bit of black, here too.

And you can see that with this technique I actually can keep the place where I put the dye pretty under control. Some parts of it are running a little bit but still you can see the polka dot effect.

With the brushes you can go as crazy as create shapes with it. Remember that just by strictly applying the fabric is wet, the dye will still run a little bit so you can do really detailed designs but for instance, if I was going for a wave kind of look and I wanted it to have many colors, I could do that just by painting the dye solution side by side.

So for instance, you see that colors will still run into each other, like, even that tie dye look but you had more control over what you wanted the color to be. The foam brushes you might want to have your dye solution into a wider container so I'm going to put a little bit into a measuring cup and then you just want to make sure that your foam brush soaks in as much dye as you want and then you just apply to it.

And this is a really good technique if you wanted to paint a background because you can do like a really wide section at once. So imagine that I wanted to paint all my background yellow but I had a couple of effects out in the middle. With a foam brush we would just go really fast and you could focus your energy into doing more of the design if this was just the background.

So these are just a couple of tips on how you can paint using fiber reactive dyes.

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