Types of Dyes and Dye Additives:
With the long history of dyeing, it’s no wonder that choosing the right dye can feel overwhelming. Dyes are often grouped by ingredients into either synthetic or natural dyes, each providing their advantages and disadvantages.
- Natural dyes, as the name suggests, are dyes found naturally in plants and animals. Prized for thousands of years, wars have been fought to claim the most beautiful, rich sources for dyes. Famous examples of natural dyes include cochineal, saffron, and indigo. In addition, some dyes can be found right in your kitchen, from the skins of avocados and onions to spinach and beets! Natural dyes have experienced a resurgence in popularity, due to their widespread availability and eco-friendly footprint. However, some may object to the use of animal dyes, and natural dyes often require some previous dyeing experience in order to extract the best color.
- Synthetic dyes are any dyes made from man-made materials. Unlike natural dyes, synthetic dyes can be used to provide a wide range of shades on a wide range of fibers. Also, synthetic dyes often require less work than natural dyes to produce a vibrant hue. However, synthetic dyes may contain certain chemicals that interfere with the environment and body, and should be used in a safe, ventilated environment. Don’t worry though, a safety guide to dyes is provided later in this post!
In addition to these groups, some dyes come pre-dissolved in liquid form, while others come in a box. Which to choose?
- Liquid dye is best for beginners and provides a pre-dissolved dye with a high concentration of color. If you’re short on time or you are new to dyeing, this is your best option!
- Powder dyes are best for experimenting with saturation in the dye bath. As you control the ratio between dissolved dye to water, it can be used to provide a wide range of shades. These dyes are best for the intermediate to advanced dyer looking for more precision.
After you’re done choosing your dye, you may want to add on a dye additive to ensure your dyed piece remains gorgeous for years to come! Common dye additives include fixatives or mordant, which stops color bleeding, and color remover for previously dyed fabrics. If using natural dyes, research what additives are required for your specific dye and fiber combination.