Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Custom Colors

One of my favorite dyeing projects is to create color swatch cards. I did this extensively with acid dyes, about 10 years ago, and I have referred to that color book countless times over the years to reproduce colors.

So I began this project over the weekend, with fiber reactive dyes. I've been wanting to do this since I started with fiber reactives, two years ago, but now I'm finally comfortable enough with tinkering with the dye concentrations, enough to launch into a new color swatch project.

One of the biggest -- maybe THE biggest -- difference between using acid dyes and using fiber reactive dyes is this: acid dyes are of equal strength, whereas fiber reactive dyes require fiddling with the relative concentrations of yellow-red-blue in order to mix correctly. That's why it's taken me so long to get to this point in my self education.

For instance, with acid dyes, to mix dyes of equal depth of shade (DOS), you use the same weight of dye powder to an equal amount of water. Such as 1 gram of dye to 100 ml water, which equals a DOS 1, regardless of what color you're mixing.

With fiber reactives, reds are 3x stronger than yellows, blues are 2x stronger than yellows. So to mix an equivalent DOS with fiber reactives would require, generally and theoretically, 3 tsp yellow to one cup water, 2 tsp blue to one cup water, and 1 tsp red to one cup of water.

So I started the weekend's color swatches with lemon yellow at 3 tsp per cup water, turquoise at 2 tsp per cup water, and fuchsia at 1 tsp per cup water. I made the orange page of swatches -- like what you see at the left above -- and discovered that there was still way too much fuchsia in the mix. I did the same thing with the greens and discovered that there was also way too much turquoise in the mix for my taste. So I kept halving the fuchsia and turquoise until I got a percentage that worked for me, that subsequently mixed colors that I would use. The photo above is what I arrived at after numerous experiments with color concentration.

My final formulas for this set of color swatches:
  • 3 tsp lemon to 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp turquoise to 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp fuchsia to one cup water
  • 1 tsp black (Procion 300) to one cup water
All the colors are then based on 8 or 9 ml of dyestock, in the concentrations listed. The lightest orange is 7 ml lemon/1 ml fuchsia, the darkest orange is 1 ml lemon/7 ml fuchsia. The middle swatch in each row has 1 ml black added; the right swatch has 1 ml turquoise (the right column always has the complementary color, which will change on each page).

After I make the swatches, I toss the leftover dye into one of three quart jars -- orange, green, purple -- and use that for other dyeing projects.

My next set will be with lemon yellow again, fire red, and cerulean blue. Actually, I did an entire set with those colors today, using the same formulas as above. But the colors in this case were not intense enough so I'm going to do them again, and I'm going to double the blue and red this time.


Irene said...

My God, Connie, what a job! I can't believe you figured all of that out. You have such patience. Job well done! Congratulations.

Judy said...

I have been doing much the same thing, although not as in depth as you. It's nice to know on fabric, in advance what your result will be. I have a rather 'extensive collection' of Procion MX dyes from both Dharma and ProChem, and I've recorded them on silk, rayon, and cotton swatches: a lot of work!
Good job Connie!

Judy Sall Fiber Art said...

I SHOULD be doing this, since I have decided to add fat quarters to my product line, but I'm just not sure I have the patience. Probably why I never took the Carol Soderlund class! I am impressed by your patience and attention to detail... two traits I'm woefully short of!

Unknown said...

Ohhhh you're braver than I am to take this project on alone. I need it so badly, though, this reference books, so a few weeks ago I signed up for Carol Soderlund's class, Color Mixing For Dyers. At the end of the workshop, you're supposed to have a book containing 1000 mixing recipes. I can't wait!

You'll be through your samples long before then, though, and have a gorgeous mixing book to use for years to come.

Who wouldn't want to do this for the rest of their lives, right? Guh.

Sandra Rude said...

Hmmm. Very interesting that there is such a difference between the different reds, and the different blues. I wonder how this relates to using weight rather than volume to measure out the dye...

You're very disciplined to take the time to do this sort of experimentation! Good work!

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

Nice article Connie. I am also the kind of person that just has to know how things work and have spent a good deal of time reading about dye mixing but have not documented my work in such a usable format. Congratulations! Time well spent and thanks for sharing with us.

geni said...

What a great idea to make the color swatch cards!
Have you ever considered to weigh the amount of dye? Since I began to dye with Procion I do; it makes it easier for me to make reproducable dye stock solutions. That does not mean that I am not in to playing with mixtures of dyes and do not love surprises. I suspect not every color of dye has the same molecular weight...

Frieda Anderson said...

I've been doing this for myself as well. It is a fun but time consuming project.