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You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > FAQs > Procion Dye FAQs > How much Procion MX dye should I use?

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Jacquard Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Jacquard Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues. Perfect for natural plant fibers: cotton, linen, paper, reeds, and wood.

Procion MX Fiber Reactive Dye turquoise 068 2 3 oz.

Procion MX Fiber Reactive Dye

Use for tie-dye, vat dyeing, batik, airbrush, hand painting, printing, spatter-painting, and more. Will not dye synthetics.



Ann Johnston's book
Color by Design: Paint and Print with Dye




Tom Rolofson and Martine Purdy's DVD

Advanced Tie Dye Techniques: Making Shapes and Mandalas

How much Procion MX dye should I use?

Use more for darker colors, less for paler colors

The intensity of color on your dyed fiber will depend on how much dye powder you use per weight of fiber. For pale pastels, use a tiny amount of dye; for dark colors, use more dye than usual; and for a good dark black, use up to four times as much dye as usual.

Weigh your fiber

If you're dyeing a lot of material, obviously you will need more dye. The rules you see for how much dye to use all assume one pound of fiber, whether you're dyeing ready-made clothing, fabric yardage, yarn, or unspun fiber. You will need to be able to weigh your fiber. Bathroom scales don't do well on weights below ten pounds. You can use a postal scale or your kitchen scale. (We're not supposed to use our kitchen scales for dyes or other non-food chemicals, but there's no reason not to use them to weigh clean fibers.) Remember that one US pound is 16 ounces or 454 grams; one ounce is 28 grams. You'll find the math a lot easier if you convert to metric units instead of trying to work with pounds and ounces. Many scales have a switch on the back to convert between grams and ounces, or you can just use a calculator.

Weigh your dye, or measure it by the spoonful?

The strength of any Procion MX dye is standardized by weight, not volume. One lot of the exact same dye may be either denser or fluffier than another. When you buy a new jar to replace your old supply, expect the number of teaspoons of dye required for a specific color intensity to be different, while the number of grams should be very close. For the most reproducible results, you must use a scale to weigh out the number of grams of dye you want to use. (If you don't care about being able to reproduce your results later, then measuring by the spoonful is fine.)

OWG

Often you will see references to "OWG", which stands for "On Weight of Goods". A reference to 5% OWG, for example, means that you use five percent as much dye, by weight, as the weight of your fiber. In that case, if your dry fiber weighs 1000 grams, say, then you want to use 1000 x 5% = 50 grams of dye. (Whenever you see a percent sign, just divide by 100.) Typical specifications for OWG, for dyeing cotton or rayon with Procion MX dyes, range from 2% OWG to 5% OWG, with blacks requiring up to 10% OWG, and pale pastels requiring 1% or even less, as little as 0.5%. (Of course, premixed colors that include diluants will require a higher percent OWG than achieving your own similar shades with standardized strengths of pure, single-hue dyes.)

DOS

Another abbreviation you will see is "DOS", for "Depth Of Shade". To get the total amount of dye for a particular piece, multiply the DOS by the weight of your fabric. (To multiply the weight of your fabric by 5%, multiply it by 5 and divide by 100.) Depth of Shade is exactly the same number as OWG, but it expresses the intensity of color in the fabric. A high DOS produces a much darker color than a low DOS; it might take a DOS of 10% of the weight of your fabric to make a deep dark black, for example, but, at a DOS of 0.5%, the same dye will make a very light bluish or greenish gray .

Different Amounts for Different Colors

Unlike the Cibacron F dyes (now sold as Novacron, or as Sabracron by ProChem), the Procion dyes are not standardized to a similar tinctoral strength per color. Even among the mostly undiluted single-hue Procion MX type dyes, some require more dye to get a similar intensity of color.

ProChem's approach is to use various amounts of dye for their color chips, online or included with their printed catalog, and specify how much dye is required to match the color they display. This gives you a general idea of whether to use more or less dye than the strength they indicate.

Dharma takes two different approaches. The first is a quick-to-use system of applying one asterisk to colors they think should be used at twice the strength (by volume) of unasterisked colors, and two asterisks to the colors that they think should be used at four times the strength. The second is a wonderfully detailed chart of dye yields, specifying OWG, ounces of dye per pound of fiber, and grams of dye per pound of fiber, for every one of the Procion MX type dyes they sell, to obtain a color intensity similar to the color chips in their catalog. Older versions of this chart included specific volume amounts, as well, but of course those measurements change with every dye lot, so they must have decided to no longer carry this added information, as it changed.

Specific recipes

Tie dyeing and dye painting

For making dye solutions for applying directly to the fabric or yarn, after first soaking the fiber in soda ash, first mix your water with urea and water softener (sodium hexametaphosphate); the recipe I always use includes four tablespoons of urea per quart, or 60 ml per liter, plus one teaspoon (5 ml or 2 g) of sodium hexametaphosphate, but both urea and water softener are optional. Many tie-dyers also like to add a dye thickener such as sodium alginate.

Table I. Amount of dye to use for one cup (250 ml) of mixture for tie-dyeing.
pale medium dark black recipe
source
½ tsp.
or 1 g**
2 tsp.
or 5 g**
4 tsp.
or 10 g**
8 tsp.
or 20 g**
ProChem
[PDF]
2 or more tsp. Jacquard
two to eight tsp., depending on color*** 4x as much Dharma
*abbreviations: tsp. = teaspoon = 5 ml; tbs. = tablespoon = 15 ml; g = gram = 1/28 dry ounce.
**Note that the weights and volumes given are often not equivalent. Dyeing by weight gives more reproducible results.
***see section about different colors, above

Immersion dyeing (high water ratio, in bucket or washing machine)

High water ratio immersion dyeing, which is the technique you use for dyeing anything a smooth, level, solid color, requires salt, unlike tie-dyeing and other forms of direct dye application; like them, it also require soda ash or another pH-increasing chemical, as a dye fixative. See How can I dye clothing or fabric in the washing machine?

Table II. Amount of dye to use for each pound (454 grams) of dyeable fiber.
very pale pale medium dark black recipe
source
  1 tsp.
or 2.5 g*
1 tbs.
or 7.5 g*
2 tbs.
or 15 g*
4 tbs.
or 30 g*
ProChem
[PDF]
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. 1/2 to 1 tsp. 1 tbs. 2 tbs. 4 tbs. Jacquard
1 tbs. 4 tbs. Dharma
*abbreviations: tsp. = teaspoon = 5 ml; tbs. = tablespoon = 15 ml; g = gram = 1/28 ounce.
**Note that the weights and volumes given are often not equivalent. Dyeing by weight gives more reproducible results.

 

How much Procion MX dye do you need to tie-dye a number of t-shirts?

How much dye you'll need for tie-dyeing depends on how much white you like to leave in between the colors. Dyers who like a lot of white will use far less dye than those who endeavor to cover every last bit of white with color. Dark colors also, of course, require more dye powder than pale ones; a pale pink will require no more than one-tenth as much dye powder as a hot fuchsia!

Small, medium, or large?

Sizing matters, too. A typical adult size-large t-shirt weighs about half a pound, more or less depending on how thick the t-shirts you buy are, and on what size they are. For children's t-shirts, either assume that a child's shirt requires half as much dye as an adult's shirt, or weigh a number of your shirts together, and do the math yourself. The amount of dye needed depends on the actual weight of the cotton you're dyeing (weighed dry, before dyeing).

The following table gives a good starting point for the amount of dye to buy in order to dye a number of t-shirts.


Table III. Approximate amount of dye for various sizes of tie-dyeing projects.
6 shirts 20 or 25 shirts 50 shirts 100 shirts 400 shirts
1 ounce
or 30 grams
3 ounces
or 85 grams
6 ounces
or 170 grams
12 ounces
or 340 grams
4 pounds or
2 kilograms

These amounts are to be divided among the various colors, as you please. Introductory tie-dye kits usually include one-third of the above weight in each of three colors, lemon yellow, turquoise, and fuchsia. Choosing a different set of primary mixing colors, such as golden yellow instead of lemon or sun yellow, or cobalt blue instead of turquoise, can give very different effects. Or buy a jar of dye in each color that happens to appeal to you. If you're going to mix your own colors, see the charts on my page of Which Procion MX colors are pure, and which mixtures? for a list of good single-hue dyes to start with.

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Last updated: March 10, 2010
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