Dyes

  • Household Dyes (Rit) –Cheap.  Easy.  Available. Low toxicity. Must be heated to work well, but can be fixed within a very short period by boiling, microwaving or steaming.  Works best on nylon, and good on all natural fibers, including wool, silk, cotton, linen and rayon.  Doesn’t work on polyester. Wear medical or dishwashing  gloves to avoid your hands cracking from the salt additive in the dye, and a nuisance dust mask to avoid breathing in the powdered dye.
  • Procion Dyes (Dylon, Procion MX, etc) - must be mixed with a little vinegar or citric acid to work with wool or silk, or a little soda ash to work with cotton, linen or rayon.   Neither mix works on polyester or nylon.  Mixing in urea makes both mixes work better.  Dye can be any temperature to work, but needs to stay on the fiber in wet form for as long as possible, preferably a day or more (!), so you will need to keep spray dyes damp with plastic bags.  Steam heating in microwave makes it go slightly faster in a pinch.  Wear medical or dishwashing  gloves to avoid your hands cracking from the salt additive in the dye, and a nuisance dust mask to avoid breathing in the powdered dye and powdered chemicals
  • Disburse Dyes (iDye) work on polyester and nylon.  They only work well when boiled for 30-60 minutes on a stove, however you can get some oomph out of a spray dye by promptly wrapping the moist sprayed item in a plastic grocery bag and nuking it for 10 minutes in a microwave, then letting it sit in the microwave for another 10 minutes.  Wear medical or dishwashing gloves to avoid your hands cracking from the salt additive in the dye, and a nuisance dust mask to avoid breathing in the powdered dye and chemicals.
  •  To get a nearly completely removable spray dye you need to use an alcohol- based toxic mix called French Enamel Varnish (F.E.V.) home made from equal parts shellac, alcohol, and alcohol based leather dye.  For metallic effects you can add mica powders to the mix.  These go on cold and stay on once they dry till you dry clean them out (warn your dry cleaner about this stuff). However they absolutely require use of heavy gloves, respirators and goggles during application in a very well ventilated area.   The effect is fantastic but the danger to the costume artist is not to be taken lightly. 
  • To get a really permanent spray dye you don’t use dye, but paint, actually.  The ideal paints are those mixed for airbrushing to fabric.  You can use them in an airbrush as is, or in laundry sprayers cut 50/50 with water.   They set after drying 24 hours, and can be set faster by ironing.  Use medical type gloves to stop your hands getting colored.

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