UPDATED (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MAY 30, 2020 15:14 PM)
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Dying for some quality fabric dye? With these coloring agents you can transform an old garment, create custom textiles, and experiment with color. Try methods such as batik printing, ombre dipping, and tie-dyeing. Fabric dye is an essential tool for costume makers, textile artists, and seamstresses, and there are many options to choose from. Fiber-reactive dyes, where the dye bath is alkaline, work best on plant-based fibers like cotton and hemp. Acid dyes are better for protein-based fabrics such as wool and silk. All-purpose dyes like Rit may have ingredients that help them work with a range of materials. And still other dyes are specially formulated for use on synthetics and synthetic blends. Make sure you get the right product for your needs by perusing our picks of the best options below.
1. Rit Powder Dye
Rit’s 1-ounce single-color packs of powdered fabric dyes are available in a spectrum of vibrant hues. This product works on almost any fabric or fabric blend—including cotton, linen, silk, wool, rayon, ramie, and nylon—and even wood, wicker, cork, and paper. Rit’s website features more than 500 color recipes, making it easy to create just the right color for your project, and also offers tips on dip dyeing, tie dyeing, ice dyeing, and marbling, among other techniques. Note: if you want to dye fabric that’s more than 35% polyester, acrylic, or acetate, use Rit’s DyeMore Synthetic Fiber Dye instead.
2. WashFast Acid Dye Sampler
WashFast’s six-dye sampler has everything you need to start dyeing protein-based fibers such as wool, silk, and feathers, as well as nylon (which, though man-made, is chemically similar to silk). As colorfast and lightfast as traditional acid dyes, these environmentally friendly acid dyes are formulated without heavy metals. The set includes six colors in 10-gram jars, 2 ounces of ammonium sulfate, 0.5 ounces of synthrapol, and directions for use. If you want to dye a cellulose-based fabric like cotton or linen, choose one of the fiber-reactive or all-purpose dyes from our roundup.
3. Jacquard Ipoly Fabric Dye
While most dyes don’t work well on synthetic fabrics, Jacquard’s iDye Poly (not to be confused with the company’s iDye) is specially formulated for use on polyester, nylon, and poly/cotton blends. It comes in 8 colors (including black, though the black is not recommended for blends), which are sold individually. Novice dyers should note that dying polyester fabrics is not for the fainthearted. Disperse dyes are the only thing that will do the job, and these dyes require high temperatures—hard on many synthetics—plus a smelly chemical additive to achieve proper transfer of color to fiber. You’ll need a stove, a pot you don’t care about, and, if possible, an open window. Used properly, however, iPoly is an effective product. Each packet contains 14 grams of dye powder and a color intensifier—enough to dye 2-3 pounds of fabric.
4. Tulip Tie-Dye Kit
This easy-to-use set comes with everything you need for a tie-dye party except the t-shirts. The kit includes 18 squeeze bottles of dye with 14 unique colors, 6 pairs of protective gloves, 90 rubber bands, a table cover, and an instruction booklet with 8 tie-dye patterns, all packed in a handy plastic carrying case. Tulip’s one-step process eliminates the need for presoaking fabrics in soda ash, so you can get straight to creating, and when used on natural fabrics the colors are won’t fade, even with repeated machine washing. Don’t forget to buy enough fabric—the set here comes with enough supplies to dye the equivalent of 32 large-size boy’s t-shirts (the company also makes smaller sets).
5. Jacquard Procion MX Dye
Brighter and more colorfast than all-purpose dyes, fiber-reactive dyes are the best dyes to use on cellulose fibers, including rayon, silk, linen, Tencel, and hemp. Jacquard’s set of powdered fabric dye comes with one 8-ounce jar each of yellow, brilliant orange, fire engine red, fuchsia, turquoise, medium blue, bright green, and jet black. With a little practice, colors can be mixed to achieve the look you want. Presoaking in soda ash (sold separately) is recommended for washfastness, so adult supervision is required. When used according to the directions, these colors will stay brilliant through wash after wash. This is a set for serious dyers; each ounce of dye can color more than 5 yards of fabric or about 10 regular t-shirts.