No matter what type of dye you are using, if you wish to mix
a range of your own colors,
you will need, at a minumum, one yellow, one turquoise or blue, and one red.
The same principles hold for any type of dye.
best primary colors to use for mixing the widest possible
range of other colors are called printer's
primaries. Though we learn in school that red,
blue, and yellow are primary colors, a much wider range of
possible colors can be obtained by using cyan (turquoise),
magenta (fuchsia), and a pure light yellow as the three mixing
Following are the preferred mixing primaries for several popular lines of dye for hand dyeing. Some types of dye are suited for cellulose fibers, while others are suitable only for protein fibers. Be sure to choose the right dye for your fiber.
Procion MX dyes
Yellow. Among Procion MX dyes, the best all-purpose yellow is MX-8G,
which Jacquard and Dharma Trading call lemon yellow and PROchem calls sunshine yellow.
(ProChem's lemon yellow is a different color altogether.)
Blue. The best all-purpose blues in the Procion MX line are turquoise
MX-G, called turquoise
by most companies, blue MX-G, called cerulean blue, intense blue, or
super blue, and blue MX-R, called sky blue, basic blue, clear blue, or
Turquoise and sky blue should be used in double the concentration
of other dyes, by volume, for similarly intense results.
Red. Most beginners use MX-8B (called fuchsia) for their red,
but MX-5B (called light red, clear red, or mixing red) is an excellent alternative which
many prefer. Both are rather bluish reds. (Add a touch of yellow to get scarlet.)
Black. Consider getting a black, also, for tie-dyeing. A bit of black in a design can make
other colors nearby look brighter by contrast.
Yellow. Sun yellow is the primary yellow supplied in the Lanaset dye starter kits.
Blue. Royal Blue is the primary blue supplied in the Lanaset dye starter kits.
Red. There is no good strong cool or bluish red among the Lanaset dyes. Substitute Polar Red (Acid Red 131), but be sure to give it more time and wash it more gently. For a warm or orangish red, use 351 Scarlet.
Black. Lanaset Jet Black is considered the best black available for hand-dyeing protein fibers, including wool and silk.
Yellow. 601 Sun yellow is the primary yellow for color mixing with Jacquard Acid dyes
Blue. 624 Turquoise is the closest mixing primary to cyan. For a less greenish blue, use 621 Sky Blue.
Red. For a warm or orangish red, use 617 Cherry Red. For a cool or bluish red, use 608 Pink.
Black. The Jacquard Acid Dye 639 Jet Black is a mixture of other colors that combine to make black.
Remazol Vinyl Sulfone Dyes
Yellow. ProChem's Liquid Reactive Sun Yellow is an excellent mixing primary yellow. Jacquard's "Vinyl Suphon" mixing yellow is called Bright Yellow.
Blue. Turquoise Blue G, or reactive blue 21, is a beautiful clear cyan, ideal for use a a mixing primary. Blue R, or reactive blue 19, is a pure clear royal blue, one of the most popular reactive dyes used in the textile industry. I believe that you need both of these colors, because they are both so beautiful.
Red. ProChem suggests using their Mixing Red, while Jacquard recommends their magenta.
Black. The black in the vinyl sulfone dyes, reactive black 5, is one of the very few unmixed single hue blacks to be found among fiber reactive dyes, invaluable for not separating into colors when a solid black is needed. It's an excellent black, found in every commercial line of reactive dyes, and it is the most popular reactive black in the textile industry. You can also find it in Dylon Permanent black dye.
Yellow. Reactive yellow 25 is a good mixing yellow.
Blue. Turquoise Blue 2G, or reactive blue 116, is a clear cyan, ideal for use a a mixing primary. It is found in Dylon Permanent 79 Vivid Turquoise.
Red. Drimarene Red 4B is a magenta color.
Color mixing is more difficult with natural dyes. Because the properties of each natural dye vary so much from other natuiral dyes, it is usually best to choose a natural dye in the color you want, rather than mixing it from primaries.
Blue. The only good natural blue is indigo, which is a vat dye that requires an entirely different chemistry and application method than most dyes. There are some fifty different plants in the world that produce indigo; the most available source is the plant we call indigo. Be aware that most indigo that you can buy is synthesized from pertroleum products, not grown in plants; although the dye itself is identical regardless of whether it is natural or synthetic, it is wrong to refer to the synthetic version as a natural dye.
Green. Although there are some natural dyes that are green, none of them stay bright or last long. The best way to produce green with natural dyes is to dye it twice, in two completely different procedures, washing and drying the fabric in between. The first dyeing should be with indigo, and the second with the most washfast yellow you can get
Yellow. Natural yellow dyes tend to be poorly lightfast. This is why medieval tapestries that orginally had green grass and trees now have blue. The most lightfast yelow natural dyes are quercitron (the inner bark of black oak) and weld.
Red. The best natural red dyes are cochineal (made from cactus insects) and madder.
Black. Black can be obtained by mordanting with iron and dyeing with logwood. This was the best black dye available to the textile industry before the invention of synthetic dyes.
Once you have decided that you really like dyeing, you'll probably
want to get to know some of the other available unmixed single-hue
in the same series of dyes, whichever series you are
Each pure dye has a different character than
the others. You may wish to skip buying mixtures, however, as you can
always mix them for yourself, if that's the sort of thing you like to
do, saving both storage space and money.