How can I fix the design I’ve painted using an old set of fabric paints that are no longer made?

Name: Rochelle

Country or region: Melbourne, Australia

Message: I have been given a very old box of Pebeo paint express. Pebeo no longet make them. Please do you know how to fix them? This is not my thing. I’m a painter! I’ve just attacked a blue chiffon ball dress with them for an under the sea ball coming up so it looks like the ocean and seaweed. I want to embroider little nemos on the front but obviously don’t want the cottons ruined please help!!
Pretty please
Desperate
No instructions were in this giant box filled with them!

Have you already applied these silk paints to the blue chiffon gown? Always test your materials on a small scrap of fabric before applying them to any large or valuable material! I am afraid that you may have wasted your effort and ruined the gown.

The only traces I can find online of a Pebeo Express dye are for Pebeo Orient Express silk dyes. Does the phrase “Orient Express” appear anywhere on the packaging? This phrase is a reference to the famed Orient Express luxury train which used to run from Paris to Istanbul, and is meant to convey a sense of luxury, glamour, and adventure. Here is link to a sheet of instructions from PRO Chemical & Dye for using Pebeo Orient Express silk paints: Silk Painting using Pebeo Orient Express.

If what you have are Pebeo silk dyes, rather than fabric paints, they must be used only on 100% silk, never on polyester or nylon. What fiber is your chiffon made of? If it is a chiffon woven of a synthetic fiber, rather than silk chiffon, then any true silk dye cannot be set on it, so I advise you never to wash it or clean it, and be very careful not to allow moisture of any sort to contact it. Do not sit on upholstered furniture while wearing this dress, and do not carry a handbag onto which the dye may transfer by rubbing against it.

If your dress is made of silk chiffon, a 100% natural fiber, then you can fix the dye according to the instruction sheet, or, if the fixative is missing, for most silk dyes, you can steam the dye to make it permanent. Steaming silk dyes cannot be done with a steam iron or an ordinary clothes steamer, but instead is done just like steaming vegetables to cook them. The silk-painted material is allowed to dry, then carefully wrapped in paper so that no two parts of the fabric touch one another, since dye will spread wherever the fabric touches; the fabric is then rolled up in a bundle, and placed on a rack over boiling water inside a large covered pot. Some silk dyes require thirty minutes of steaming to be made permanent, whereas other silk dyes may require up to three hours of steaming. It is essential that the pot not be allowed to boil dry during this process.

If these are not Pebeo Orient Express silk dyes, then perhaps they are acrylic-based silk paints. Pebeo has manufactured both dyes and fabric paints. Paints are different from dyes in the way they are fixed to the fabric. Dye is fixed with wet heat, using steam, whereas fabric paint is set with dry heat. In the case of dyes, the colored material reacts directly with the fiber, so it will not work with different kinds of fibers. In the case of fabric paints, the colored material is an insoluble pigment which is glued onto the fabric with the binder in the paint, so the precise fiber content is not as important, though there are some fabric paints which will not work on synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon, but instead work only on natural fibers such as silk or cotton. Some fabric paints do work on synthetic fibers such as polyester.

Most fabric paints (not dyes) can be set on the fabric with dry heat, by ironing the reverse side of the fabric, making sure that every part of the painted fabric has been heated to medium heat for at least a minute. However, many fabric paints will become permanent even without this heat-setting stage, if they are allowed to dry and age for at least a month after painting, before they are washed or worn.

If you have no idea what the fiber content of the dress is, then you should assume it is synthetic, since synthetic dresses are cheaper and more widely available. In an inconspicuous part of the dress, inside a hem, first try heat-setting the dye or paint with an iron, then, after it is cool, dab a little water onto a place where you have applied the paint. If the redampened dye or paint transfers to a white cloth, you will know that this dress is not safe to wear, for fear of spreading dye onto whatever it touches. If the dye doesn’t transfer, then you can proceed to the next step in your project, and decorate the dress with embroidery.

For your next project, if you are painting a synthetic-fiber dress, you may want to use Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow fabric paints, or Jacquard Lumiere metallic and pearlescent fabric paints, because they will work on both synthetic and natural fiber fabrics. Setacolour Transparent fabric paints should not be used on 100% synthetic fiber fabrics. If you can’t find the Jacquard fabric paints in a local crafts shop, you can find a source in Australia from which to order them by scrolling down the the appropriate section of my page, “Sources for Dyeing Supplies Around the World“.

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