How much Procion dye powder should I use to get the shades I want?

Name: Abbas
Country or region: India
Message: Hi Paula- Thanks for putting up so much information regarding dyeing on your website. I’m dyeing for the first time ever and have bought some dye powder (Procion M) in India- they don’t call it MX here – but maybe it’s the same thing- the lack of technical info here is so limited at dye shops that one wonders how anything is done with such lack of technical information- !

Anyway, I’m emailing you because I have no idea as to the amount of dye powder to use to get the shades I want- I took a picture of the shade that I bought in the Procion booklet and it had these %’s next to it- I couldn’t make sense of it. Would be great if you could give me some advice-

I don’t think you’ll have a problem, working with these dyes. Procion-type dyes are usually sold in standard concentrations, or with a notation that indicates how much more or less concentrated they are than the standard. Procion M dyes are the same as Procion MX dyes.

Take a look at my page, “How much Procion MX dye should I use?“. It discusses how much dye to use for solid-color dyeing, and how much dye to use for tie-dyeing. The general rule, as the subtitle for the page says, is to use more dye for darker colors, less for paler colors. You may need only one small spoonful of dye to color a pound of cotton fabric to a medium-light color, or twelve times as much to get a good rich dark black.

The percentages shown in your booklet indicate how many grams of dye you need to use for a certain weight of fabric or yarn. Weigh your fabric while it is dry. If you have 100 grams of fabric, and if the color chip is labeled as requiring 1% DOS (Depth of Shade) or OWG (On Weight of Goods), then you will need one gram of dye. (You can take DOS and OWG as meaning exactly the same thing.)

Whenever you see a percent sign, all you need to do is divide by 100. For 500 grams of fabric at a 2% DOS, you need 10 grams of dye. That’s 2 (the DOS) divided by 100 (for the percent sign), multiplied by 500 (for the number of grams of fabric). For 200 grams of fabric at a 2% DOS, you will need 4 grams of dye.

For example, look at the web pages where PRO Chemical & Dye, an excellent dye supplier in the US, shows their Procion MX type dyes, which they sell under the name PRO MX Reactive Dyes. Scroll down to the color chips on their first page of Procion dyes. If you click on a color chip, for example MX 108 Sun Yellow, they take you to a page which includes a note on what percentage of dye to use to get the same color intensity as the color chip, in this case 4.0% OWG. That is the same as using 4 grams of dye for 100 grams of fabric. One pound is the same weight as 454 grams, so, for one pound of fabric, you would need 4.0 divided by 100, times 454, or 18 grams.

Some of the dyes require larger amounts of dye powder for the indicated color, while others require less, depending on both the intensity of the color desired, and the density of that particular dye powder.

They also add that, for the dye powder that they supply, the volume of dye (in this case PRO MX Sun Yellow 108, or Yellow MX-8G) needed for that particular yellow is approximately 6 level teaspoons per pound of goods. One teaspoon equals 5 milliliters, so 6 level teaspoons is the same amount as 30 milliliters (or 30 cubic centimeters). This means that our 18 grams of this particular dye powder weighs 3 grams per teaspoon, or 0.6 grams per milliliter of dye powder.

Different lots of dye have different densities, though. Your dye powder might be denser, so that it weighs more per teaspoon, or it might be fluffier, so it weighs less. The dye strength is always standardized by weight, not by volume. When you want to precisely replicate what you see in a color chip, or to replicate a color you have made before, you will need to weigh your dye powder, instead of measuring it by the spoonful.

Do you have a scale that can measure 10 grams of dye? If you do not, you can measure by the spoonful and use trial and error to determine how much dye powder to use. Use the amounts specified by your booklet as a guide, but keep careful notes as to whether the color you achieved turned out as you planned, or whether it was more intense or less intense.

Note that Procion MX type dyes become weaker with time. They will usually stay good for at least one year after purchase, though sometimes they last for several years. As they become weaker, you have to use larger quantities of dye powder to get the same color. Protect your stored dye from air, moisture, and warmth.

Be sure to use fabric that is dyeable, either cellulose fibers, such as cotton or rayon, or protein fibers, such as silk. Do not try to dye polyester. Nylon should be dyed with other types of dye, as well, though there are ways to make this dye work on nylon. You will need a chemical that increases the pH, such as sodium carbonate (which is Na₂CO₃, sold as washing soda or as soda ash). You will need a pH around 10.5 to 11 to encourage the fabric to react with the dye.

Be careful not to breathe the dye powder, because it can cause allergies, which would prevent you from continuing to use the dye. Wear a dust mask while you are measuring out the powder, and keep the lids off the jars for as short a period of time as possible. Once the dyes are dissolved in water, you no longer need to wear the dust mask. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the dye and from the soda ash, which is irritating to the skin.

I hope you’ll let me know how it goes.

(Please help support this web site. Thank you.)

-Paula

One thought on “How much Procion dye powder should I use to get the shades I want?

  1. Wendy

    Thanks for this! I am dying a woven baby wrap (100%) cotton and want glowing, bright, saturated colors. I have read through your site and blogs and just have a question about the soda ash. I am looking to do a smooth grad dye effect starting with imperial purple at the bottom, then sapphire blue, then bright cerulean+turquoise, then dragon fruit, then fuschia.

    I was going to do it like two grads to minimize the number of steps and amount of dye water that needed to be used. So I was going to basically treat it like a two color grad (2/3 blue and 1/3 pink) by immersing the “blue” part in the cerulean turquoise mix and then raising it while adding sapphire blue and then imperial purple to the dye bath so I would three distinct colors with smooth grads between them…

    I think I understand how much dye powder to use, and the salt ratios, but I am confused re soda ash. Should I:

    1. soak in soda ash first (my concern is that the soda ash reaction might be all used up by the time I got to the imperial purple which I want to be most intense) OR’

    2. add to the initial dip in the cerulean/turquoise dye bath (my concern is that the soda ash/dye might be inactive by the time I got to the bottom imperial purple color and/or that only the ceruluean turquoise color is the only one that will be fixed) OR;

    3. dip in a separate soda ash bath after I have dyed the whole “blue” section (my concern is that the colors would not remain distinct)

    Help!

    Reply

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