Category Archives: dye application

How can I paint a monarch butterfly onto a polyester wedding dress?

Name: Arielle
Country or region: CA
Message: I searched, but I cannot find this information. I need to paint a 100% polyester wedding dress (for my wedding) with orange, red, and black. I bought some iDye Poly, but I cannot immerse this dress, as I need to paint a monarch butterfly onto it with the dye. I was told that iDye Poly will still work if I use less water and then paint on what I want, then use a heat gun to set it. Is that true? If not, what do you suggest? Dye-na-flow? Tee Juice markers (this may be too expensive)?

Here’s my original post (No replies yet!): Hi dye experts, I am going to dye my wedding dress (for my actual wedding) to look like the picture below left. Monarch Butterfly Dress from Pinterest
It is 100% polyester (satin, ivory) in its current form (off the rack at David’s Bridal). To dye this dress, I bought iDye Poly in orange, red, and black. I need some advice on the best way to dye this! It would take way too many Tee Juice pens to do this the easy way (therefore, too expensive).

Every video I watch and every forum I read tells me to boil water, add in iDye Poly & intensifier, then put the fabric into a pot and stir. I can’t do this! I need to hand paint the dye onto this dress to get the effect I want (butterfly wings). I plan to use a sponge or sponge on a stick or something. I could use a paint brush, but the bristles may not make for an even spread, and I do not want the color to streak (like a brush might create). I could also use make up sponges, which might be easier than these flimsy 25 cent sponge/sticks.

I don’t want to burn my hands, so the temp can’t be too hot to touch, or I won’t be able to put pressure on the sponge to get a smooth, deep stroke. If you look at the dress in the Pinterest link above, it is hand-painted dye onto fabric. It happens to be 100% polyester, just like mine. I bought some test fabric (identical to my dress) and some iDye Poly. I want to do a test sometime this month (in my friend’s backyard).

Can you all give me advice and directions on how much water to mix with each packet of iDye Poly, as well as advice on how to make sure I get solid coverage (deep color) since I will need to let the water cool to a non-boiling temperature in order to sponge paint the dress. Any other thoughts / advice! Do I wash the dress after by hand? It’s going to be my wedding dress, and I don’t think I should machine wash it. I need it to look pristine for the wedding! :)

Thank you!

You cannot dye your wedding dress with iDye Poly, because you would indeed have to immerse the dress in a huge pot of boiling water with the dye in order for it to work. Even if your dress could survive such rough treatment, it will probably be impossible to find a cooking pot large enough for the fabric to move freely in it. Such a huge pot would be very expensive, anyway, especially since you should not plan to reuse a dyeing pot for food.

I would not choose iDye Poly for painting onto fabric and setting with a heat gun. Although iDye Poly does contain the right kind of dye for polyester, which is a type of dye known as disperse dye, this is not a standard method of dye application; artists have found more success using other techniques. If you were to try such an unorthodox method of dye application, you’d need to do a lot of testing, using the same fabric as was used in the dress, to determine what combination of techniques would work, and even then there would be a strong chance that it would not work as well as you would like. By painting disperse dye directly onto the fabric and then heat-setting, you would likely have bits of unset dye resting on the surface of the fabric, which would tend to rub off onto you and anything the dress touches. This could maybe present a possible health risk, since the dyes are not intended to be applied directly to the skin, and it could ruin furniture, walls that you brush against, anything you may be carrying, and even other people’s clothing when you brush against or hug them.


Crayola Fabric Crayons

are disperse dye iron-on transfer crayons, not at all like the ordinary wax crayons they so closely resemble.

You have two main possibilities: one is to use a fabric paint (including fabric markers) that works on polyester (not all fabric paints or markers do), and the other is to create your own dye iron-ons, using disperse dye. Although disperse dye is the kind of dye that is used in iDye Poly, you will probably want to use a different brand of disperse dye, one that has been packaged for use in making iron-on transfers. (Save the iDye Poly you have already purchased for another project.) iDye Poly is packaged specifically for use in dyebaths, with an inner wrapper that dissolves in water. While there are many different disperse dyes, the ones selected for use in the iDye Poly are best for use in boiling water bath. There are other lines of disperse dye that have been selected to be more suitable for use in making transfer prints.

I have never used Tee Juice Markers on polyester satin, only on cotton. They do flow nicely during application, but they leave a stiffened area in the fabric, which will not drape quite as nicely as fabric which has been colored with transfer dyes. Dye-Na-Flow fabric paint flows easily, as the name implies, but it too changes the feel and drape of the fabric a little, though not as drastically as other fabric paints or as the Tee Juice Markers. It leaves only a slight feel on the fabric, if you dilute it before application. Note that all fabric paints tend to work better on natural fibers than they do on polyester; some brands will not cling to synthetic fibers at all, but even those that do work on polyester tend to look better on cotton or rayon. This is exactly the opposite of transfer dyes made from disperse dye, which look their very best on polyester satin, and make no change at all in the feel or sheen of the polyester fabric.

You really do need to test whatever techniques you choose to try. You definitely want to gain a little expertise before you even approach your wedding dress to color it. It’s excellent that you have already acquired some test fabric. I was about to advise you to go to a fabric store now, to find the closest match of some fabric made of the same fiber content (100% polyester), with a similar weave, texture, color, and sheen. Buy one Tee Juice Marker for your test, or one of each color, and buy one jar of a likely color of a fabric paint whose label indicates that it will work on polyester, such as Dye-Na-Flow, and buy some disperse dye crayons. You will probably want to mail-order a different kind of polyester dye more suitable for painting your own iron-ons, which on a large scale will be the most economical and least tiring method for this project, but for your very first tests you can just buy some disperse dye crayons, either online or at the fabric store. Look for Crayola Fabric Crayons, or Dritz transfer crayons; if you see only another brand, the keys to look for are “transfer crayons” and instructions to use only on synthetic fabrics. (Do not confuse these transfer crayons with the ordinary wax crayons they look just like! Ordinary crayons do not work for this at all.) You should also buy some large white paper, either on a roll or in big sheets, such as a very large inexpensive pad of blank newsprint paper, at least eighteen inches by twenty-four inches in size, the type that art students use in life drawing class; if you don’t find this elsewhere, go to an art supply store, or even a store that sells supplies for packing for moving.

The advantage of making your own disperse dye iron-ons is that the dye can look very good, with absolutely brilliant colors, better than any paint or marker. With iron-ons, as opposed to painting directly on the fabric and using a heat gun to set, you also have the advantage of not having any unbound dye sitting on the surface of the fabric. The only dye that transfers to the fabric is properly absorbed into it.

To create your iron-ons, you can use the transfer crayons to draw onto paper, or you can mix up your own paint using disperse transfer dye. (Some disperse dyes are better for transferring than others are, so it is best to buy disperse dyes that are specifically labeled as transfer dyes.) The colors will look dull on paper, but don’t worry; they get far more brilliant when they are transferred to the polyester fabric. Let the paint dry, if that’s what you’re using, or brush any crumbs of the transfer crayons off of the paper, then place the paper against the fabric with the colored side touching it, and cover with more paper to protect your iron (or follow the directions you find on the transfer crayon package). For your tests you can simply work on an ironing board that has been protected with many layers of newspaper or scrap fabric, keeping in mind that transfer dye can easily penetrate through several layers. Using a hot clothing iron, follow the instructions for pressing the paper so that the dye transfers. If you can get access to a t-shirt press it would work even better than a clothes iron, since it is bigger. You can reuse the same piece of paper several times, with the color intensity getting dimmer with each pass, or, if you choose, you can simply reapply the color in the same places on the paper before reusing the paper to create more of the same design. This can really save a lot of effort for a design which has as much repetition as yours will.

Coloring enough paper for a large dress with transfer crayons would be tiring, plus the final effect, while wonderfully brilliant, really is reminiscent of crayon coloring. This can be great but only if that’s the effect you are going for. The best way to do large expanses of fabric is to make your own disperse dye paint, and paint it onto the paper. An excellent source for the dye is PRO Chemical & Dye, in Massachusetts. Look at their PRO Transperse Transfer Printing Dyes. They provide good instructions on a PDF page. This is by far the most economical alternative for decorating large amounts of polyester fabric. You can use any sort of paintbrush or applicator you like, and you can thicken your transfer dye paint to make it flow as much or as little as you want it to, on the paper, when you paint it. Remember that the dye must be completely dry before you do the heat transfer.

You should test one or two Tee Juice markers on your piece of test polyester and compare the colors and textures to those you get with a small test jar of fabric paint and with transfer printing. I am afraid that doing large amounts of a full skirt with markers would be as fatiguing as doing the same with transfer crayons. Your hands will thank you for using transfer dyes you’ve made into paint, or, if you choose to go for a paint such as Dye-Na-Flow, quart-sized jars of fabric paint (you can order these from Dharma Trading Company). I recommend you plan to use the markers only for fine details after you have done the majority of your design with another material.

No matter how much or how little time you may have available for this project, testing is absolutely essential. You will need to test your techniques and decide which materials you like best, before you invest a lot of effort and material in a technique that may not meet your needs.

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Triple spiral tie-dye pattern from the Dye Forum

Name: Lisa
Country or region: USA
Message: I was interested in a triple spiral / cresting wave pattern, but the web page does not work. Can you help direct me?

I’m sorry that the Dye Forum cannot be made to work again. However, I am excited to have discovered that you will still be able to look at that discussion, thanks to the generosity of the Internet Archive. Just follow this link:

Internet Archive “cresting wave” tie-dye design from the Dye Forum

It shows the entire “cresting wave” Dye Forum thread from 2007 about how to make the triple spiral, except for a few pictures that no longer exist online. (You can also follow the links to explore other Dye Forum postings.)

Although the iTieDye Forum has also disappeared, for the same reasons (permanently crashed by robospammers), you can also see the 2006 iTieDye Forum thread referred to, for further explanation of how to do it, via the following Internet Archive link:

Internet Archive “How to tie this” discussion from

The key is to twist your fabric (or shirt) on three different centers at the same time, using three forks or three clothes pins (or whatever you prefer for starting a spiral fold), then, when you apply the dye, make sure that you cross each of the individual little spirals in the fabric with two or more colors. Here is a good image, from the link above, of how a triple-spiral-tied shirt looks before applying the dye, created by dancingbearmama (Nicole):
tied for the triple spiral tie-dye

A shirt in the original design which started the whole discussion might even still be available for sale from The Edge Tie Dye, as their “Blue Flame” pattern. See their “Flame, Fence, Guitars and Other Patterns” page. Here’s an image:

The Edge Tie Dye's Blue Fame design

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Low water immersion dyeing with Remazol (vinyl sulfone) dyes

Name: Tori

Message: I’m a new dyer … and was excited by your comment about the remazol type dyes. I’ve carefully read your ‘low immersion’ tutorial … and am wondering … are there any changes/alterations you’d suggest for using this type of dye over the procion type?

Remazol dyes work very well for low water immersion dyeing. (See my page about Remazol dyes, “About Vinyl Sulfone Fiber Reactive Dyes“.) They are among my favorites. They will work well when used exactly the same as Procion dyes. There are a couple of differences, though, that it’s handy to be aware of: give them extra warmth to react (ideally 140° F), and let them cool before rinsing out the excess dye.

Names for Remazol dyes. These dyes, chemically known as vinyl sulfone dyes, were originally sold under the brand name Remazol, so this is one of the names they are commonly known by. PRO Chemical & Dye sells them as PRO Liquid Reactive Dyes. Dharma Trading Company and other retailers for Jacquard Products sell a slightly different selection of the same type of dye as Jacquard’s Vinyl Sulphon Liquid Reactive Dyes, “Vinyl Sulphon” being a brand name derived by two changes in spelling from the generic name. The same class of dyes is also found in Jacquard Red Label dyes and Jacquard Green Label dyes, but there is no reason to seek out those older brands of dyes.

Warmer reaction temperature. The Remazol dyes are similar to the Procion dyes, but they do like a warmer reaction temperature, so I either place the buckets I’m using to dye in into a sink of hot water, after I’ve added everything, or I use a glass container or unsealed ziplock bag and heat for a minute or two in the microwave–not enough to make the dye mixture boil, but enough to make it hot to the touch (on the outside of the container). This is not strictly necessary, unless your dyeing room is cold, but you will get a better color yield with added heat, as the ideal reaction temperature of Remazol dyes is around 140°F (60°C). If you use the sink full of hot water method, be careful not to fill the sink deeper than the liquid level inside the buckets, because if they float they can tip over.

Possible alternatives to soda ash. Like the Procion dyes, Remazol dyes require a high pH in order to react with the cellulose in cotton and other plant fibers. One of the ProChem recipes calls for potassium carbonate as the dye fixative for the Remazol dyes, rather than the usual sodium carbonate (soda ash), but I don’t see any difference between the two. In my measurements, the pH is the same, and my experience is that the effectiveness is the same. Remazol dyes have an ideal reaction pH that is a little higher than that of the Procion dyes, around a pH of 11.5 instead of 10.5 to 11.0. When I have trisodium phosphate handy, I use it instead of soda ash, for Remazol dyes, but soda ash will work fine, especially if you are careful to add warmth. Trisodium phosphate is sold in a small box labeled “TSP” in the paint section of many hardware stores, for use in washing walls before painting. You should wear safety glasses when working with it; it is more caustic than soda ash.

Cool before initial rinsing. Remazol dyes should not be washed out under hot alkaline conditions, alkaline conditions being at a high pH, which is when they are in the presence of soda ash or TSP. Because their dye-fiber bond is different from that of the Procion dyes, they can be vulnerable to becoming detached from the fabric at a high pH, even after they have bonded properly to the cellulose or silk fiber. This means that it is important to rinse the excess dye out, after dyeing, with cool water. It is best to allow the dyeing containers to cool to room temperature before you rinse them out. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry I dump in ice cubes, directly into the dyebath, so that I can be sure the first rinse is not hot. Do not use hot water for washing until after the soda ash or TSP has been removed with cool water. After the high-pH dyebath water has been rinsed out, it is then safe to wash out the unattached excess dye with hot water. With all of the fiber reactive dyes, including both Procion and Remazol dyes, it is necessary to use very hot water if you want to be as thorough as possible in washing out the excess dye.

Here are some examples of pieces I’ve dyed with Remazol dyes, using LWI techniques (which I am quoting from the old Dye Forum)….

1. LWI with Jacquard Red Label yellow and orange on cotton

Here’s a cotton shirt dyed with Jacquard Red Label dyes, yellow and apricot, by low water immersion. First a detail:

For a total of one liter of hot tap water, I used 1/3 cup soda ash (80 ml) and 1/2 cup salt (120 ml), each dissolved separately first. (Both are probably excessive.) I used 45 ml of Red Label Yellow (possibly only 30, as I lost track) and 15 ml of Red Label Apricot.

As you can see, after folding it in half vertically (which is why half of the shirt is sharper in detail than the other half), I loosely pleated the shirt horizontally before placing it in the glass container I used for the LWI. I pressed it quite a bit with a spoon after adding the yellow, before adding the apricot, since I wanted a yellow background, not a white one, but the tight confining of the cotton in the glass container caused the background to be quite a pale yellow, anyway.

(posted by pburch on the Dye Forum on 2007-03-02)

2. Purple/black/blue remazol LWI dress

Here’s another piece I dyed with remazol (vinyl sulfone) dyes, a long rayon dress.

I crumpled the dress tightly, making very rough horizontal pleats, and fitted it tightly into a glass container. Then I poured three cups of dye over different parts of the dress: 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of PRO Black 50% LR604 Liquid Reactive Dye in one cup (250 ml) of water; 1 teaspoon of PRO Intense Blue 50% LR406 Liquid Reactive Dye in one cup of water; and 1 teaspoon of PRO Fuchsia 50% LR308 Liquid Reactive Dye in one cup of water. Finally, I added 5 teaspoons (25 ml) of soda ash, dissolved in yet another cup of water, and microwaved to set the dye rapidly.

(posted by pburch on the Dye Forum on 2006-08-03 10:32)

3. Remazol dyes are so much less trouble to use!

Just lately I’ve been experimenting with remazol dyes, which are a kind of fiber reactive dye known as vinyl sulfone dye. After using Procion MX dyes, these are so easy to use! Not that Procion MX dyes are at all difficult, it’s just that measuring out the dye powders can be a bit of a pain. Since I am buying the remazol dyes in liquid form, I don’t have to mess with the inconvenience of dye powder. No need to turn off the A/C and fans and wear a dust mask to measure them out. Since I’m dyeing in my kitchen, this is a huge convenience….

When measuring out the remazol dye, all I have to do is wear gloves. I measure out a teaspoon of dye into a cup, add water, give a single quick stir, and it’s ready to use. There is no need to expend any effort on dissolving! The liquid concentrate stays good for at least a year. The dyes I’m using right now are PRO Chemical & Dye’s Liquid Fiber Reactive Dyes.

When measuring out dye powder, such as my original favorite, Procion MX dye, I have to remove every food item, every cutting board, the garlic press, anything that could have an errant particle of dye powder land upon it, from the entire room. Even though most of the dyes we use are reasonably non-toxic, it is important to act as though they are dangerous, just in case we someday discover that one of them is. And, a few of our acid dyes are somewhat toxic.

The drawback of Remazol dye is that it is a little pickier about reaction temperature than even the pickiest of the Procion MX dyes, which is turquoise MX-G. (Turquoise MX-G likes its batching temperature to be 95°F (35°C), though it can work at lower temperatures. A cool 70° studio may not be enough, which makes it important to find sources of additional heat, such as putting items to be batch-cured outside the door during an air-conditioned summer, or on top of the water heater for a little warmth during cooler weather, or on top of an electric blanket which has been protected by a sheet of plastic.)

I’ve been in a hurry, and I’ve been using LWI techniques, so I’ve been heating in the microwave for a minute or two, instead of batch-curing overnight. Here is the recipe I used to make the blue/turquoise LWI shirt shown above….

• Crumple one PFD rayon blouse, prewashed, pleating loosely.
• Place crumpled blouse into glass container that is small enough to hold it tightly, with all fabric below the top of the container (I used a 7 cup (1.75 L) Pyrex bowl.
• Stir into two cups (500 ml) of water:
2 teaspoons (10 ml) PRO Intense Blue 50% LR406 Liquid Reactive Dye
• Pour blue dye mixture over blouse in container.
• Stir into one cup (250 ml) of water:
1 teaspoon (5 ml) PRO Turquoise LR410 Liquid Reactive Dye
• Pour turquoise dye mixture over blouse, being sure to cover any areas left white by the blue dye in the previous step.
• Let rest twenty minutes for colors to blend and move on the fabric.
• Dissolve 4 teaspoons (20 ml) soda ash in one cup of warm (not hot) water and pour evenly over blouse.
Since I was in a hurry, I proceeded to microwave the project, instead of leaving it outside in the summer heat overnight:
• Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for two to three minutes, until water is very hot but plastic wrap is not bulging upwards very far.
• Allow to cool until merely warm to the touch.
• Wash at least twice in hot water, with detergent, until color no longer bleeds into the rinse water.

(posted by pburch on the Dye Forum on 2006-08-02)

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