How can I avoid pink halos around my black dye?

Ms. Burch,


Procion mx fiber reactive cold water dye

Procion MX Dye

ideal for cotton, rayon, linen, and silk

When mixed with soda ash, Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues.


Jacquard tie dye kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Dye up to 15 adult-size T-shirts, with vivid, electric colors that are so colorfast they can be washed with the daily laundry.


Create more, spend less

Dylon permanent fabric dye 1.75 oz black/velvet black

Dylon Permanent Fabric Dye

Dylon Permanent Fabric Dye 12 Black contains an excellent Remazol dye, reactive black 5.


I have found your site to be the most amazing resource for learning and products.  Thank you so much.

I am having a problem with my black dyes.  I have Pro Deep Black 609 from Pro Chemical and Dye.  I continue to see a light pink shadow around the black.  I called the company and they told me to crush it when I mix it to make sure all of the fuchsia mixes in.  They also suggested straining it.  I have tried both and I still have light pink surrounding the black.  So, what black do you use, and do you have any better suggestions?  Thank you!!!


Hi Cindy,

Halos of different colors are common in direct dye application, such as tie-dyeing or dye painting, as well in low water immersion. One way to reduce the formation of halos in tie-dyeing or dye painting is to thicken your dye with sodium alginate. See my page, "Sodium alginate, Superclear, and other dye thickeners". A lot of tie-dyers always thicken their dyes with alginate, or with the liquid equivalent, Superclear.

There is no unmixed single-hue black among the Procion MX dyes. All Procion MX blacks are mixtures. Since they are mixtures of different colors, the colors of the halos will vary. In every case, it is the slowest-to-react dye in a mixture that forms a halo, since it has more time to creep along the fiber before it reacts with it. For example ProChem's Black 608, which is the manufacturer's mix Procion Black MX-CWNA, tends to form blue halos.

ProChem's black 609 is supposed to be unique for its ability to produce neutral grays at any dilution, when vat dyed (in a bucket or washing machine). Other black Procion dye mixtures may produce a greenish color, or a bluish color, or a purplish color, when used at concentrations too low to produce a good black, so Prochem's Black 609 is particularly useful. Black 609 is not designed to be a perfect black for direct application, though it's fine if you don't mind pink halos or if you thicken your dye with alginate. 

Note that your pink halo is NOT fuchsia, the common name for Procion red MX-8B; fuchsia, as the fastest-to-react of all the Procion dyes, is the least likely of all the dyes to form a halo, in the presence of soda ash or other source of high pH. In fact, fuchsia strongly encourages halos of any other color to form around it. Fuchsia stays wherever it's put. A pink halo may be due to another Procion red, such as Procion red MX-5B, a favorite for color mixing. The suggestions to crush the dye powder and to strain it are good ones for the infamous red spot problem, but no answer at all to the problem with halos. 

There is another fiber reactive dye that is a pure black, however, and so it does not form halos. It is Colour Index reactive black 5, a Remazol dye which I like very much. You can use it with Procion dyes, though it does require a little more warmth than they do. It's particularly good for low water immersion, because it stays black (or gray) when it spreads out, instead of separating into lots of different colors. (Of course the separation into lots of different colors can produce great effects, too, when that's what you want.) Look at my post in the Dye Form from back in May 2006, "Black Dyes: mixtures and single-color blacks". It shows the difference between LWI with a black mixture, versus LWI with reactive black 5.

You can buy alginate from any good dye supplier, including your current supplier, PRO Chemical & Dye; they also sell a "print paste mix" which is highly suitable for this use. Get the SH formula for tie-dyeing and for dye painting on thick fabrics such as cotton t-shirt material; the the F formula is for painting on thin silks. Alginate is a great solution for both tie-dyeing and dye painting. It's not a solution for the separation that occurs in low water immersion, however.

You can buy reactive black 5 from ProChem as their Liquid Reactive (Remazol) LR604. This is the most economical form in which to buy this dye, and its 50% strength, already dissolved in water, is very convenient to use. The same dye is also in Jacquard Products' Red Label Silk Colors, in more dilute form. It is not in the newer Vinyl Sulphon Liquid Reactive Dye Concentrate, whose black contains a mixture of other dyes instead. Dylon Permanent 12 Black, which can be found in some crafts and sewing stores, including Joann's Fabrics, contains reactive black 5 as well, pre-mixed with auxiliary chemicals for solid color dyeing.

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Posted: Thursday - February 11, 2010 at 07:20 AM          

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