How should I mix Sabracron F dyes for painting, instead of dyeing?

Name: Liza


Ann Johnston's book
 Color by Design


Includes instructions for dye painting, printing, and stamping. The recipes are designed for Procion MX dyes but work equally well with Sabracron F dyes


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 urea 1 lb.

Jacquard Urea

Urea is a humectant that is used with sodium alginate thickener when printing, painting or directly applying to fiber.


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.


Synthrapol sizing & dye remover

Synthrapol Sizing & Dye Remover

Synthrapol removes excess dye from hand dyed fabrics. It also removes sizing from fabric prior to dyeing. Will allow even color when used in the dye bath.


Country or region: USA

Message: Hi Paula,

I would like to silk paint and I have Sabracron F dyes. How should I mix them for painting, not dying. All the instructions I seem to find are for dying. Thanks for taking the time to help me in addition to building this excellent resource website.

You can use Sabracron F dyes exactly like Procion MX dyes, which widens your sources of good recipes. The only real differences are that the Sabracron F dyes will stay good longer after being dissolved in water, and they like a little more warmth when reacting. Sabracron F dyes are fiber reactive dyes that contain one fluorine atom in their reactive section, as compared to Procion MX dyes which contain two chlorine atoms. It used to be that they were manufactured by Ciba, and so their 'real' name was Cibacron F, but Ciba has since sold their dyes to Huntsman Textile Effects, which renamed them the Novacron F dyes. Sabracron F is just the brand name that PRO Chemical & Dye repackages them under, so it stays the same regardless of changes in the manufacturer.

For dye painting, you will mix your dye powders with water and some other chemicals. The amount of dye powder you use will depend on how dark you want your colors to be; they should look darker on the fabric, when the dye is wet, than you want the final color to be. You can mix anywhere from as little as half a teaspoon of dye powder per cup of liquid for a pale color, or as much as eight teaspoons of dye powder in order to get a deep dark black. For a medium color, use two teaspoons of dye powder per cup of dye paint. You can use the dyes in the colors in which you buy them, or mix intermediate colors by using more than one color of dye powder, or mix all of your colors, just as purchased, and later mix colors by combining your prepared dye paints.

The water you use to mix your dye paints should not be hard water; if your water is hard, either add the water softener sodium hexametaphosphate, or use distilled water. (See my page, "Dyeing with hard water".) It is convenient to start by making up a batch of what we call "chemical water", enough for all of your different dye colors. Chemical water will stay good for several weeks after you make it, especially if you refrigerate it; discard it if it begins to smell like ammonia. To make chemical water, dissolve nine tablespoons of urea in one quart (or one liter) of water; add one teaspoon of Metaphos or another brand of sodium hexametaphosphate, and, if you will be using any heat (steam or microwaving) to set your dye later on, also add one teaspoon of Ludigol, which ProChem sells as Chem Flakes. (Ludigol helps to prevent heat from damaging the dyes by reducing them.)

Meanwhile, if you will be thickening your dyes for painting, mix up some print paste, preferably starting  several hours or the day before you want to begin painting, to allow the lumps in the alginate to disperse. You can make this yourself by dissolving the appropriate grade of the thickener sodium alginate in water, along with sodium hexametaphosphate, or you can buy ProChem's Print Paste Mix (SH for cotton and thick silks, F for fine silks) and use that. If you are going to use a watercolor effect in which the dyes are thin, rather than thickened, you can skip the print paste and just use the chemical water to mix your dye. Print Paste can be used at various thicknesses to give you different textures of paint, from slightly thickened to as thick as artists' oil paints. Thickened dye will spread less on the fabric. You can find ProChem's step-by-step ibstructions for mixing your dye powder with the chemical water and print paste on their page, "Direct Application using Sabracron F Reactive Dyes" [it's a PDF]. For more information on how to dissolve sodium alginate, see my page, "Sodium alginate, Superclear, and other dye thickeners".

In order for the Sabracron F dyes to form a strong chemical bond with your fabric, you must add a pH-altering chemical, either soda ash or washing soda, in order to get it to react with cotton or other cellulose fibers, as well as with silk, or an acid, which works only for silk. If you are going to be heat-setting your dyes (which is not required), such as by steaming, then you can substitute baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) for the soda ash (sodium carbonate), because bicarbonate turns to carbonate when heated to high temperatures. For silk, you can use the same recipes as for cotton, or you can use the acid ammonium sulfate, instead of soda ash. Silk is a unique fiber that can be dyed with either soda ash or acid. You may prefer the ammonium sulfate for retaining the maximum amount of sheen on your silk, because acids are kinder to silk. Silk does very well with soda ash, unlike other protein fibers, such as wool, but soda ash tends to soften silk, and soda ash should not be left in silk for an extended period of time, longer than a day or so.

You have more than one choice for how to include your pH-altering chemical with your dye. One popular method, similar to that used by tie-dyers, is to presoak your fabric in soda ash that has been dissolved in water. You can work with fabric that is still wet with the soda ash, or, when you use cotton, you can line-dry the soda-soaked fabric and then paint your dye paint onto it. This has the advantage that your dye mixtures will last for at least a week or two after you dissolved them in water, but only as long as no soda ash gets into them. Since your paintbrush or other tool will carry soda ash from the fabric you're painting back to your dye pot, be sure to pour out only enough of your dye to use within an hour or so, and replenish as necessary.

Another way to get the soda ash, dye paint, and fabric together at once is to add the soda ash (or, if you will be steaming, either baking soda or a mixture of baking soda and soda ash) directly to your dye paint. Don't add it to more than the amount of dye paint you will be using in an hour or so, as the dye will react with water, in the presence of soda ash, even when it is not touching the fabric, so dye paint will go bad an hour or so after you mix it with the soda ash. Ammonium sulfate, when used for silk instead of soda ash, is generally used by adding it to the dye paint directly. The dye paint will last for four days after the ammonium sulfate is added.

After you have done painting your fabric, leave it to react overnight in a warm place, 70°F or warmer. The dye must be kept moist throughout this curing period, either by including urea in your chemical water when you make your dyes (urea is a humectant, so it stays moist), or by covering the freshly painted fabric with plastic wrap. Using urea is easier, but you may need the plastic wrap, as well, if your climate is very dry. ProChem recommends allowing 48 hours for your dyes to cure before washing them out. This added time is included to be sure that 100% of the dye molecules have completed their reaction, either with the fabric or with the water, so that no active dye molecules remain to cause backstaining.

For the washing out, it's best to start by washing in cool or lukewarm water, to remove chemicals and soem of the excess unattached dye. After an initial rinse, change to using the hottest water available. The chemical bond formed between a fiber reactive dye and the fabric is so strong that it cannot be removed even by boiling water. Washing with hot water, 140°F or hotter, is often required to remove any backstaining from one part of the fabric to another that may occur after the dye reactions are complete.

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Posted: Monday - October 11, 2010 at 07:06 AM          

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