A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My dye painting experiment

I have used thickened dyes in various ways for the past few years, but I think this is the first time I have tried using them for a realistic rendering.  Years ago, I painted with acrylics and enjoyed the process, but I haven't done any painting for over 25 years, so this was something I wanted to try.  For a subject, I chose a photo I took of a Nasturtium plant that grows in a pot on my deck:

First I did a line drawing of the flowers. 
Then I mixed my colors: Deep Orange, Golden Yellow, Light Lemon Yellow, Bright Green to start.  Later I added Robin's Egg Blue, Bronze, Moss Green.

I began by painting the veins in the leaves with light lemon yellow, then used deep orange and a little golden yellow for the flowers.
Next, I painted the leaves using bright green with some thickener to give me lighter shades, and some moss green for the darker shades.
I let the piece rest overnight, covered with plastic.  Then I used robin's egg blue in 2 shades to try and create shadows in the background.  Big mistake!  No way to paint it out, so I deal with it later.  Meanwhile, I used Moss green and bronze to paint the background around the leaves and flowers.
Up until now, I was using a number 2 Bright paint brush, which gave me a good crisp line, and it was a good size for the details.  At this point, I began to use a number 12 Bristle Flat brush to extend the background.  While I was at it, I painted over the blue stripes... the best I could do to camouflage the stripes.  Note to self:  be very sure of what you want to do with dyes!  If I were painting with acrylics, I would simply paint over them and no one would be the wiser!
I'm sure there is more I could do to this piece such as adding details with a fine point brush, but I think I am going to stop here and digest what I have learned.  One thing I noticed was that I had varying thicknesses of dye, partly due to using other recipes than the one Kathy used.  But I found that mixing a thinner batch into some that were thicker than I wanted helped to make them easier to use.  Now my only concern is how well this piece will handle being washed after a thorough batch.  I'll post an update after it's washed out, so stay tuned...


  1. Nice work Judy. I really like the strong colors in this piece. The red and green really pop. I'm still a bit unsure of myself when blending colors, which you do so well. (That's why I'm taking a color class with Jane Dunnewold in October.) I also don't have the wide variety of dye colors you all seem to have. I guess we'll see what I can do with what I have.

  2. Thanks, Beth. And you're right... I have a large selection of colors I have accumulated over the years. My tie-dye biz quickly outgrew the 3 primaries, and I find it easier to buy pre-mixed colors rather than to have to mix the all from scratch. I will be interested to hear how you like the color class. I know many quilters who have taken classes to learn how to re-create specific colors with precision...
    BTW, I forgot to mention in my post that I transferred my line drawing to the fabric by tracing with pencil over the drawing that was placed underneath the fabric. And I pre-soaked my fabric with soda ash and let it dry first. I am not fond of putting the soda ash directly into the dye, as it loses its strength too quickly. It took me about 3 days to complete this piece, and I was afraid the colors wouldn't last with the soda ash mixed in.

  3. Nice work -- I love the photo (nasturtiums are a particular favorite of mine) -- The colors on the fabric are so perfect together.

    I am interested to see what you get after you rinse it out -- especially where the blue stripes are. Dye painting is really different from acrylic -- you may just get some blue stripes...


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