Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do You Mix Your Own?

I am a strong advocate for using pure primaries to mix dye colors.  When I first started dyeing, I did so mainly for financial reasons.  Buying all those pre-mixed colors can get expensive!  I started with 7 colors - a set of warm primaries, a set of cool primaries and black.  And though I feel that mixed colors do have their place, I still work mostly with primaries.  My palette has changed, though.  Now I use one set of primaries.  After a lot of experimentation, I've found that I can get most of the colors I want by using Sun Yellow (Yellow MX-8G), Mixing Red (Red MX-5B) and Basic Blue (Blue MX-R).  (All names are the ProChemical version.) I also use Turquoise when I want a really vibrant green or violet.

Why do I like to mix my own? I learned so much about color in those first few years by mixing the primaries.  I believe that early foundation has been instrumental in my understanding of color. However I do feel this is a lifelong journey.  I don't think we ever know all there is to know about color. About five years ago I thought I knew it all (or at least all I needed to know) when it came to color.  Ha! Now I realize how wide the field is and I recognize that I'll never know it "all".

 I continue to mix my own colors because I know how to work with those hues to get the color I want. Working with pure colors rather than mixed allows greater predictability.  Mixed colors can break out in unexpected and undesirable ways.  (Of course, sometimes you want that, thus my use of mixed colors on occasion.)

So does this mean I am suggesting you should go buy the colors named above? Not at all.  There are a lot of wonderful books, workshops and resources about color theory and how to mix color. Each of them has merit. However, I have seen people become adamant that a particular approach is the "best". I truly don't believe there is one right way.  We could debate for hours which versions of each color to use as the primary, but  I think the most important thing is that each individual choose a set of colors and work with those. Each of us has a palette to which we are drawn and a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't cut it.  And that applies to those who used pre-mixed colors as well.  By continually working with a finite set of colors, one learns the nuances of how each color responds in different situations and how it works with the other colors in one's palette.

I recognize that not everyone will join the primary bandwagon.  Mixed colors are convenient.  And they can be faster and easier if you haven't built up a knowledge base on color mixing. So, which are you - a mix-your-own or a ready-mixed dyer? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Lisa - Charlie has completed my outside sink so I can start dyeing, discharging, and using resists on fabric. I am really excited. I won't really start until after the holiday (and will hope for a pleasant January) after I complete the projects for Christmas. I look forward to classes with you so I can come home and do more.

  2. Congrats on getting your dye area set up, Sandra! Here's to a warm January!

  3. I have done both - mixed my own and purchased pre-mixed. I prefer mixing my own just because I get to play mad scientist and what if...

  4. I'm a novice dyer, but have found that buying lots of dye powders in lots of colors gets way too expensive for me. I'm trying to mix my own, but have had some bad experiences lately. So, I guess I currently have "mixed" feelings about mixing my own colors.

  5. Mixing is my choice. I want dusty colors, like the fabric was created years ago and slept in a trunk upstairs, fading. My next project will also use polyester fabric so I'm looking for dyes for that.


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