“Desperation Dyeing” gradient tutorial (for when nothing else works)

So this was my solution to the problem of liquid fabric dye (like Dylon or RIT) not “grabbing onto” my fabric. The colour would literally just drip out with the water and leave the fabric completely unaffected. (Hence the desperation!)

Step 1) MIX THOSE PAINTS: You can use any old regular fabric paint from a bottle. When straight up mixing them with water, they will flake and not mix evenly. That would clog up your spray bottle and ruin your fabric, so you don’t want that! That’s where the acrylic thinner comes in. You don’t need a lot, just a couple drops. Stir until you’ve got a thick, even, goopy mix. This is also the time to make sure you have the right colour.

Step 2) ADD WATER: Slowly add water until your paint mixture has the consistency of milk. Make sure you mix it well so you’ll get an even coat on your fabric. Then just pour into your spray bottle and test if it works. Set the spray bottle to the “mist” setting. You’ll want the smallest droplets to get the smoothest transition of colours.

Step 3) SPRAY SPRAY SPRAY: This is the fun part
Mist your paint from about 30 cm distance. If you want a more intense colour you can move a little closer, but be mindful of stains or round spraymarks. How much you can play with this will depend on your fabric, so start from a distance and work your way closer. It’s best to start at the top of the gradient with your lightest colour, because the water and paint will travel down your fabric to the bottom (assuming you have your fabric on a hanger or a mannequin, which is recommended). Because of this, the different layers of paint will flow into one another and create a very gradual gradient. Let your paint dry after your have first misted your complete gradient. You can then assess whether the colour is deep enough. If not, repeat the above steps until you’re satisfied. I misted the top gradient (red->burgundy) three times, and the bottom one (burgundy->purple) five times.

Step 4) LET DRY: Don’t touch it while it’s drying! SERIOUSLY. You’ll make stains and mess up the water flow. After it’s dry, your fabric will feel a little stiffer, but not much. (It’s fabric paint after all, so it isn’t much of a problem.) And that’s all!
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Washability will depend on the brand/quality/properties of the fabric paints used. I just need to iron mine on the backside and then it’s washable. When in doubt, consult the labels of your preferred paints.

Hope that helps, and happy gradienting!

– Sophie

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