Saturday, June 28, 2008

Summary of Procion MX Dye Experiments

By Leigh

Color. I learned to work with color as an art student, when I took painting classes. I was fortunate to have an eye for color, so that mixing it came easily to me. I could match any color almost instinctively.

Dyes are different. At first I wondered why my Procion MX starter kit came with red, blue, yellow, black, turquoise, and fuchsia. After experimenting, I've learned some things. I've already shared a little of that with you, but this post is a better record of what I've done and learned so far.

Using my unbleached cotton lint (photo top left), I started with green, using the "Shamrock" recipe I found on this Jacquard chart.

So what would happen if I mix the proportions up a bit?

OK. Not a lot of difference, still they are pretty greens. But why the turquoise? Yellow and blue make green, right? What would happen if I just mixed the dyes like paints?

Interesting. Green #3 is a nice green, not as clear looking as greens 1 and 2.

Next, purple:

Switching proportions made a big difference this time....

But why fuchsia? Why not red?

Um, yuck(?). This purple reminds me of a lighter version of the color of my home canned Muscadine grape jelly after it's aged a bit.

One problem with purple #3 is that the red (MX-GBA) is not a pure hue. According to Paula Burch's PMX dye purity chart, this red is actually a mixture. I'm not sure what colors it's made of, but my guess would be yellow. Not only because Earth Guild calls it "Warm Red," but because yellow, being the opposite (compliment) of blue, would tend to muddy the purple.

Ah, but at least the recipe for orange ("Tangerine") is familiar color mixing territory:

A subtle difference from switching the proportions. But what if I substitute fuchsia for red? What happens then?

Well..... it's pretty but it's not exactly what I would call orange!

One thing I have learned from reading Deb Menz's Color In Spinning, is that all dyes have undertones. That's what the MX codes indicate in part, the undertones. According to this article (also by Paula Burch), the code letters after the MX stand for G = gelb, German for yellow, B = blau or blue, and R = rot or red. These undertones influence the outcome, and some work together better than others.

Because of those undertones, I could go on and on, playing with the colors and proportions. But I have other things I want to explore.

So there you have it. The beginning of my experiential knowledge base. I feel like I've got a good start.

Posted 28 June 2008 at

Related Posts:
1st Procion MX Dye Experiments - working with the primaries
2nd Procion MX Dye Experiments - experimenting with color mixing
Procion MX Fuchsia - information about
Procion MX Turquoise - information about
Procion MX Exhaust Experiments - You tell me!


Sheepish Annie said...

Interesting! Again, I marvel at your ability to actually use a process instead of The Sheepish Annie Method. That involves tossing lots of stuff in a pot, forgetting about it and then living with whatever you get.

Your colors are ever so much better...

textillian said...

Thank you for this. I have never been very good at mixing dyes to achieve a color, and it has always pretty much been a guessing game for me. I am always amazed by those how can do it.

Taryl said...

Great set of experiments and very educational for us as well as you, I am sure :)

Undertones are indeed the key and an issue I had with Procion dyes when I did Batik - they can actually bleed their undertone's hue and completely change the color if they decide to be finicky!

I can't wait to see you spin up that lint, I am toying with cotton, myself, for the first time and it's making me a bit nervous as an animal fiber girl - I am sure your experiment will turn out infinitely better than mine ;)

And the Siamese sleeves turned out BEAUTIFUL! I just love the color work and it's always fun to learn new techniques.

Leigh said...

Annie, I use that method a lot too!

Patrick, thank you. I can't say I'm very good at mixing colors (yet) but I think this was a helpful step in that direction.

Taryl, that's interesting about the PMX undertones. I appreciate that information. Not too sure when I'll get to spinning the stuff; I have a whole Polwarth fleece waiting on me!

Sharon said...

Okay, I have to read that again but in the meantime, I like green three, purple one and orange two. That was a lot of information to absorb!

Anni said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog and thank you for the info you've shared. I'm thinking of dyeing soem bamboo fibre with Procion MX dyes this week.

Jewel said...

Your blog is like taking a class I learn something new all the time. The colors are great but that purple not so great! Thanks

Wool Enough said...

Fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to share the results of your experiments. I've gained a better understanding of color mixing and could definitely tackle dyeing with more confidence. BTW, I rather like purple #3; it's such a sedate sort of dusty grape.

Leigh said...

The funny thing about color is that it is so subjective. What one person likes, another doesn't. I'm not a big fan of orange. Or brown. But I love the cool colors.

I admit that this is the first time I've actually followed recipes and kept records of my dyeing. It was a new experience, but I'm really glad now that I did it.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Leigh, when I talked about colors leaning one way or another in my comment on your computer post, I was in essence talking about undertones. Very good work. Not only are you building some valuable dye formulas, you are developing the kind of understanding that will make it easier and easier for you to figure out what you need to mix to get a particular color you want.