Really quickly, go scroll through the color selection of Procion dyes at Dharma Trading.

No, seriously. Take a quick look. I’ll wait.

Done? Now, what was your primary reaction?

  1. I feel nothing. Why am I doing this?
  2. Wow, look at all the beautiful colors! So many possibilities!
  3. That’s… an overwhelming number of choices.
  4. Nice. But I only like blue.
  5. Got that one, got that one… Oooh! I don’t think I have that color! …or do I?
  6. I refuse to participate on the grounds that I am a bot.

This post is primarily for those who chose 2, 3, and especially 4, because in ice-dyeing, blue does not necessarily equal blue. A 5 might enjoy it just because it validates their addiction. (Don’t feel bad; I’m right there with you.) If you chose 1, I’m genuinely curious why you’re here.

Maybe you’ve tried a little ice dyeing already; maybe you’re just thinking about taking the plunge. But if you haven’t encountered this fact already, you can’t necessarily trust the color swatches you see on Dharma’s (or anyone else’s) website.

Why? Because in ice dyeing, blue does not necessarily equal blue.

Take Lapis.

Just by dyeing a swatch of it, we can see that Lapis includes some pink, which comes through sometimes in small clumps, but also combines with the blue to create streaks of purple. When you mix up a batch of liquid Lapis dye, all of the colors dissolve and together create the lovely shade for which it is named.

When you ice-dye, the different components of the dye dissolve and migrate into the fabric at different rates. You’ll get some of the color you expect. But unless you’ve chosen a pure color, you’ll also get traces of other components.

This is especially true for neutral tones, very few of which will produce primarily the color you expect. But even colors that seem simple — Emerald Green, for example, or Amythest — will split into varying shades during the dye process.

This creates wonderful, chaotic effects, which are part of the excitement of ice-dyeing. With half an hour of work you can produce results that seem far more complex.

It also means you never know for certain what you’ll get. But you can give yourself a clue by using sample swatches to see how the dye splits — either making your own, or using the ones in my gallery.

Do you like how dyes split in ice-dyeing, or do you try to avoid it? And what are your favorite shades?

2 thoughts on “Color-splitting: in ice dyeing, blue does not necessarily equal blue

  1. I just got deeper into ice dyeing and have been more intentional about testing to find my fav shades. So far my favorite splits are:
    – shitake mushroom
    – coral pink
    – mermaid’s dream
    -Cayman island green
    – hydrangea
    – orchid and periwinkle combo
    – blue grey
    – raven black (though I hate when there are too noticeable blotches of yellow — so I am trying other blacks now too
    – Power Berry
    Now that I see how pretty Lapis is, I’m definitely going to try that one!!

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