Dyes, inks and paints can be used to create the look of stains and discoloration from years of use.
One of the advantages of dyes is that they will not stiffen your fabric.
The most common and available dyes are Rit brand dyes. They come in powder and concentrated liquid form. They are formulated to work on all types of fabric, but their main line works best on cotton and linen fabric. Rit has specially-formulated dyes for synthetics. Rit dyes normally require a stove-top method, in which the dye bath is heated to at least 140 degrees. Rit dyes tend to bleed and the color can fade quickly. Rit offers a dye fixative that helps color retention in cellulose-based fabric (plant-based fibers like cotton and linen). Rit also recommends using vinegar and salt to help fix the dye.
Ways to use Rit dye for aging
1. Immersion dyeing. You can immerse the garment and stir regularly to get an even result. Use less dye on a light garment for a faded look. Use a little brown, taupe or tan to tone down white threads or areas (works great with jeans). Use a little black or gray to add a dark wash to your whole garment. Avoid stirring your garment and get a mottled look.
2. Pour your dye onto the garment. Hang your garment on a hanger or mannequin. Heat up your dye bath. Pour the hot dye onto the garment from the top and let it drip off. This will give a natural, weathered look to the coloring.
3. Tie-dye. For a very mottled look, crumple your garment into a ball. Tie a string around it to keep it in a ball. Immerse it in the dye as you normally would.
Professional-grade dyes are chemically formulated for specific types of fabrics. Fiber-reactive dyes offer more control, are much more permanent, and do not require heating up water on a stove-top. You can get great results using warm water in a plastic bucket. You can achieve much more detail than Rit dye. Dyes for cellulose-based fabrics are called Pro MX or Procion dyes and are set with soda ash. While using these dyes may seem intimidating at first, they are fairy easy to use and the results are rewarding. A great website to buy all of your supplies is Pro Chemical & Dye.
1. Immersion dyeing. You can immerse the garment and stir regularly to get an even result. Use less dye on a light garment for a faded look. Use a little brown, taupe or tan to tone down white threads or areas (works great with jeans). Use a little black or gray to add a dark wash to your whole garment. Avoid stirring your garment and get a mottled look. Pro Chemical & Dye’s Immersion Instructions PDF.
2. Spray the dye. Apply the soda ash to your garment. Let it dry for the most crisp detail. Mix up some dye in a spray bottle. Spray the garment. Adjust the nozzle to adjust how fine your spray pattern is. Squeeze the handle slowly for dribbles. Pro Chemical & Dye’s Direct Application PDF.
3. Use print paste. Print paste is a thickening agent which allows you to stencil designs. Use a little print paste and a squeeze bottle to create stains and to achieve the look of drops running down the garment. Pro Chemical & Dye’s Direct Application PDF.
4. Use gloved hands to apply the dye to the garment, creating realistic stains.
The most common natural dyes are tea and coffee. Much like Rit dyes, natural dyes work best on a stove top or when very hot.
Acrylic and latex paints are common and are usually the best to use – they are water-soluble and stay on in the wash (make sure they are dry or heat-set them first). Paints are the best way to achieve the crispest of stains, which is great for fine detail on seams and edges. Heavily watered-down washes can be poured over garments, or paint can be watered down less and be dribbled or flicked onto the garment from an artist’s paint brush. Remember, though, that even a little paint will start to stiffen your garment.
For a sooty, grungy look, mix up a 1-to-1 black acrylic paint and water mix and put it in a sealed container. Put the container in the refrigerator for an hour or two to cool. The temperature and watered-down consistency will keep the paint thin and keep it from drying too soon for better spread.. Next, get a light-colored disposable plate or bowl and pour a little of the paint mix inside. Put on some latex gloves and dip your fingers into the paint, rubbing the paint onto your fingers and then immediately rubbing the paint in a circular motion onto the fabric (black gloves will make it hard to see the paint on your fingers). Allow the paint to dry. Put the garment out in the hot sun, or through a hot dryer cycle if appropriate, to heat-set the paint.
Silk screen inks might be appropriate when control over the shape of the stain is paramount. Silk screen inks can be applied with a brush as well, and many additives are available to adjust the texture of the result. It’s also possible to distress a graphic during the design process, before it is applied to the garment.
Brown or black shoe polish can add the look of grime or ring-around-the-collar dirt. It’s best to not use it on a garment you plan on laundering often.