The Art of Cosplay – Gradient (Ombre) Dyeing
For any of you interested in learning about the process of cosplay, I’ve decided to share a few tips and tricks with you from what I’ve learned along the way. Today, we’ll be focusing on ombre, or gradient dying with Rit dye.
1. Gather your reference pictures
Before you even start the dyeing process, you should find a few good pictures of what you are trying to achieve to serve as a reference to use while working.
I have over 30 megabytes of reference photos for this character currently, but lets use this one to the left for now, since it gives you a good look at the sleeves:
This character is Diao Chan from Dynasty Warriors 7, one of my favorite characters from the series. I marathoned the game for ~12 hours straight just to unlock this character!
As you can see, there is a white to light gradient on the sleeves, and a black to dark red to pink gradient on the dress.
So right off the bat, I know I’m going to need at least 3 colors: pink, red, and black. I won’t worry about the gold designs at the moment, I’m just going to focus on achieving the gradient first.
2. Gather your materials and picking the right fabric/dye combo:
For this costume, I decided to use silk; it’s light, flowing and perfect for a dancer. Since silk is a natural fabric and will take dye well, I opted for RIT fabric dye because I’ve used it before and I’m familiar with how it works.
I held the colors against my reference photos to pick out my dye colors: petal pink, scarlet, and black. Some fabrics do not dye well, and synthetic fabrics will require special synthetic dye, or a spraydyeing method, so take care when picking your materials. A lot of times experimentation is needed, so cut off a small swatch of your fabric and test your dye on that first.
The color intensity of your dyed fabric will depend on a number of factors including the temperature of the dye bath, the concentration of the dye, the amount of time the fabric spends in the dye bath, the type of fabric, and the color of the starting fabric.
3. Prepare your dye bath
Follow the instructions on the dye package to prepare your dye. For Rit dye, I opted to use the bucket method. I pre-dissolved the dye powder in 2 cups hot water, then mixed it into a 5 gallon bucket of very hot water with a cup of salt and a tiny bit of laundry detergent.
The directions only called for 3 gallons of water, but I used 5 gallons and only 1/4th of the dye powder because I wanted a really soft pink, nothing too intense. Stir well (I find disposable chopsticks or wooden dowel rods really useful for this) and then wet your fabric with hot water. You’re now ready to begin dyeing!
4. Using dip-dyeing techniques to create a gradient
Decide where you want your gradient to start. This will be your cut-off point. Remember that you always want to go from LIGHT to DARK so start with a diluted solution of your lightest color dye! Since my gradient goes from white to pink and my fabric is white, I’m going to leave about a 5″ margin on the end of my white silk for my cut-off point (A). Hold the ends of your fabric and “dip” it straight into your bucket of dye. If your fabric is properly wet, it should submerge easily and not pool at the surface. Quickly submerge the fabric to your cut-off point then pull it out just as quickly; you just want to give it a quick rinse of color. Repeat this a few times. This will also help prevent the harsh lines from forming in the gradient later.
Take the fabric out and check how much of the color has been absorbed. Use this to gauge how long each section of the fabric should be soaked to obtain your final result. Dip your fabric back into the dye bath a few inches below the previous point you submerged to and let it soak.
If you last submerged the fabric to point A, this time only submerge to point B, and so on. Note that you want to be continually moving the fabric up and down, “hovering” around the dividing line between each section. Don’t just let it sit unattended, or harsh lines may form and you’ll end up with chunky sections of color instead of a smooth gradient.
Repeat this step until you are finished with the entire fabric. In this case, silk charmeuse eats up rit dye like CRAZY so it did not need to soak in the dye bath for very long at all!
5. Rinse and Repeat
You should now have a very light, smooth gradient on your fabric. It usually it takes at least 3 to 5 dyes to achieve a really nice gradient. To add more depth and intensity to your gradient, rinse your fabric from step 4 until the water runs clear, and let dry.
Colors appear much darker when the fabric is wet, so you want to wait til it dries to see how much more dye you want to add in subsequent rounds. For round 2 of dyeing, I added about 1/3 of the remaining petal pink dye into the previous dye bath prior and I started dyeing at point (D). I also cut the soaking time in half. When I dip-dyed again for the third time, I added all the remaining pink dye and a tiny bit of scarlet dye into the dye bath, and only dip-dyed the bottom half of the fabric.
Here is the final result which I will be using for my sleeves! It still needs a good ironing, but what do you think?
Hope this mini-tutorial was helpful – that’s all for today folks! See ya next time!