Overdying clothes into colours that flatter you can be a great way to “save” a garment that is a great shape and style, but the colour just isn’t right for you. You can change a colour completely, or just tweak it slightly to a more flattering shade for you.
If you’ve been thinking about tackling something like this, read on to discover the colours to use and the results you can expect.
How to Overdye Difficult Colours
By Ms MakeitOver Bernadette Lis
These are the experiment results catalogued for those who have “problem” colours which they are attempting to change by overdyeing.
I have used those colours which I get frequent questions about or those which have been notoriously difficult.
Slight changes or tweaking is covered in the following post:
The actual equipment and steps for dyeing with Procion are covered in this post.
Everything You Need to Know to Overdye Your Clothes at Home and Get a Brilliant Result
I have taken on some more difficult changes here.
(Please note that I tried to be professional and iron my samples flat but that ruined my photography efforts to show the colour as accurately as possible! Fabric is seen with light and shadows and I wanted to show the most accurate colour representation.)
How to Warm up Blues and Grey
I used a super strong Procion Lemon Yellow PR1 (primary) dyebath, at least four or five times the regular amount, for these two blues and a grey. (It looked as if I was putting the fabric into pure egg yolks!) The first blue is a NAVY BLUE which is dark and the second a ROYAL BLUE. The GREY is a medium shade.
Navy: This was a pretty dark navy which I got as the most “normal” and one which could look black in some lighting. I think if you just want to have a dark neutral which is warmer, that it gives just enough warmth for that purpose, having just a hint of being a warm marine navy instead of being a purely cool colour.
Royal Blue: The royal blue turned to a beautiful dark teal and I thought it a great result.
Grey: The grey turned to an olive colour so I suspect would do better with just a light wash of yellow if you were just trying to make a warm grey. What made this a difficult exercise was that the colours were, of course, darker when wet, so I was unable to see what they were doing as the colour was forming!
If you are going to attempt to overdye navy blue, I would still avoid those which have any purple hints within the navy (a sign there is some red present) and the colour could turn muddy. I also suggest that you may need to go through the process twice since you can’t judge the colour when the fabric is wet as it is so dark.
How to Cool Down Orange
Using a strong dyebath of Procion Fuchsia Red PR13 (primary), I tackled the orange colour. The orange was a bright one, so probably the most difficult one to attempt unless, of course, I used black or brown to dye it.
In the first picture, the dyebath was not strong enough to overcome the orange. It was a nice dark coral but still warm.
I added more of the dye and was happy to see a red colour emerge in the second picture.
In the third picture, I took the dyed red and hit it with a light touch (and just a touch) of Procion Blue-Grey PR38A to take the edge off the brightness of the colour.
The orange I selected was very bright! I imagine that most orange garments would not be as bright as the orange which I used and would be easier, especially if it was a lighter or more muted colour orange.
How to Tweak a Beige to Have a Warm or Cool Undertone
This experiment is really just for tweaking a beige to being cool or warm. I selected a beige colour original (one which I had difficulty judging in the store’s lighting as being definitely warm or cool) as my best candidate for demonstration.
I was very happy with both results. Both samples were successful and pretty as final colours. I do wish to add a caveat! Do not attempt any dyeing on water-resistant fabrics (such as a trenchcoat) since that special finish will not allow the fabric to accept dye properly!
*Please note that the originals are really the same. This was very difficult to photograph!
How to Warm Up White
Everyone seems to be looking for a “tea dyeing” alternative to dyeing white to an off-white colour!
The first image is Procion Ivory PR114 and the second is a small dash of Procion Camel PR101.
The Ivory was pretty but more of a very light yellow or “almond” colour which you find in kitchen appliances. The Camel came out the best, looking like a natural unbleached cotton. I did not use the full amount recommended for either colour, using about a third of the Ivory recommendation and just a small amount for the Camel colour. I strongly advise experimenting on a sample for this because it will be a matter of personal taste!
Thank you Bernadette and Imogen, this is such a fantastic helpful resource, and timely too. Really appreciated.
Lemon yellow is a cool yellow so I am surprised she used that color to warm up the others. A warmer yellow would be better, don’t you think? but a great resource. thank you.
Yellow is still an overall warm colour, so a lemon can still warm up a cool colour by adding that element of yellow.
The name “lemon yellow” is just a pure yellow for the Procion dye series and they have a designated colour number and “primary” next to it. All the other yellows have a touch of another colour in them. The light, cool yellow which is considered “lemon” is actually just a light wash of this primary over white in the same way as the fuchsia primary dye will give you a light pink when used as a light wash over white.
The dye provider you linked to is in the US, are any resources for similar products available in the UK, or elsewhere in Europe? The only easily available dyes in the UK are Dylon brand (http://www.dylon.co.uk/) where you need to use the whole packet on a load in the machine (or hand dyes which are not as colourfast).
I did a quick google search and came up with http://www.kemtex.co.uk/procionmxdyes.html
Amazon UK carries some Procion dyes! https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2/255-8926249-8708067?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=procion+dye
Thank you Bernadette, I’ve been anxiously awaiting your post. Great information!
What would you do with faded brown (rust) fabric to get it a gray or darker brown?
Amy, it would be easiest for you to dye the fabric to a dark brown. You may want to use twice the normal amount of dye (on a Dharma Procion jar, there would be an asterisk to indicate that) to ensure a nice deep colour.
I bough a rust color dress and need it a burnt orange?
What can I use for that?
Try overdyeing with orange.
Hi Imogen, This is a great article. Do you have any advice for turning a deep emerald green into a teal? My original mix didn’t work as I’d hoped. thanks
Carla, it is very easy to tip this emerald green to teal. Overdye with turquoise (which is the Procion primary for blue). This colour is marked for using with Glaubers salt rather than regular non-iodized salt but if that is not feasible, you may just want to add a little extra dye.
good morning girls!
i have a pair of chinos….deep orange which i dosed with 2 back-to-back Rit Color Remover. the resulting color is a very deep mustard yellow (which is not a vast improvement). any suggestions? i was looking for a salmon/pink, but believe that to be an impossibility at this juncture. can i save these pants?
Linda, can you first confirm for me that the water you used the pants and dye remover in was at a rolling boil? Dye remover does almost nothing at just hot water temperatures. It really needs boiling.
If this doesn’t release more dye, you can try adding a little fuchsia to tip this to a muted salmon/clay colour. If that colour doesn’t please you, you can dye with a brown. Just do any colour “tweaking” before adding the soda ash (using your bowl to take your item out of the water before adding more dye).
How would you cool a warm navy? Overdye with purple?
Warm navy would probably be easy to overdye with a cool navy or a dark blue.
I have a linen/viscose dress that was originally flame orange. It got washed with a dark green t shirt and is now a very dull red. Any suggestions for brightening the colour. I don’t mind what colour really but just something more vibrant. Grateful for any advice. (I tried a colour run remover but it didn’t take any colour out).
Try washing gently with some chlorine bleach and prepare to wash it out quickly so it only removes the green.
I have a flight suit that is Navy blue, can I dye it dark grey??
I would think you should be able to
what color grey dye to add to navy blue to make it grey?
A lot of grey I’d guess – might be hard to remove all the blue from it
Hi Imogen please could you help? How would I make cotton beige fabric more of a light grey tone. Any help is appreciated. Thank you
You need to remove the beige before dyeing it grey, so cotton should be bleached with heavy dose of chlorine in washer and then washed twice before dyeing grey.
I recently purchased a set of used Vera Bradley bags in the Paprika pattern. After receiving them in the mail, it is a bit too southwestern with the bright orange and turquoise. I thought about dying them in a fuschia to create more of a pinky orange with pink and purple accents from the white and turquoise spaces. I have 3 bags to dye; how many boxes of dye do you think I need to tint the orange and turn the blues to purple?
Just an overdye of a cool grey should work or at least get you to a taupe colour but you may have to go to a more medium grey to get it to a true grey.
I would get two to be safe but would use separate dyebaths unless the fabric and print is exactly the same.
I have a red dress that I absolutely love the fit and dress, but it only comes in the red color. I was thinking about buying a new one and trying to dye it purple. I was using the RIT Color remover first and then try to dye it purple. Do you have any suggestions?
I don’t think buying a new dress to dye is wise unless you know for certain it will dye well! I would try to take a tiny bit of fabric from a hem or seam allowance from the dress you have and experiment with the remover and dye first on this sample. You don’t want to get stuck with two dresses exactly the same!
I bought a duvet cover and it is cream color I want it to be less yellow, either off-white or gray. It’s the color of a manilla folder you see in offices. Any ideas are appreciated. !00% cotton.
You’ll need a tub big enough to transfer your cover from remover bath to washet for this!
Fill your bathtub with water and a whole gallon of chlorine bleach. Mix well before adding your duvet cover and stir frequeently (gloved hands)to make sure it bleaches evenly. It may take a couple of hours! Drain and pile the cover into the carrying tub, making sure you have no chlorine water dripping on the way to your washing machine so you don’t harm your clothes, etc. and wash twice!
I’m so happy to have found your website! Years ago I bought a Shabby Chic linen duvet. It is a medium peach color, which I didn’t care for so I never used it. But it is a lovely duvet and I wondered if I could dye it another color. What do you think?
Absolutely – linen is a natural fibre so should be easy to overdye – what colour are you thinking about?
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly!
the Shabby Chic colors or dusty colors. What are your thoughts which would dye best over peach linen?
Peach would probably overdye into a nice deep pink, so try adding fuchsia and a small touch of blue-grey to mute the brightness and cool the colour since most shabby chic colours have a faded/muted quality to them.
Hello, great inspiration…I am thinking of a dyeing project myself – hoping to dye a red linen loose cover on a chair to be a dusty blue colour. Any advice on what colour to use to get the desired effect?
I think you will need to begin by removing the red by boiling the cover in dye remover and then dyeing to dusty blue.
There is another option of using upholstery spray paint, but I have just recently found that there is such a thing, so can’t advise you on its use or how good it is.
Hi Bernadette, I have a silk singlet in a light brown ,tan with hints of shimmer. I want to turn it into a light pink. Any suggestions? Kind regards valerie
Hello, Valerie! To turn the tan to a light pink, I think you will need to remove the dye with dye remover in a boiling water bath. That process is very tough on fabric and there is a chance that the metallic threads would be ruined, so I do think it would be wiser to use a silk or acid dye and overdye into a more medium pink. Don’t use Procion (but a silk or acid dye) since that requires soda ash and would tarnish metallic threads.
I have burgundy drapes that I would like to due to a beige or light brown. Is that possible? ?
Dyeing burgundy to a lighter colour would need lightening or some dye removal but it should be easy enough to dye them a brown which is just as dark as the burgundy with a strong dyebath of brown.
There is the possibility of another option, but a risk and one which I have not tried yet for myself. There are now upholstery fabric spray paints which may give you the results you want. I do have to repeat that I have not tried them yet!
I have a similar question. I would like to dye some burgundy drapes navy blue.
You would need a strong dyebath of navy blue and it may turn to a royal navy (the navy which is very dark and has a slight purple hue). It really depends on whether the fabric will accept enough of the dye molecules. You could try to remove dye by heating with dye remover but that is problematic since you need a really big container!
I think your best bet is just overdyeing with a strong dose of the navy colour . Youhave to overcome the red in thecoloyr. As I mentioned above, a last resort may be to try one of the new upholstery spray paints bu I have not tried those yet, so you may want to test on a small toss pullow or such first.
hello I LOVE color discussions. Its all so fascinating..
so I need some advice. I have a wool carpet/rug that is all one color, kind of a dull avocado green. I need some ideas of what color to change it to.. thinking any kind of neutral. My walls are a very warm medium gray. the leather furniture is a very deep colonial/cadet blue/navy and I have reddish Brazilian cherry floors (which is why the green tone worked well) also being greenish how do I compensate for that when layering a new color? I just down want my rug to say “green” anymore. I read somewhere need to layer red to neutralize the green first. I just dont want it to end up like some big muddy mess! I am not DIY on this I will have a company do it, but I want to also help guide them. thanks in advance.
I think your best bet is to have a company dye the carpet brown so that you can treat the floor carpeting as a hardwood floor. This would allow you to also layer area rugs on top if you wanted to. I would select the brown to be the brown I would select for a hardwood floor.
I tried dyeing a ivory quilt cover navy blue and its turned out grey. How can i dye it navy blue please.
Tracey, try dyeing again with double or triple the amount of dye. Some fabrics and fabric finishes just won’t accept more than a small amount of dye molecules.
Have a new pair of taupe (light brown) jean riding full seat breaches cotton, poly and elastan. I want a light blue purple like amethyst or slightly darker. Do I just use
dye remover then use synthetic fabric dye or purple mix that I like? Then a fixer so will not bleed as I sweat when I train (riding is training n dressage). 6/7/21. Thank you‼️
I would just dye the purple shade over a light beige.
what color can I use to turn a mustard jacket into beige?
What a great page this is!
I have two things I’d love to overdye and was hoping for advice on what might be best to use on a light pink + off-white leaf print duvet to get it to a more earthy orange-terracotta / peach tone?
I also bought a dulled light blue sheet + pillows but really would love to tone it down to more of an eggshell/very light teal.
Thanks in advance!
I think a rust/terractota overdye would work on the duvet cover; it would become tone-on-tone. The sheets I would dye a light teal. You can only dye pure white to eggshell.
Easy to overdye to a brown, but if you want beige, you need to remove the colour first and I don’t recommend that for a jacket.
Easy to overdye to a brown, but you need to remove colour first before dyeing to beige.
You would have to remove the mustard colour first and you may get a beige just doing that! If you get it to an off-white, you can dye any colour. You could overdye only to get a brown shade easily.
I’ve got a jaket in mustard that I love but the color makes me look sick .
Is there a way to lighten the fabric towards white tones rather than yellow?
You can go to a darker colour or remove the colour and overdye, but getting all the dye out for a natural looking white is very unlikely and I wouldn’t try it.
I have a pair of navy blue coveralls that I am trying to get a dark charcoal gray color. Is it possible to just overdye or do I need to remove the color first and then dye.
If you are talking about denim, I would fill up the washer with several cups chlorine bleach and soak, agitating frequently and then wash twice before overdyeing with a charcoal grey.
I’m not sure if you are still answering comments, but I have a mustard yellow, Poly/cotton sweatshirt I’d like to dye a dark and saturated Navy blue color. I’m concerned I will get green if I use Navy dye. Do you have any suggestions? Should I add a bit of purple to help cancel the yellow?
Yes, a bit of purple should cancel the mustard. You will need to double the navy blue dye to get a dark navy colour. If the poly/cotton blend just refuses to get dark enough for you, you may need to run through two dyebaths -the first dyebath with the bit of purple and navy blue and the second dyebath with a polyester dye like Rit Dyemore in navy.
I have an orange merino shirt that I’m going to try overdying with a fuchsia acid dye to make it more red. What color would help to make it cooler as the acid dyes don’t come in blue grey? Baby blue? Light blue? Periwinkle?
I dyed it and it came out a medium pink with a yellowish tone to it. I would like it a darker blue toned red more like cranberry. Any suggestions?
Genevieve, try just overdyeing with aa strong amount of cranberry and if it still seems a bit too warm, add a little navy blue.
Hi. Thank have a bright yellow pair of cotton dungarees I’d like to dye to a navy. Is this possible to do. I have access to dylon dyes here in the uk. Am I right in thinking if I use a navy dye and then a partial of a dark purple this would cancel out the yellow?
Alternatively a mid brown would be good if this is more reliable. Then would I need a mid brown and a little purple?
Hazel Smith, you could also wash with a heavy dose of chlorine bleach first to remove some of the yellow and then dye navy. Brown would work without purple. Most dark colours need double the dye amount.
I would try a bit of grey or muted blue.
I have a white and gold stripped dining chairs id like to dye but am unsure what color i can use to get purple if anything or grey or blue is any of these possible I dont have gold in my house just cool colors please help ty
There are too many variables (upholstery fabric of unknown material, whether the gold is a metallic thread) for dyeing. You may want to look at upholstery paint although I haven’t tried it. If just the seats are upholstery, look on Youtube for how to reupholster them since it is really easy!
Thank you for your information on over-dying. I have quite a lot of experience dying, but sometimes it is difficult to determine what you will get and this helps a lot. I also love the idea of tinting neutrals to suit a person’s coloring. It had never occurred to me to “push” the color one way or another with subtle over-dying
I am thinking of over-dying a spring green sweater since I only look good in a more blueish green (e.g. kelly) or a greenish blue. I was thinking of using a non-yellow blue color, such as indigo, which would darken the whole thing. That is alright, but with inspiration from your post, I wonder if using a baby blue would successfully push it to a Kelly green. Or perhaps I should just not use very much indigo. I am alright with a kind of marled hippie over-dye look.
Thank you for your advice! I was knit a beautiful cardigan out of bright orange wool. I normally wear more items that are black/grey/green/blue/purple. Do you have any advice on how to darken the wool to a dark teal colour preferably, or any of the other colors without going red or brown?
I have a camel colored cashmere that is too warm in tone for me. What would you suggest for making it more cool/ taupe please?
Hi Bernadette, I’m not sure you’re still answering questions, but if you are – I have a pair of light olive-ish green pants that are just slightly too warm for my palette. These are the pants: https://www.everlane.com/products/womens-fatigue-barrel-pant-bay-leaf?bx_replen=true and I’ve been typed a “Soft Summer” in the TCI color analysis system. The pants are the perfect value and chroma for me, but just need to be a bit cooler – closer to a sage green than a light olive-y green. They don’t need to be muted as they’re already the perfect chroma. Should I use the Procion Blue-Grey or am I better off with a blue dye like Baby Blue? I’ll be following your instructions from your other post on dyeing with Procion. Thank you for all the wonderful information you’ve shared!