All about … brown

Brown is the colour you don't want when you're colour mixing, right?  Mix three primaries together and you end up with "mud".  But … adding brown is also a good way to neutralise bright primary dyes to get subtle, earthy colours.  I've always used a pre-mixed black and a dark brown dye alongside my six primaries to tone things down.  

Until last summer I was happy to just use the dark brown I buy straight from the jar.  But then I had a defective batch  … and of course I only realised after I'd dyed several metres of cloth the wrong colours.  So, I decided it was time to learn to mix my own.

Well.  There are 21 possible combinations of six primaries (if you use both the reds, yellows and blues together as well as separately).  And then there are several possible ratios of each possible combination that could result in something brownish …   But after a lot of experimenting I ended up with some really interesting … greens, reds, plum, violet … amazing how often you can mix all three primaries and not get "mud".  But there were also lots of browns.  

Which was great, but now I need to narrow that selection down to two or three that I can use regularly.  

So I spent Christmas playing with dye.  Not unusual in my household.   I chose a few candidates from my now vast selection of browns and tried mixing them with blue or black.  I was looking for the ones that would give me a palette with lots of cool toned neutrals (and not too much red or green).  

It was hard to mix consistent shades when the combination required several dyes so, now I know that for practical purposes I need mixes that use no more than four.   

These are the results.  I was really pleased with the palette I mixed from the last batch - some lovely greys and cool toned browns.  

  Dye Book

Dye Book

  Favourite on the right

Favourite on the right

I still need a good reddish brown - but I need my studio back ….