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Photochromid dyes/inks

Clarasita | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I’m searching for a source where I can purchase small amounts of photochromic dyes/inks to be used on white silk. My goal is to make a white silk dress where a design appears when the dress is worn in sunlight. I’ve found bulk suppliers for this and for thermochromic inks as well (change at different temperatures) but I;m not stocking a T-shirt factory, just planning a few unique garments.


  1. Josefly | | #1

    Have you looked at Dharma Trading?


    I'm wondering if you're describing a dye I was able to buy recently in small quantities in an art supply store: pebeo Setacolor Soleil. This dye, which comes in a nice range of colors, in small bottles, can be applied to fabrics, especially silk, then placed in hot sunlight, and shapes or objects placed on top of the wet fabric will produce a lightened image underneath the objects. I haven't used this dye yet; I'm waiting for warmer weather. The dyed fabric doesn't change while the fabric is being worn in sunlight, though, so I'm not sure this is what you want.

    I was interested to learn how the effect occurs: the covered areas of the dyed fabric remain wet with the dye longer, and as the sun dries the exposed areas, the dye is leached away from the covered areas, leaving a lighter area in the shape of the object used as a cover.

    Your project sounds like an interesting one. I hope you'll let us know how it turns out.

    1. Clarasita | | #2

      Thanks so much. This sounds like a good lead. It's not exactly what I'm looking for, but the name has come up in my searches and it's worth investigating both the product and manufacturer, as long as I don't have to buy each color in multi-gallon amounts. Photochromic inks/dyes actually react to spcific wavelengths of light while thermochromics react to different temperature ranges. Thermochromic inks are what's used in the new Coors beer cans which change colors when the beer reaches the desired temp. It's also used in those T-shirts (I forgot the brand name) that change color as you're wearing them. Many metallic fabrics, esp. organza are actually electrically conductive. I've seen articles (the magazine/TV show "Make" was my 1st exposure) where people used transistors to selectively increase temperature electronically to induce color changes or even to make "soft switches" which are activated by sewing two parts of the switch into different garment parts (such as sleeve cuff and hip pocket). When the two parts of the switch are brought together (such as resting the wrist against the pocket) the switch is activated and the current either illuminates thermochromic dye or even activates speakers (such as those in recordable greeting cards) causing the garment to actually make sounds. Being a former OT, it appealed to the "adaptive geek" in me. Years ago (too many to admit to) I rigged up a mercury switch to activate an electronic toy and placed the switch on a headband to facilitate head control in a "floppy" baby. Guess I grew up with too many Heath Kits around the house. Can't you picture me in the fabric store testing organzas with a multimeter? Will keep you posted. Thanks again for the best lead I've had yet. (Thought I might get a hit from DeviantArt, but no such luck yet.

      1. Josefly | | #3

        Wow, a whole world I don't
        Wow, a whole world I don't know about! Thanks for that wonderful description of those inks and dyes. No, not at all the same thing I mentioned. It sounds like you're going to have a lot of fun.


        1. Clarasita | | #4

          Sure hope so! Kind of takes the edge off of having to be home-bound. Nothing like a creative challenge to keep one occupied--unless it's other people's comments when they see me wearing it. Hell, here in New Orleans, it could even become a micro marketing niche! By the way, I emailed them for their advice re suppliers, also. I'll let you know what they say.

      2. KharminJ | | #5

        How cool!

        I love the way you're thinking so far "out-of-the-box" that it's on another planet!

        Have fun, and do keep us updated on what you find out!

        Definitely has potential as "the next big thing" - CYA with regard to registering the ideas.

        (See Kathleen Fasanella's fabulously useful information @ http://www.fashion-incubator.com)

        OR don't.

        Have tons of fun, whichever way you go with this!

        Bright Blessings ~


        1. Clarasita | | #6

          No need to CMA since it's not
          No need to CMA since it's not my idea to begin with. First saw it on "Make" a pbs show and magazine; found further electronic fabric projects referred to on web. Congrats to those who originally came up with the idea; I'm just trying to adapt it to my own creations, mostly for personal wear. However, I do see great applications for Mardi Gras. Yesterday, by the way, was 12th night, the kick off of Carnival Season. So, bonne fette a toute le monde!!! Will keep ya'll posted with progress of my search and thanks to those who have helped me in this quest.

  2. carolinecymru | | #7

    In UK, small quantities are available for schools eg from http://www.mutr.co.uk/index.php?cPath=418_465&osCsid=c9746484a01a709c09685b976749b2cc

    Perhaps there are similar sources in US?

    My son used thermochromic inks on the fabric of a chair he made for 'design and technology' at school. You sat on it, and the shape of your bottom left a temporary coloured imprint! Of course the solar activated threads can also be used if you want to embroider some reactive elements.

    I would also look at the Instructables website, since there are many people experimenting with 'intelligent clothing'

    1. Clarasita | | #8

      That is the greatest site EVER! Was just about to post that FloridaFlex sells the inks in quart sizes, but it's still almost $90.00USD per color. Then I found your post! You've opened up a million new ideas! Now, not only did I find the photochromic pigments I've been searching for, but I can incorporate photochromic threads and found lots of the audio stuff I'm looking for for interactive/conductive clothing. Dharmas's a lot of fun, too. They have a new photo blueprint stuff that looks like it has great, though more time limited applications. Thanks, thanks, thanks!!!!

      1. Josefly | | #9

        So glad someone was able to point you to a source for your inks. I agree that Dharma Trading is a fun place to browse. Do, please, come back to us with a description, and maybe photos? of what you do.

        1. Clarasita | | #10

          Will be happy to. It may be a few months, though. In the the meantime, Happy Sister's day. to honor this, here's a link to a "wicked" Sister Rosetta Tharpe video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7lN1R2LP-4


          1. Josefly | | #11

            Yes, awesome. Thanks for that great link.

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