Types of Dyes and Dyeing Methods

by Sierra Neale

There are many different methods and techniques to apply color to textiles, whether they are printed or dyed. In home textiles the most commonly used types of dyes for prints are reactive and pigment. For solid color fabrics there are piece and garment dyeing, and when it comes to yarn dyed fabrics there are fiber, space and yarn dyeing.


Pigment dyes contain pigments (the color), a binder (to bind the dye to the fabric), and water to carry the mixture around for application. In pigment printing, the dyes sit on top of the fibers. After printing the dyes are permanently affixed through curing (application of heat) so the dyes will be wash and lightfast. Lightfast means the color is less likely discolor or fade when exposed to light.

Reactive Dyes, as the name implies, react with the fibers they are applied to. Reactive dyes bind to fibers through chemical reactions which is why fabrics colored or printed with these dyes have very good color fastness. Color fastness means the color is less likely to fade or run during washing.

Both of these printing methods are used in sheets whether percale, sateen, flannel, etc.

The Brielle Home 100% Cotton Flannel Sheet Sets comes in both printed patterns and solid colors.

How to tell the difference? - Due to the different methods of application you can usually identify which type of dye was used by looking at the reverse of the fabric. If the print shows through on the reverse it is likely a reactive print, and if the colors of the print do not show on the reverse, or appear faint, it is likely a pigment print. Sometimes you can also identify pigment prints by feeling the face of the fabric. The areas where the print is may have a slightly different texture than the undyed areas of the fabric.


Piece Dyeing is when natural or undyed yarns are woven (or knit, etc.) into fabric greige goods or greige fabric, and then the whole roll of fabric is dyed the desired color in large vats. Greige refers to undyed and unfinished materials.

Garment Dyeing is when a finished product is cut and sewn out of greige goods and then the whole “garment” is dyed the desired color.

 A great example of garment dyeing is our Brielle Home Darren 100% Cotton Waffle Blanket.  This blanket is perfect for all seasons, and looks great both on its own and or layered. It is garment dyed and garment washed for a soft hand feel. It is also pre-shrunk to reduce the amount of shrinkage that can often occur with waffle woven fabrics.


 Fibers and yarns can be dyed at different stages of production to achieve different looks and unique color effects. For example, our cozy Brielle Home 100% Cotton Jersey Knit Sheet Sets are available in a variety of colors; some of which were achieved by using some of these dyeing methods.

 Fiber Dyed is when the color is added to the fibers before they are spun into yarns. The yarn spun from this fiber have a varied distribution color which creates soft heathered effects when woven or knit into fabric.

 The Heather Taupe color in the Brielle Home 100% Cotton Jersey Knit Sheet Sets was achieved through the fiber dye method creating the subtle heathered taupe color.

Cross Dyeing is when a fabric is woven strategically out of multiple fibers and then piece dyed in a solution containing two or more different dyes. Each dye reacts with certain fibers, so that when the fabric comes out of the dyeing process only certain fibers retain certain colors. This technique can also be used at the yarn dyeing stage, which can create space dyed yarns.

Space Dyeing is a yarn dyeing technique where color is applied to specific or random areas of the yarn.  When these yarns are then woven or knitted into a fabric, the fabric has a multi-colored effect.

 The Light Grey Mélange and Dark Blue Mélange colors in the  Brielle Home 100% Cotton Jersey Knit Sheet Set were achieved through this method. Compared to the fiber dyed this mélange effect is more varied in tones.


Yarn Dyed is when the color is applied to the yarn before the fabric is woven, knit, etc.

One example of a yarn dyed item is the Brielle Home Quartz Striped 100% Cotton Comforter Set which is a yarn dyed woven stripe. This set features a light weight, soft grey and white yarn dyed stripe on the face and a solid white percale reverse. You can often identify if a fabric is a yarn dyed woven by paying close attention to the construction of the fabric. In the below detail image of the fabric we can see that the colors in the design (grey and white of the stripes) are coming from the individual yarns and how they interact with each other.

How to identify if something is either a print, a yarn dyed woven or a print done to look like a yarn dye? Check out our Yarn Dyed Woven  vs. Printed post to find out!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.