sodium alginate as a water-based resist

in recent posts (the prior two i think) i experimented to find a cheap water-based resist for silk painting. you can get little tubes or bottles of proprietary resist from the dye houses, but they’re way expensive, and i’ll be damned if i’m going to be held hostage to somebody’s formula. grrr.

so i thought about it, and looked it up, and found recipes for rice starch paste and other things that i didn’t like the look of. and i cast my eye on my little unused bag of sodium alginate. i had it because all the books said to have it. to thicken the dye. but in silk painting you want watery dyes. thick dyes are for like painting dye directly on cotton fabrics. for silk you use a resist line.

of course, this is mere tradition. you can use what you like on what you like. that’s art. the question is rather of the integrity of your materials. how long will your work last is more important than what brand of paint you used.

so i’ve developed a secret recipe for sodium alginate water-based resist that you can have FOR FREE.

that’s right, knowledge should be free.  free for all to use as best they can.

using the recipe for print paste that i probably found on paula burch’s hand-dyeing website, or mostly using the recipe, because i am constitutionally barred from following  recipes exactly, here’s a go at remembering how i did it

i only made up half a batch at a time, too, not to waste any.

1 tsp sodium alginate

generous splash of rubbing alcohol (1 tsp)

put alginate into a container with smooth sides so that you can mix thoroughly in it.  moisten with alcohol.  set aside.

1/4c hot water

1/2 teaspoon urea

pinch calgon

dissolve urea and calgon in hot water, then add to alginate/alcohol mix and stir until well blended. might as well make it in a blender, except in these amounts it would be ridiculous.

basically, this secret recipe follows this print paste recipe except double or fourple the amount of alginate, then add alcohol and calgon for various reasons et voila.

it thins with water to go on with a brush – as noflow or antifusant.

it goes into a little squeeze bottle with a tip and comes out in thin lines that resist the spread of dye.

and i save big time by making my own.

one bottle of brand name water-based resist $8.75 for 3.5 oz

one bottle of antifusant $5.48 for 8 oz

one pound of sodium alginate $20. guess how many 3.5 oz bottles you can make up with a pound of alginate measured out a teaspoon at a time.

i’m keeping some in the fridge because i forgot about it, but one of these days real soon now i’ll take it out and see if it’s still good, or has it gone runny and gloppy. it’s got alcohol in it, so maybe it’ll last awhile.

even the $9 for 3.5 oz goes bad after awhile.

so i’m crowing.

now, i’m certain i’ve just reinvented the wheel. dyers have undoubtedly known about this for donkeys’ years.

but it’s news to me.

i just hate paying for the convenience of someone making it up for me. i hate paying the 10,000% profit that somebody is making just because i don’t know how to do it myself.

that’s another kind of slavery. so here’s a way to get around buying one more little thing you need to make art.

rant – it’s all part of a conspiracy to hobble the artist. artists traditionally made it all themselves, from powdering the rocks to building the stretchers. and more and more, art stores are marketing to artists as if art is just a hobby, as if convenience was the thing, as if we were too damned busy making a living so we could afford to go to an art supply store and plunk down a couple of hundred dollars for a bunch of things we have no idea how to make.

i prefer to make them. and the knowledge i’ve gained enables me to make art out of anything. cue evil laugh.

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34 thoughts on “sodium alginate as a water-based resist

  1. hi there! I came across this and was so excited (your art philosophy rocks!), but I can’t seem to get it to work out correctly. I am wondering what I am doing wrong….I was hoping to make, basically, a dyed red linen with white dots, I am painting on the Procion red dye (with a mixture of sodium alginate to thicken the colors) and I made the resist recipe without alcohol, but otherwise the same, and the back side of the linen resists, mostly… ( its pink on the underneath of where I have painted it on), but the front doesn’t look any different.

    any ideas? Maybe I need a thicker mixture, but its already so thick… could it be because I soaked the product in soda ash first and let air dry? maybe its that the red dye has alginate in it as well and mixes?
    any suggestions would be wonderful!
    thanks,
    sunny

  2. Being new at this form of creativity, I purchased my first resist and dyes recently…now I find the resist needs to dry clean off! Costly. I like this formula you have shared and will try it…Do you think it can be dyed a color? Appears it is only rubber based that are dyed black and metalic and can not be removed.
    Also, I need assistance…I found when using the green label dye and soaking it the 5 minutes in setting solution the orange and red dye came out….where did I do wrong? Is steam setting a must?
    Thanks

    • the resist you bought was real gutta percha, not water-based, and so it needs a solvent to remove it. bummer.

      i have never used the setting solution, and have only ever steam set my dyes. and sometimes, i don’t know why, they wash out even after setting. that’s a problem i’m still trying to solve. why don’t you go to paula burch’s hand-dyeing site and see if you can’t get a better answer there: http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml

      good luck.

  3. This is AWESOME!! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. I love how sodium alginate works as a non-toxic dye thickener and am giddy with anticipation to try it out as a resist. And i wouldn’t anticipate there being ANY problem removing it post-steaming, unlike pretty much EVERY clear water based resist I have tried that leaves those filmy lines. THANK YOU… so, so much. I was just looking at penguin scarf you made with the SA resist – it really came out great! nice going

  4. Jeanne,
    Thank you for putting this info out there. I agree that it’s crazy to spend a lot on water based resists. I’m still trying to replicate the creaminess of Inko Dye Resist which has become prohibitively expensive, but is oh so wonderful.
    I am wondering if leaving out the urea in your recipe would be a good idea. Urea is in print paste to attract moisture so that the dye will set properly. If one is using print paste to resist dye perhaps leaving urea out would help. I’m trying it out and will let you know if you’re interested.
    Thanks again.

    • you know, i made up some print paste this last month, and didn’t use urea at all. it worked just fine. i try to remember that even tho it’s supposed to be a science, it’s really still an art, and we can feel free to experiment when we want different results. i’d love to know how it turned out when you did it.

  5. I use Elmers glue. White and clear water soluble seem to work fine. I thicken it with corn starch or thin it with water depending on the fine line detail. I don’t know if anyone else here has used it- but there you are!

    Shannon

    • i never thought of cornstarch, but that sounds like it should work great. i’ve tried elmers, and it was okay. but don’t use blue school glue, because i never got the stuff out of my project the one time i tried to use it.

      thanks for passing that tip on.

    • WARNING- I had a batch of silks go horribly wrong with Elmers or white glue. They may have changed their formula- but it’s baked into the fabric and a lot of it wont come out. I’ve used it with no problem before. Drat!

  6. Jeanne,
    Thank you for putting this info out there. I agree that it’s crazy to spend a lot on water based resists. I’m still trying to replicate the creaminess of Inko Dye Resist which has become prohibitively expensive, but is oh so wonderful.
    I am wondering if leaving out the urea in your recipe would be a good idea. Urea is in print paste to attract moisture so that the dye will set properly. If one is using print paste to resist dye perhaps leaving urea out would help. I’m trying it out and will let you know if you’re interested.
    Thanks again.

    +1

  7. Hi, I was researching ideas for a resist, and came across your recipe. Sounds good, but what on earth is Calgon? could you please let me know. I have Sodium Alginage, and can get Urea, but Calgon? Many thanks in advance.

  8. A friend has tried using sodium alginate as a resist and as a dye thickener for steam set dyes (Dupont), but has used it mixed “straight,” or “as is” with just the water and without the additives you included. (She basically used the recipe on the package, which she bought from Dharma.) Her mixture left a slight stiffness to the hand of the cloth even with multiple washings and rinsings. She mostly does scarves and abandoned the sodium alginate because of the effect on the hand feel. Have you ever had any difficulty with a slight stiffness when using your mixture? Do your additives prevent this from happening? Any info or further sharing of your experiences would be helpful.

    Ruth

    • i have not had this reaction. but i will say that i’ve had it with other alternatives i have tried, like rice paste, or blue school glue, which never came out. i suspect it has to do with either the age of the materials or the process. maybe she steamed it and it set into glue. maybe she could break this down with – i don’t know – vinegar or ammonia.
      why don’t you run this question by paula burch – http://www.pburch.net/drupal/

    • you might could use it as a resist, but it’s a water based resist, and it looks like it will get wet and bleed. you could also use sugar syrup resist. neither of them will stop bleeding, but you will probably have most of a symbol with either technique.

  9. Hi
    Thanks for the information on sodium alginate.
    Iam a beginner.
    I mixed up a batch using only water. But when I tried to make lines with it the gel rolled back on itself and made drops. It wouldn’t stick to the cloth.
    Is the sodium alginate too thick? Will adding urea help it to stick to the cloth better?

  10. Hi
    Thanks for the information on sodium alginate.
    Iam a beginner.
    I could not understand what is sodium alginate.. Can you give some common or traditional name for sodium alginate.

    • seaweed. but you can use wheat flour, or corn flour, or anything that thickens. you just have to experiment.
      from the dharmatrading.com website: “Sodium Alginate is a pure type of dried, ground kelp (seaweed) – it’s commonly used to thicken food. It is the most economical thickener for Dyes of all types and it works as a thickener for other liquids as well. Use whenever you want to use dyes more like a paint. You can then brush the dyes on and they will stay put. Also use for stamping, stenciling or silk screening the dyes. Dyes are more work than Paint to use in these methods, but the reward is, they leave absolutely no feel on the fabric the way paints can. You can also add a pinch to your dye mix for tie-dye to make the dye stay put rather than bleeding through the fabric. This is used to get more control over the tie-dye patterns, for crisper lines, etc.”

  11. hello , thanks for the post its very informative.

    Is there any medium which can be added to acrylic paint so that it can be used as silk paint ?

    ie , any medium or chemical which can enhance the spreading property of paint ?

    • if you use acrylic paint on silk, it will stiffen the fabric, and eventually cause holes and tearing. i have some painted silk sari material that is decorative, but useless for anything. if you wanted it to spread, you’d add water or another dilutant, but i repeat that acrylic isn’t suitable as a fabric paint. you need dye.

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