It is believed that our color selections are mostly unconscious, yet they influence every moment of our life. Many of us have our favorite colors and often prefer wearing clothes of that particular color. Though the colors that we are fascinated with over a long period of time are in one way or another connected to our personality type, our strengths and weaknesses, as well as our potential in life. But wearing your selective styles of garments in synthetic dyes and natural color dyes is a different experience altogether.

Dyeing is a very ancient art. It was practiced during the Bronze Age in Europe, Asia and many other regions and countries. Primitive dyeing methods involved sticking plants to fabric or rubbing crushed pigments to the cloth. The procedures became more sophisticated with time as techniques of applying natural dyes from crushed fruits, berries and other plants, which were boiled into the fabric and gave light and water fastness, were developed.

Some of the recognized olden dyes include madder, a red dye made from the roots of the Rubia tinctorum, blue indigo from the leaves of Indigofera tinctoria, yellow from the stigmas of the saffron plant, turmeric and dogwood pulp. The first application of the blue dye, woad, favorite of the Ancient Britons, may have originated in Palestine where it was found largely. Though many natural dyes are made from metals, for example natural black color is made from recycled horseshoes and molasses, red is made from aluminum sulphate and red earth.


Eco-friendly, economical aspects of dye
Today, dyeing has become a specialized science and has a very complex functioning. Almost all dyestuffs are now made from synthetic compounds. This denotes that costs have highly decreased and many application and wear characteristics have largely improved. But many practitioners of the craft of natural dying still believe that natural dyes have a better visual quality, which is much more delightful to the eye. In the West, natural dyeing is now used only in handcrafts, whereas synthetic dyes are used in all commercial aspects. Some craft spinners, weavers and knitters use natural dyes for making specific features of their work. Though, in many of the developing countries natural dyes can provide not only a prosperous and wide-ranging source of dyestuff, but also the likelihood of an income through sustainable harvest and sale of these dye plants. Many dyes are prepared from tree waste or can be simply grown in market gardens. Natural dyes can provide attractive options, where relatively expensive synthetic dyes, mordant (fixatives) and other additives are imported.

The knowledge needed for finding and extracting such dyes and mordant does often not exist, as far-reaching research work is needed to recognize appropriate plants, minerals, etc. For example, there are a variety of plants available for making natural dyes in Zambia, but because of lack of knowledge of the practice implicated in harvesting and processing the plants; little utilization is done for this natural resource. In some countries, such as India, Nigeria and Liberia, where this research has been done extensively, or where there is easy accessibility of natural dyeing, natural dyes and mordant are used widely.

The main colors used are black from iron sulphate, blue from the Indigo plant and yellow from turmeric and pomegranate rind and peels. The rest of the colors are obtained from these kinds of natural resources as mentioned in the table.


Sources of natural dyes
Specialist plant and animal sources
Many plants and some animals have been identified for making natural dyes. A range of parts of plants like roots, stems, barks, leaves, fruits and seeds are generally used.
By-products (Particularly lac dye): The lac industry provides lac dye as a by-product, which is taken from the effluent. Likewise from cassia tora, utilized in gum production, a brown dye is obtained as a by-product.

Chemical mixture: It is a mixture of dyes of molecular structure similar to those of natural dyes.
Cell or tissue culture by DNA transfer technology: A few fungi such as Drechslera and Trichoderma make anthraquinone derivatives. Anthraquinone is a significant type of dye, where exploiting the fungi would be helpful over their chemical mixtures.