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  • Natural dyes are a class of colorants extracted from vegetative matter and animal residues.
  • There are many plant materials that can be used for dyeing yarns and materials: roots, bark, leaves, berries, seeds, twigs, branches, tubers, and nut hulls, each capable of producing a range of colors with various mordants and yarns.
  • Use of natural dyes cuts down significantly on the amount of toxic effluent resulting from the synthetic dye process.


  • Natural dyes obtained from plants (indigo), those obtained from animals (cochineal), and those obtained from minerals (ocher).
  • Although some fabrics such as silk and wool can be colored simply by being dipped in the dye, others such as cotton, require a mordant.
  • Natural dye obtained from plants is madder, which is obtained from the roots of the madder plant.
  • The plants are dug up, the roots washed and dried and ground into powder.


  • The US and Europe import market supply of natural dyes is dominated by Mexico.
  • Commercial indigo is sourced from both Mexico and India.
  • Most of the natural dyes produce comparatively dull shades.
  • Lac, cutch, barberry, kamala, tesu and dolu are all primarily sourced from India, and cochineal and annatto seeds come mainly from Peru.


  • Natural dyes were used to color clothing or other textiles.
  • Alum, usually used with cream of tartar, which helps evenness and brightens slightly.
    Iron (or copperas) which saddens or darken colors, bringing out green shades.
  •  Tin, usually used with cream of tartar, which blooms or brightens colors, especially reds, oranges and yellows.
  • Blue vitriol which saddens colors and brings out greens and Tannic acid used for tans and browns.

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