Blog / 2008 / Denim That Refuses to Be Blue

March 30, 2008

Walking down the street, I often get asked “where did you get those pants?” Usually I answer “at the thrift store.” Of course the pants don’t come this way! I dye them. And, with the right tools, it’s easy to do.

The first step towards a successful pair of painted pants is choosing which pants to dye.

Gwenn Seemel’s paint dyed pants
photos by David

Above there are examples of light and dark denim (left and middle respectively) as well as a pair of light kahki slacks (right). The light jeans here are dyed in a spectrum from aqua with some teal at the top to yellow at the cuffs. The dark denim allows for a subtler effect, here dyed from magenta at the waist to yellow at the cuffs. The top portion of the pants ended up purple and the lower part a dark green (I turn up the cuffs to show off the yellow). The light-colored slacks start with yellow and teal at the top and move through medium blue to marine violet.

Whatever pants you decide on, make sure they’re at least 90% natural fibers so that they will take the dye properly.

Gwenn Seemel’s paint dyed pants
photos by David

Once you’ve chosen just the pair to paint, pick up some Jacquard Procion MX dyes and fixers, most likely available at your local art store. Jacquard puts out a flier of instructions with their products: follow the steps for tie-dying clothes, only don’t tie off the pants! Using sponge brushes, paint the dye on the prepared pants in flowing spectrums (magenta to marine violet on tan corduroy above, and yellow to magenta on light denim below). Enjoy knowing that no one will ever have pants exactly like yours!

Gwenn Seemel’s paint dyed pants
photos by David

I don’t consider my painted pants art: they’re craft. They’re cool, but they don’t cause revolution, except a do-it-yourself fashion one!


Receive an email every six weeks with announcements about books, talks, and events.


Receive an email whenever I publish a new artwork or article.



Microdonations are the fuel powering this art machine. You can give once through Ko-fi.


Or you can give on an ongoing basis automatically through Patreon.