Dyeing

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Dyeing is an exciting new skill that's been added to the repertoire of customizers. With this process you can do some simple color changes to a figure in a way that won't chip off like paint does.

Contents

Tools Needed

Tools you will need for this process.
  • A metal pot - preferably an old one you don't mind getting a little stained. The size is not important, though a large pot will use more dye.
  • A strainer - This servers two purposes:
    • It makes it a lot easier to check on the parts and remove parts that are finished.
    • It keeps the parts up away from the heat source. Pieces are more likely to warp when they are sitting on the bottom of the pot right at the hottest part.
  • The parts that you want to dye - For the sample project a comic pack Baroness (minus the head of course) and a Snake Eyes v10 head (to match up to the Snake Eyes v14 body) are being used. The two torso pieces should be left screwed together as well as the two parts of each thigh. Slightly loosen the screws to allow the dye to get in between the parts, but leave any pegs on the inside slightly in their holes. This will help prevent warping.
  • Metal Tongs - These are just for handling the hot parts that are dripping with dye. A plastic knife or spoon will do though.
  • The RIT dye - For this project liquid black is being used. Powder dyes give similiar results, though stirring before use is essential to fully disolve the powder. The liquid is just easier to work with in my opinion. One thing to remember is that you can only go darker in color. If the figure is already green using red dye on it won't give a nice crimson color. It will probably come out black. White figures are the best since you can dye them any color. Another word of warning; some plastic takes dye better than others, particularly softer plasics like the new sculpt figure's arms. Be prepared to leave some parts in longer than others, and some parts may just not come out the color you want. Also be careful not to drip dye on your counter tops, it can be very difficult to get off.
  • A rubber glove - You can use this if you are pretty messy. The dye can stain skin easily, so it may be a good idea - careful use of tongs should prevent this but it may still happen.

Prepping

Pot with dye added.

Now we can fill the pot up with water. Filling it pretty close to the top gives the parts plenty of water and dye to sit in. A little bit larger pot also helps keep the parts away from the direct heat source at the bottom of the pot. A larger pot does use alot of dye, so for smaller lots a tall, narrow pot would be ideal. Set the temperature on the burner at a very LOW temp (around 1/3 - 1/4 power) so the water is just simmering, not boiling. It might take a little longer for the plastic to take the dye this way, but it really helps to prevent any warping of the parts.

Next add the dye to the water. A mixture of half dye and half water produces good results. Since you use this much of the dye it is a good idea to dye several figures at once to save on money. The exact proportion of dye to water can be varied depending on the desired results. For example if you anly wanted a slight change in tint a smaller amount of dye would be needed, while making a batch of figures pitch black could justify a slightly larger amount.

Dyeing

Parts get added to your strainer.

Time to add the figures to the mix. Just drop all the parts into the strainer and then drop the strainer into the pot of dye. . Some parts hold air bubbles (torsos particularly) that cause them to float, turning will generally force them out. Some other parts float no matter what you do, just make sure you flip them over in the dye occasionally.

Whole shebang is added to the dye.

Check the parts about every 15-20 minutes since some parts will reach the desired color before others. Once a part has reached the color you want it to be simply take it out of the dye and rinse it in cold water. This helps to harden the plastic back up and also to get the extra dye off the part. Rubbing the part down will get rid of any exceess dye stuck to the part that may rub off on your hands later.

The position of arms often need to be adjusted as the dye often doesn't penetrate the joints. Switching the arm from straight to bent 90 degrees once the visible part of the joint is coloured will fix the problem easily. The shoulder joint also should be checked.

Another word of warning: Try not to put the part back into boiling water. For example, if you are trying to get a lower arm back into the upper arm using the 'boil and pop' method. The boiling water can cause some of the dye to release from the plastic giving a mottled effect on the piece.

Final Results

Snake Eyes' head is the first to be completed. Since his head is a softer plastic it took the dye better. It was the finished color in about 30 minutes.

The comic pack Baroness took a little longer. Most of the parts were done right at 1 hour but since the upper legs were a harder platic they took a little longer. They reached the desired color at about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Here is the reassembled Baroness figure.


Patterns in Dyed Parts

Q. Why are the patterns on the original piece showing through on my dyed parts?

A. Base color is very important to dying. Other than the fundimental rule, (you can't dye lighter) there's a lot of mystery in what comes out of the dye pot after a dye batch.

For instance, sometimes a paint won't take the dye very well at all. If you are dealing with a mixed or painted plastic, this is often the case. My worst experience with this was dying a Windchill black, where the lower half of the jacket is painted on the waist, but the original color on the torso. I got an all black figure white a grey fanny pack around his waist. Not what I intended.

As a general rule, white, when dyed black, turns into grey on all but the softest plastics. White will only absorb a fraction of any color that you try to dye it with, meaning that if you want to turn it completely black, it's going to take longer, more dye, and more heat. White paint or logos won't really absorb the dye at all. White flesh colored paint is very similar, and will result in a light to medium grey color.

http://www.joecustoms.com/customs/customs_specific_item.php?kind=figure&id=5792

On Mule, notice that the Rescue avoided the dye almost completely. Logos and other TAMPO stamps (think cobra symbols or unit patches) generally resist dye, so if you dye that Copperhead torso black, you'll still be able to see the silver logo on it.

Sometimes the dye really has unexpected results. Black dye turns silver paint into copper, see the above, while red dye turns silver paint gold...

Green generally takes dye pretty well depending on the hardness of the plastic, but you will be able to see the dye patterns from the original paint job. Note that green accessory pack weapons don't take dye at all, so some green plastic is immune to RIT. No idea why this is...

I find that the paterns that are left are generally really cool, and add some depth to the dye job. However, if you want a pure black surface to work with, here are some suggestions.

1. If the dark green is paint or tampo, take it off with some Goof Off or other gunk remover. Goof off is generally pretty safe to use and effective, but wash the part immediately after, lest it damage the part.

2. If you are dealing with the meshed plastic like Big Brawler's pants, forget dying the plastic directly. Swirled plastic will still look swirled no matter what you do with it. Your only real hope is to put a thin coat of clearcoat on the part, and let the dye adhese to it. The downside is that as the coating comes off, so does the dye, so you're really no better off than painting. You can use the clear coat to make patterns before dying, and a quick dip will generally fill out the patterns, making dye based camo or whatever else you drew...

3. If the gradiation between the colors is small,try more dye, more heat, and a longer, more even dye bath (in that order). If you're using a knock off dye, forget that too, RIT is the best on the market unless you're looking to industrial dyes (which I haven't tried yet - if you do, let me know how it goes...) From your description, you are leaving it in long enough, so you can only really increase temperature or use more/better dye.

4. If you absolutely, positively want the best dye saturation, go with duller, darker (not glossy), unpainted new style plastic parts. The soft plastic tends to absorb the dye flawlessly, without a lot of gradiation among darker colors.

5. The primary rule of living and dying is this - Experimentation is the key to progress. I am still surprised by what comes out of the dye pot. Dye every part before you paint - You can always paint over it, just to see what happens. Once you get used to the process you can make the little wierd unpredictable things work for you.

Crockpots, Pots and Sinks

Use a crock pot to prevent boiling and hot spots, because they can cause warping. Small crocks allow you to dye medium sized batches, and do so anywhere that there is an outlet to plug them in, meaning you can do the dying in the workshop rather than the kitchen.

Be careful with using pots in your kitchen. You could end up dying the interior of the dishwasher, or tainting the color of the metal in your sink. It's best to have a "dirty" sink that you can pour your excess dye out into. Any plastic, wood or rubber that comes in contact with the dye will take the dye and will be impossible to clean up, so be careful where you do it.

If you are going to get into dying, I reccomend spending the $12 for one that you can devote to dying. If you are married, or live with others, it's an essential investment. A single drop of dye on your wife's countertop or backsplash will bring your hobby to a quick end.

Dying Lighter Does Not Work

You can't dye lighter, only darker, which is to say that you can't make a dark colored part like green into a light red part.

You can get color remover in the same section that RIT dye is generally sold that may lighten up the base plastic color that you are working on, but it doesn't work with most dark plastics. It is effective at removing the dye from dyed plastics, but vestages of the dye color will remain.

Fading

Occasionally, and especially with light colors and painted new plastics, RIT dye will fade. I dyed a figure with wine colored rit dye and got the perfect purple for my purposes. He went into the completed customs bag, awaiting his eventual display.


Fadeddye.jpg


After about 5 months, I pull him out and the purple completely faded on the legs, and significantly faded on the arms and head. The torso and upper legs remain exactly as dyed.

I won't suggest that I even begin to understand the science behind the different plastics, however understand that this sort of thing can happen with softer plastics.

What Can I dye?

Soft plastics (post 2000 figures) and rubber parts take dye really well. Older RAH parts will take dye, but less easily. Painted parts will generally take dye, but not as evenly as unpainted parts, meaning that the results may be unpredictable.

What Can't be Dyed?

Hard plastics (such as the green multi pack weapons and backpacks) do not take dye well. White paint generally resists dyes, and painted parts have unpredictable results.

Casted Parts

Casted Parts generally take dye really well. Resin sucks the dye up really fast so you have to watch them. Unpainted resin parts tend to suck up dye way faster than painted ones.

Can Parts Be Dyed at Low Heat?

Generally, no. The temperature of the plastic has to get high enough to accept the dye, and the temperature seems to be the controling factor as to how much dye is taken in and how quickly. There might be a tiny bit of dye absorbed (like a light blackwash maybe) but not enough to make a real difference in the coloring of the figure. A warm, but not boiling temperature is best for getting the dye to adhere.

It may have something to do with the heated molecules of the plastic interacting at an increased mobility allowing molicules of the dye and plastic to fly into each other and bond.</gallery>

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