RIT dye tutorial

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Writen by Viperlord

There are times when you're customizing a figure that paint just doesn't cut it. If you're like me, your figures get a lot of posing and play, and when you have movement, you have paint loss. Sure there are people that can make joints chip proof, but I'm sure not one of them. So instead of painting, if I need to change the base color of the figure I use RIT dye. And with this simple tutorial, you can too.

If you want to use my basic method, the first thing you're going to need is some kind of vessel to put the dye in and heat it at low temperature. I personally use a 4 quart crock pot.

Crock-Pot, no longer for eating.

I bought it at the local thrift store for $5 and I use it all the time so I consider it a wise investment. Another method is a pan on the stove, which I have used in the past with equal success. I prefer the crock pot for it’s self-contained, portable nature and it’s ability to maintain low heat for long periods. Just remember whatever you use to heat your dye in is now for dye only. NEVER EAT OUT OF A PAN OR CROCK POT YOU'VE COOKED DYE IN!!!

Once you have a place to heat your dye, you'll need to buy some dye. Almost any grocery store should carry it, but fabric and craft stores certainly will. I use genuine RIT dye but have heard of other brands being substituted with equally good results. As long as you're using permanent fabric dye you should be OK. For this demonstration I used liquid

RIT dye liquid.

but powder

RIT dye powder.

works equally well. For this method in this sized pot you will need to make a double batch of RIT, so you'll need either a full bottle of the liquid or 2 boxes of powder. If you're using a smaller pot you can use less dye.

Here's the whole setup

Everything you'll need.

with everything you'll need. Notice that I laid down a quadruple layer of newspaper. Unless you want to permanently change the color of your workspace, you need to protect it. Dye is permanent and cannot be cleaned up. So take care to keep it from anything you don't want dyed. Is this picture:

• 4 Quart Crock Pot • A Disposable Plastic Bowl • Disposable Plastic Silverware • A Wire Strainer Small Enough To Fit Into Your Pot, But Large Enough That It Doesn't Fall In • Rubber Gloves • Figures Or Parts To Be Dyed • 1 Full Bottle Or 2 Boxes Of Dye • Paper Towels

You'll also need a source of water and preferably ice. Gather everything you need before you start, because you don't want to be out of sight of the dye once it's cooking!

The first thing you want to do is fill your crock pot. You want the water deep enough to cover your parts, but use no more water than is necessary. In this case it took 73 ounces of water to get it deep enough to accommodate all the parts I'm working with.

The Crock-pot is filled to submerge the parts.

Once you have your water in your pot, go ahead and turn the heat on. Remember that SLOW and LOW is the way to go, so resist the temptation to crank the heat and turn it to low. Unless you want parts so warped that they won't fit back together.

Now it's time to add the dye. Remember that more dye equals better results so use 2 packets of powder or a full bottle of liquid. Stir your mixture with a piece of disposable plastic silverware to mix the dye. Once it's thoroughly mixed, you're ready for parts.

Here is what I'll be dyeing today

The parts for dyeing.

I tried to get a good mix of colors as well as something from every era of figures so that the effects will be apparent. Note that the figures are disassembled as much as possible (Except the Greenshirt, which I'll get to in a minute) but the screws are put back into the thighs and backs. This helps prevent warping by stressing the plastic the way it will be stressed during normal use.

Note that some parts simply will not take dye or require very, very long soak times. Harder plastics like those used in torsos and thighs are much harder to dye than softer plastics. Harder white plastic almost universally will not accept dye using the regular method. Something about the chemistry blocks the absorption of the dye.

Now that you've got hot dye and your parts ready, put your strainer in and toss in the parts.

Soup da Joer.

Note that some of the parts will float, so you may have you hold them underwater with a piece of plastic silverware until they fill with water and sink. Any part of any piece that sits above the water will not dye, so make sure you can't see any of your parts. I personally use the lid of my crock pot to conserve heat and keep it debris free. But I've done without, so it's not a requirement.

Now comes the fun part. Grab a book, or find something on TV because you're going to be waiting for a while. Check your parts every 30 minutes at least, the more the better. DO NOT LEAVE THE DYE ALONE! When you check the parts, give them a quick rinse because a layer of dye will be sitting on the surface making them appear darker than they actually are. Turn them over with a piece of plastic silverware so you can see the entire part. Check for color, but also for any kind of warping or odd gaps appearing. If you see something strange pull the part! Here's what my parts looked like after 30 minutes

Strain the softer parts.

not much has changed.

After an hour I decided that some of my parts were done, so I pulled them from the dye. When your parts are the color you desire, put on your rubber gloves and take the parts out of the pot. Drop them into your bowl which should be filled with cool or preferably ice water.

Put your parts in the ice bath.

Swirl them around a bit and rub them between your gloved fingers. Then place them on a paper towel and pat dry.

Lay the parts out to dry.

Sorry for the bad picture, but these are the parts I pulled out. As I said above, rubbery parts will always soak up dye first so be prepared to pull the arms (Or at least the lower arms), lower legs, heads and any skirts or accessories first. These are nice and dark purple, but the harder plastic parts are hardly dyed at all.

Strain the harder parts.

Note the 25th figure.

25th figures are made from varing kinds of plastic.

I didn't disassemble the torso for two reasons: 1. 25th torsos will almost never take dye using the standard method, so I didn't bother and 2. I wanted to show you what happens when you have a joint you can't take apart. See those little spots at the elbow and shoulder? That's the part that was folded inside while the figure was in the dye. So to avoid that, periodically turn joints to opposite extremes to make sure that the entire “ring” of the joint gets dyed.

Keep checking, but let the parts soak until they are the color you need. It could take several hours, especially for harder pieces. After 2 hours mine looked like this.

Your dyed parts.

They really needed to soak longer, but you get the idea.

So what if you have something that won't take dye no matter how long you leave the parts in? Well then you need to use my secret weapon: Acetone.


I bought this can at my local Wal-Mart for roughly $6 and I used about half the can for this big pot.

Now I can already hear the skepticism out there. “Doesn't acetone eat plastic?” you ask. Well, yes acetone will eat plastic if used improperly, but the method I'm about to show you is safe for your figures. Still, as always neither Viperlord nor JoeCustoms is responsible if your figure melts, so be careful!

You'll need only 2 additional things for this method:

• A Lid For Your Pot • Acetone

Everything else is listed above.

First you'll need to set your dye up the same way described above. The only difference is that you don't want to turn the heat on until EVERYTHING is added, including the acetone. You will be adding acetone in a 4 to 1 ratio to your dye/water solution. So since I already had 73 ounces of dye, I measured and added 19 ounces of acetone. I always round up rather than try and do .8 ounces, but if you want to be exact feel free. Make sure to use a glass measuring cup as a plastic one will melt in your hands. And as with dye, that container is now only for acetone, not for drinking.

NOTE: Acetone is very dangerous. Make sure you follow all instructions on the can and wear a breathing mask and gloves. Keep away from heat and be safe!

So now is the moment of truth: SLOWLY add the acetone to your mixture and stir. Make sure you use a lid this time, both to minimize fumes and to conserve the acetone because it evaporates quickly. Turn the heat on low and let it warm for about 10 minutes. It will bubble a lot, that's OK. Once it's warm, add your parts. Now comes the hours of waiting right? WRONG!

Acetone is MUCH more efficient than heat alone.

Parts prepared with Acetone.

These parts all changed from their previous stage (Seen above) to this in less than 10 minutes. Most of them took 5 minutes or less. You MUST check your parts every couple minutes or you'll end up too dark.

When you take the parts out, rinse immediately then drop them in the cold/ice water bath. I have never had anything melt seriously, but I don't like the idea of that acetone sitting on my parts. Swirl it, rinse again and pat dry. You now have parts that are completely chip proof, yet a completely different color.

I took the liberty of whipping up a couple samples to show you just how efficient acetone and dye are. These came out of the same pot I used on the parts above and the results speak for themselves:

Dr. Puple passion suprise.
Purple storm troopers.

Remember when I said up there that white plastic and harder plastics were the most difficult to dye? That's why I chose these particular figures. You'd never get these results using dye alone.

Those clones are for my nephews. In fact many of the figures they play with have been dyed by me. The dye is durable enough that I have NEVER seen any damage, even with hard play every day. No scratching, no hampered articulation, just like the factory made them. . . just a different color. And that's the way I like it.

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