Forums/Tutorials/Finishing Techniques

How to Dye Your 3D Prints: RIT Fabric Dye on Durable Plastic

Josh Reuss
posted this on April 30, 2011 00:37


I recently tried RIT fabric dye on some durable plastic 3d printed ponoko mascots; so here's a few photos of the process and the
colorful results. The dyes I used were a powdered 'royal blue' and a liquid 'cherry red'.

bluedyepour.jpg

To start things off I took a small pot I don't cook with and heated up some tap water on the kitchen stove.
Brought the water to a near boil then backed it down to a simmer. Adding the dye was a wholly unscientific
process for me, only a small amount of the packet was needed to get a deep blue hue.

bluedyespoon.jpg

Stirring well I made sure the dye granules had dissolved completely before putting my model in.

blueponodip.jpg

No turning back now...

blueponobubble.jpg

This little guy wanted to float; felt a little macabre as I forced it under and bubbles gurgled out the
mouth...

blueponoshades.jpg

A series of shots at 10min, 20 minutes and 30 minutes. Your results will vary depending on how much dye
you use and how hot you keep the water. If you want a repeatable color take detailed notes on the amount
of water, water temperature and the amount of dye added in addition to soak time.

blueponodrying.jpg

Around the 30 minute mark it reached the color I was looking for so I pulled it out and put it under the
kitchen faucet to wash off any remaining dye. Initially the model looked blotchy but as it dried took on a much
more uniform color.

reddyepour.jpg

The liquid RIT dye performed like the powdered version, although I perfered the liquid when it came to
being able to recap and not getting dye granules where they shouldn't be.

redponodip.jpg

Depending on how long you leave a model in you could achieve everything from a pale pink to a dark red.

all3.jpg
What a cheerful group.

redsample.jpg

Here's one more example of the white durable plastic dyed cherry red.

 

Have you tried your hand at dying dying your own models? If so how did it turn out?

 

Comments

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Thomas Oatess
I have tried both RIT and Acid Dyes from Dharma Trading. I find RIT dyes to a richer color on the durable plastic. Acid Dyes work well on the bamboo and felt. I use the white and gray felts for dyeing. Gray dyes to a nice muted color. I soak the felts in a textile detergent from Dharma Trading. Rinse well in cold water. Both dye types are used in simmering water. I will upload photos later.
May 10, 2011 08:28
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Josh Judkins
Ponoko

Thanks for the tips, Thomas! We'd love to see some photos of the pieces you've dyed as well - sounds great!

May 10, 2011 08:46
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Thomas Oatess

These are photos of various incomplete bracelets (awaiting rivets to be printed) I have dyed using RIT and acid dyes.  When dyeing felt and bamboo you must steam the items for 30-45 minutes to set the dye.  It can be a lot of work to dye the felts and bamboo but I am all about the color!  

dyed parts 1

Dyed parts 2

Dyed parts 3

Dyed parts 4

May 10, 2011 09:59
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Dennis Evangelista

I tried this overnight with dye that was initially tea-hot (55 seconds in microwave) and then cooled to room temperature; the results were disappointing in durable plastic (trying to dye with Rit black liquid dye).  I suppose the heating is very important?  Is this what others are finding?  Was there surface preparation you had to do with your models?

May 12, 2011 10:18
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Thomas Oatess
Oh yes ... simmering distilled water is the recommended solution. Add your dye. For black, I would leave it submerged completely for 30 minutes. I did make sure my plastic items were clean. Warm water and mild dish detergent. You should be able to dye this item again.
May 12, 2011 10:27
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Josh Judkins
Ponoko

Thanks so much for adding your own images Thomas - they look awesome!

Amazing to see the dyed bamboo and felt as well, I haven't heard about other Ponoko users doing that yet - so no doubt you'll be inspiring some others here too.

Dennis - Sorry to hear your first attempt didn't work out. Hopefully you'll be able to use Thomas' advice and have a better result a second time.

May 12, 2011 10:32
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Mark Small

Has anyone tried dying the superfine plastic?  Can we expect similar results?

May 31, 2011 15:30
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Josh Judkins
Ponoko

Hi Mark! The recommendation from here in the office is that you may want to paint superfine instead - it's certainly been used for wargame models, etc in that fashion... if anyone else has thoughts, please feel free to chip in!

June 01, 2011 16:51
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Mark Small

The designs I'm looking at coloring are dice, so I'm worried paint would chip or wear away.  My first ones should be arriving tomorrow, and I have a few options to consider.  One idea I've heard of with 3d printed models is to soak them in hot tea.  I'll let you know what I decide to do.

June 01, 2011 20:50
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Josh Judkins
Ponoko

Great Mark - we look forward to hearing what you go with. =)

June 02, 2011 07:51
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Dennis Evangelista

I've tried RIT on superfine.  I did not heat as much as with the durable white plastic and I let it soak sort of overnight.  The results were that it turned black but was still a little translucent, but it was good enough for what I was trying to do. 

June 02, 2011 08:13
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Josh Judkins
Ponoko

Thanks for letting us know your experience with this Dennis!

June 02, 2011 09:37
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Susan Miller

HELP!!  My son wants to dye the plastic head to his lacrosse stick and needs it done, like, yesterday!!!  It's bright white and he wants it golden yellow.  The shape of the head makes it difficult to fit into a pot or bucket, I was thinking of the washing machine method.  Do I have to add salt and/or vinegar or just use the powder and very hot water??  Any help would be appreciated!

September 18, 2012 10:24
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Dennis Evangelista

Susan - It's a 3D printed lacross stick?  It sounds like something subject to high wear where you will want to touch it up a lot anyway - why not just paint it with spray paint, and keep the can to fix dings that will happen later.  I wouldn't have thought a 3D printed part would be tough enough to be a lacross stick - and that it would have been very expensive to print?!

September 18, 2012 10:28
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Susan Miller

Dennis, the head part he wants dyed is just white plastic, not printed.  Does that make sense?

September 18, 2012 11:45
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Dan Emery
Ponoko

There's a few walkthroughs on dying lacross heads that might be helpful to look through.

http://www.e-lacrosse.com/stech9.html

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dying+lacrosse+heads

Consider using a larger plastic bucket that you don't mind staining and pouring in the hot water to fully submerge the piece.

September 18, 2012 11:59
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Susan Miller

Thanks guys!!  I appreciate it!

My plan is to fill a bucket with HOT water, add the 2 cups prepared dye and go from there.  No salt, no vinegar needed????

September 18, 2012 12:10