Tag Archives: color

54: Dyeing Acrylic

Looking back over 2014, I am quite impressed by how well our projects went off.  Not everything went off well, but that’s a learning experience too.  Here are the top three fails of 2014:

1. Week 21: Laser Engraved Bricks – while the brick (oddly, as I have come to find out and am working on a post about it) wasn’t a failure, my ignorance over the concrete paver could have been a laser destroying disaster

2. Week 19: Fire Flower Vase – Ryan still refers to engraving glass as “My nemesis”

3. Week 43: Starman Coasters – Engraving cork was just not meant to be, unless the goal was a crispy sooty mess.  Ryan salvaged this week by cutting them out of wood.

Why am I bring this up?  Well, I have the dubious honor of the first fail of 2015!  Whoo!

At a trade show many moons ago, after complaining about the garish colors available in opaque acrylic, another artist confided in me that they used RIT dye to color their plastics.  I filed that information away until last weekend, when I stumbled upon new bottles of liquid RIT at the thrift store, priced perfectly for my “experiment” budget.  Score.

Work space!
Work space!

Having never used RIT dye before, but taking every single warning to heart, I prepared a work surface in a tray and covered every nearby surface in plastic.  In order to minimize the damage to any of my pots and pans or buckets, I dyed in small disposable plastic cups. To dye fabric, the manufacturer suggests 4oz of liquid dye to 3 gallons of water.  Scaling it back to my 1 cup container size…admittedly, I eyeballed it.  Mathematically, it would be less than a teaspoon per cup of water, I went more for tablespoon per cup with the first batch, the green.  For hot water, I just filled it up with water from my teakettle.

I dumped some white acrylic in the green bath, and waited for a half an hour.  After rinsing them off, It honestly didn’t look like anything happened.  Until I put it next to an undyed piece.  Then it took on a weird barely greenish cast.

Fresh from the strongest dye, the blue.
Fresh from the strongest dye, the blue.
One swish in water later.
One swish in water later. What dye?

Try two: let’s make the dye stronger.  For the “Violet” I mixed it roughly 1 part liquid dye to 2 parts water, and the blue I mixed half and half.  I put in white acrylic, clear acrylic and opal acrylic, and waited about an hour.  Results were quite lacking, so I actually decided to leave them overnight.  And the results didn’t get any better.  The “violet” (I put that in quotes because it way more red) colored better than the blue, and the edges picked up more color than the flat fronts.

Verdict: hot water + RIT does not dye cast acrylic satisfactorily, no matter how strong or long the dyeing is.

Awesome dyed bamboo!
Ways to make the dye thing awesome – switch to bamboo!

So, the dye was already out, and I had some lovely bamboo ready to go.  In an attempt to salvage the week, I threw them in the dye.  The bamboo pieces colored quickly and really nicely.  One bad thing – they float.  To get an even color, you need to flip them regularly.  I had the most fun partially dip dyeing them, but had to make sure they didn’t float and make the dye line all cockeyed.  A quick search on RIT’s website actually gives a how-to on dying wood!

I love the partial dip on these Boule earrings!
I love the partial dip on these Boule earrings!
My attempt at ombre on bamboo...sorta successful.
My attempt at ombre on bamboo…sorta successful.
Double dipped in different colors!
Double dipped in different colors!

To recap: hot water + dye is not cast acrylic friendly.  Clear seemed to work marginally better than the white – perhaps because you see more surfaces?  Some internet sources suggested mixing acetone with the dye to help it penetrate, but I was not game at all to heat acetone in my kitchen.  And as for the bamboo, it picked up the dye quickly, but I should probably seal the finished pieces.  If they get wet, would the color run?  Not sure.

Acrylic after it's been in the dye 24 hours - dye sludge.  Amazing how it did't stick.
Acrylic after it’s been in the dye 24 hours – dye sludge. Amazing how it didn’t stick.  The cup and the acrylic nearly washed clean.

13: Alcohol Inked Acrylic

We’ve made it all the way to lucky number 13!  This week’s project was Rebecca of Hugs are Fun‘s idea and was inspired by Darby Smart’s Inked coasters project.  It worked well on ceramic, why not try it on acrylic?  (Original kit instructions at The Crafted Life.)

To create some variables, I prepared squares of white acrylic, clear acrylic and transparent yellow acrylic.  I pre-etched two of the pieces – one vector etched with a radiating fan design as seen on Ryan’s large abecediary, and one raster etched with the same pattern I used on the swirly marshmallows from week 4.

Don't do this.
Don’t do this.

Coloring the acrylic was simple and fun!  We prepped the surfaces with the alcohol blending solution, then dripped on the ink.  It spread and created organic patterns that were quite pretty – except for the yellow acrylic.

The etched pieces were the most fun to color.  The ink ran down the pre-cut lines, making the them bloom with color.  I mucked up my piece by adding too much color, but Rebecca’s turned out lovely.

The ink reacted two ways.  If it broke a like, it ran through the lines all over the piece (awesomely).  If it didn't, it pooled inside the lines, like the yellow did here.
The ink reacted two ways. If it broke a line, it ran through the lines all over the piece (awesomely). If it didn’t, it pooled inside the lines, like the yellow did here. I should have left it at this stage!
Rebecca's inking raster etching turned out beautifully!
Rebecca’s ink on raster etching turned out beautifully!

After the ink dried, I took them home to seal them.  This is where the trouble started.  I couldn’t find the right combination to keep all the colors vibrant and the surface non streaky. Mod Podge is recommended by most of the tutorials, but many reviews found it stayed sticky, and was not resistant to liquids.  Rebecca had tried on her coasters and was not 100% pleased.  Obviously liquid resistance is not of the utmost importance when it’s hanging from your ears, but I wanted to try other options.

Attempt 1: Left is unsealed, right has had the coat of spray sealer
Attempt 1: Left is unsealed, right has had the coat of spray sealer and is now blah.

Attempt 1: a single solid spray pass with Triple Thick Glaze by Decoart – The colors started running like they were off to the races.  The ones that didn’t become a muddy mess lost all depth of color, becoming flat blobs.  Nice shiny surface though!

 

 

Attempt 2: streaks
Attempt 2: streaks

Attempt 2: Coat with Diamond Glaze,  then spray – I find that this stuff is nicer to work with than Mod Podge, as it is more gel-like than paste-like.  The idea was that the Glaze would act like a sealer, and the spray would smooth it out the rough stroke lines.  It, too, mixed with the ink just enough to create streaking in the color.   Neat effect, but not the intended goal.

Attempt 3, before sealant
Attempt 3, before sealant
Attempt 3: after sealing, look at how the reds reacted
Attempt 3: after sealing, look at how the purple-reds reacted

Attempt 3: very light coats with Rustoleam Acrylic Enamel – It held colors better than the other options, but it ate the purply-red.  It’s a spotty version of its former vibrancy.  And even after 6 light coats, I couldn’t get a nice glossy finish.  It’s a funky matte, which Ryan really liked, but it was not what I was going for.

 

 

 

Reading up on other blogs that posted the project, comments suggested sealing it with resin.  I’ve never worked with resin, and never tried it in the laser – perhaps that should be a post to itself in the future (provided it doesn’t create toxic gas when lasered)!

In the end, though, all the pieces were destined to be sliced up by the laser, so perhaps the finish isn’t that important.  Here’s how the laser tests went –

The pastel colors from the first attempt still look pretty after cutting!
The pastel colors from the first attempt still look pretty after cutting!

Cutting: It went beautifully!  There was no change in how it cut, and the inks did not run.  I did let the pieces cool a little bit (like 30 seconds) before removing them from the laser, because the sealant looked a little more glossy.

Photo'd from the back side, the clear adds depth
Photographed from the back side, the clear acrylic adds depth

Vector Etching: It also went well!  The thin lines, only about as wide as a hair, created interest, but I didn’t find them that dynamic.  I was looking for a little more pop.  The vector lines on the clear piece, though, look fantastic from the opposite side.

Raster etching over the ink worked fabulously
Raster etching over the ink worked fabulously

Raster Etching: This is what I was looking for.  The solid blocks of white popped out from beneath the color.  It’s very dynamic – I love the contrast!

 

 

I think coloring acrylic with alcohol inks is a fun way to add pizzazz to white and clear acrylic, provided I get the sealant issue resolved to my satisfaction.  I love looking at the cut pieces, and seeing the randomness of the pattern, something that is a bit alien to my work style.

I love how the ink on the clear acrylic has a stained glass effect.
I love how the ink on the clear acrylic has a stained glass effect.
Cross stitch pieces were cut for Rebecca - can't wait to see what she does with them!
Cross stitch pieces were cut for Rebecca – can’t wait to see what she does with them!
Pretty colored earrings - reminds me of peacocks
Pretty colored earrings – they remind me of peacocks

Pretty colors