DIY dyeing is a great tool for a budget cosplayer. Not only is it sometimes difficult to find the exact color of the material you need, but when you do it can be a “specialty item” and quite pricey. If you don’t sew, finding the exact item you need, in the color you need, becomes nearly impossible. That’s where dyeing can help! Plain white materials are easier to find and often less expensive. If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, you can end up with an amazing custom cosplay.
– Rit Dye (I love Rit, and I’ll explain why later): Use the package to determine how much you’ll need for your material
– Material for dyeing (natural fiber fabrics or blends work best)
– A bucket for dyeing in (Note: you can also use a sink or washing machine for this)
– A disposable stir stick
– Salt or Vinegar (depending on your material)
– Old towels or newspaper to cover your work area (if needed)
For the purposes of today’s tutorial, I’ll be dying a 1/2 yard of plain cotton using the bucket method. Think of this as dyeing for cosplay. Most packages of dye also come with instructions for dyeing in a washing machine as well, but I prefer the bucket method because
a) I feel like it gives me more control.
b) I don’t want my washing machine turning funny colors. Ok, let’s get started.
1. After gathering all your supplies, I recommend boiling some water. Unless your tap water gets extremely hot, you’ll want at least a little boiling water to mix in. Fill your bucket with hot water, about 3 gallons of hot water for 1 packet of dye and about 3 yards of fabric.
2. Put on your rubber gloves. Mix 1 packet powder dye, or half a bottle of liquid dye, with 2 cups extremely hot water. I used an old mason jar and a broken paint stir stick to mix up the dye.
3. Since I am dyeing cotton, Rit recommends adding 1 cup of salt to every 3 gallons of water. For nylon, silk, or wool, add 1 cup of vinegar. Add all the ingredients (except the fabric) to the bucket and stir gently.
4. Wet the fabric in hot water, wring it out, uncrumple it, and add to the dye bath. Stir constantly for 10-30 minutes, until the desired color is achieved. Keep in mind that some of the dye will rinse out and that some fabrics appear darker when wet, so I recommend waiting until the color is about half a shade darker than you really want.
5. Using the tongs, gently transfer the fabric to the sink to be rinsed. Make sure to cover any surfaces that might get dripped on. Rinse the fabric in warm, then gradually cooler water, until the water runs clear. Then wash in warm water with a mild detergent (you can use the washing machine if desired. Make sure to wash the dyed item alone.) Then allow the fabric to air dry, or stick it in the dryer.
– Keep in mind that the dye has the potential to color anything it comes in contact with. So use items you don’t mind ruining, cover any surfaces you don’t want to be colored, and wear old clothes.
– Unless you are lucky enough to have a designated “dirty sink” (like a laundry room) or have stainless steel, you will need to scrub your sink immediately to avoid staining. Bleach and/or powdered cleanser are helpful here.
– To achieve a brighter/ darker color, either add a second packet of dye to the same amount of water, or dye the fabric a second time after it has dried.
– If you are planning on dyeing a thrift store find, keep in mind that body oils or stains may interact with the dye, and produce an undesirable outcome. It’s often better to work with newer materials.
– If you’re unsure how a dye will react with a certain material, test a small amount first, and experiment with technique, before you dye the whole thing.
I promised I’d explain why I prefer Rit, so here you go…
1. Rit is readily available almost everywhere.
2. They are a large company, so their colors stay fairly consistent across the board.
3. The Rit Studio. Seriously. This is the ultimate resource for dyeing ANYTHING! They have tips and tutorials for dyeing a variety of materials, from fabrics to feathers. And they have tutorials on creating different techniques. They even have a color studio where you can figure out which colors to mix to achieve your desired shade. And the cherry on top for cosplayers is that if you can’t find the shade you need, you can send them a picture, and they’ll mix up a custom dye, just for you. Seriously! How cool is that?!