Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beginners Guide for Disc Dyes (Long Post)

I have been dyeing discs for a month or two and I have gotten a lot of positive feedback on how well they look. I also get a lot of questions from others who want to try it for themselves.

I dyed a few more this weekend and took a lot of pics along the way. I'm going to try and explain this step by step.

To start off you will need some specific tools that will make this easier.


A light source and Xacto knife with #10 blades. I use a new blade for every mask I cut. (Sometimes I will use the same blade for multiple simple designs) The light source I have is left over from my pre-digital photography days. A Logan desktop light box I used to edit negatives on. You could probably find these pretty cheap since most photographers that went digital will have one of these sitting in a closet collecting dust. You will also need a black sharpie, a roll of simple masking tape and an old credit card.

There are lots of ways to get the light source. If you have a glass table top just place a lamp underneath.

For supplies I use Orcal 651 clear vinyl from U.S. Cutter (I use clear vinyl it's easier for me to see through) I also use iPoly Dyes (iDye for Polyester fabrics) I get from Dharma Trading. Don't use the enhancer with this dye. I don't use Rit dyes either because they changed the formula and you have to find certain lot numbers and that's a hassle.

Now that you have everything you need now you have to get your art ready. I do all my designs in Photoshop. But use what ever art program you are most comfortable with.


I made a base file with an 8" circle that I use because most discs are about 8.5 inches in diameter. I started with a full color album cover that I scanned and then worked it in to a black & white line art. Once you get it the way you want print it out and tape it to the back side of a square of the vinyl. Cut the vinyl a minimum of an inch larger than the printout on every side. (I like to have about 2" of extra vinyl extended from the edge of the art print out, you will see why later)


Now  comes the fun part. Cutting the design out. Everywhere there is black is going to be cut out. This is where my bad vision finally pays off. I can get super close to what I'm cutting and make really detail cuts. But for your first dye start simple.


You need to use a soft touch. The vinyl cuts very easily and it real easy to cut all the way through. You will also try to keep cuts continuous without lifting the blade. This will prevent over cuts that could bleed when soaking in the dye. Weeding is removing the cuts that you want the dye to get through. I weed as I go so I don't miss anything. Some cut it all then weed out the cuts.


When cutting blocky text like the Impact Font I use a steel straight edge to get a nice clean cut.


I have found when cutting lines or detail cuts I try to cut from the inside out. This will make it easier to keep the cuts from popping up. An example would be cutting a small circle. If you cut the outside edge first you will need to hold down the vinyl while you cut the inside edge of the line. (Which is very difficult)



As I get areas cut out I cover it with masking tape. This will keep me from messing up the cuts while working on other areas.



Once I'm done with the cutting and it's all covered with tape I use a sharpie to outline the art and then center a disc to draw a circle around it all to help me center the art when I stick it to the disc. I also use the old credit card and run it over the tape so when you pull the backing off the vinyl sticks to the tape for a later step.


The next step is getting the disc ready. I use left over paint reducer to remove the stock stamps. Generic Acetone you get at any hardware store will work fine. Do this step outside.


I like to use paper towels for this part. I use a circular motion and keep my other hand behind to counter the pressure. Don't stop until all the stamp has been removed. Pay close attention to the edges. Sometimes the stamp goes in to the plastic a little and is hard to get out.


Now comes the time that can make or break the entire project. Place the mask vinyl side down and peel the backing off from one corner while holding down the vinyl with the other hand.

I do this next step a little different than others. But it will help keep air bubbles out from between the vinyl and the disc. This is where the sharpie outline will come in handy. I have the mask on my light table sticky side up. I position the disc above the mask while I press down the center of the disc. I press the disc down on the mask just enough to get the center to stick and then lift up the disc. This is what you get...


I now use the old credit card and start in the center and work my way around the art work. Why I do it this way is it's easier to work out air bubble with the vinyl hanging down than to work out air bubbles with the mask laying on top. (I ruined a mask laying it down on the disc because it's hard controlling the vinyl from sticking where you don't want it too) This is the hardest part of the process because it's a make or break procedure. Mess up the mask and it's all wasted time. So take your time and practice a few times before pulling the backing off the vinyl.


I put the backing back on the sticky side of the vinyl for the next step of pulling off the tape. 


Pull the tape off slowly watching for any small pieces of vinyl that didn't stick to the disc. If you get a renegade piece of vinyl use the Xacto blade to peel it off the tape and place it on the disc. When all the tape is off check the cuts closely to make sure there are no missing elements. Like the center of a letter or a small cut in a design that will leave a large black area.


Now I get the dye ready. I would recommend using an old large frying pan that you don't need anymore. I use an old beat up baking pan that works fine. I keep my unused and mixed dyes in Mason Jars.

Mix the dye one 1/2 oz. packet per quart of dye. Pour the dye in the quart jar and fill with hot water and mix it well. (Be careful! Mason jars don't seal well cold and if you shake it you could spill dye all over) Also try to keep you hands clean from dye you can get it all over furniture, floors and anything and it's a bitch cleaning it up. Wear old beat up clothes too.

I have a gas stove and set the flame as small as I can get it to stay lit. A good reference is to heat the dye the same temperature it would take to warm a baby bottle. Warm to the touch. You should be able to touch the side of the pan while it's on the heat. Don't get it too hot or the heat will loosen the adhesive on the vinyl and the dye will bleed where you don't want it.


While the dye is heating up now is the time to work out any air bubbles under the vinyl. The bubbles you worry about are the ones near the edges of a cut. Use the backside of the credit card to work them out. Be careful not to bind up the vinyl. Use the back of your thumbnail too. Work around the edges of the disc checking for vinyl that isn't quite stuck to the disc yet.


Once you have the mask ready and the dye is warmed up. The next step is to make a bowl with the extra vinyl. (this is where the larger square of vinyl comes in to play) Start at the corner and pinch the vinyl together to make a fold. This will also give you something to grab the disc with.


Set the disc in the warmed up dye. The time will depend on the plastic, temperature and strength of the dye. Star plastic will dye faster than Champion. Star takes just a few minutes Champion will take longer. You can grab the disc by the vinyl and lift it out just a few inches and look through the disc. (don't lift too high or dye will splash on the stove top) Be careful to keep dye from spilling over the vinyl to the back side of the disc.

You will see it getting darker and when you can't see through the dye on a Champion disc it's done. 


Use a paper towel to hold under the disc to keep dye from dripping on everything and run it under cold water. Run water on the back side of the disc to get any dye that may have dripped over the vinyl.


Now comes the fun part. pulling off the vinyl. Some guys use warm soapy water, I just use my fingernail to peel it off a little at a time. You also will want to wash your hands a few times really well before you do this so you get any dye that can smear on the disc off your fingers and from under your nails.


The last step is to remove any adhesive from the vinyl after you pulled it all off. I use Goo Gone & a paper towel.


Now your done! Congratulations you have now dyed a disc. This type of art would be good for a first try. Simple designs with few intricate cuts are the best to learn with.


This is my replacement Champion Leopard I did to replace my first dye I lost last week. I'm very proud of this one. I spent about 20 hours cutting the mask and it came out really well.

I hope this helps anyone who is interested in dyeing a disc. Maybe use an old beat up disc for your first try so if you mess up it's not a big loss.

I've only been doing this a short time but I'm having a blast. The only thing limiting you is your imagination.


1 comment:

Papa Zam Zam said...

Hello Kevin, I just began staining disks myself. I love the Zombie with the axe. I use a different method detailed here: http://customdiscgolfdyes.com/#!prettyPhoto
Also I bought a vinyl cutter I got his kind:
http://www.overstock.com/Crafts-Sewing/Silhouette-Cameo-12-x-10-Die-Cutting-Machine-with-25-Download-Card-10-Download-Card/6655466/product.html?cid=202290&kid=9553000357392&track=pspla&ef_id=UkzyTgAAAL3SgiBA:20131003042758:s
But there are quite a few other types. The nice thing about a cutter is after you create the image you can cut it again and again. I would love to open a dialog and exchange notes.
Thanks, Papa-Zam-Zam