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Alcohol VS Water soluble dyes?

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I think Stew-Mac sells all three types:

1) Water-based anilyne dyes

2) Alcohol-based anilyne dyes

3) Metallic dyes

Metallic dyes are great and mix well with lots of different finishes.

Water based dyes (my experience) are brighter. I call them the 'comic-book' colors. When I want to do something that really will stand out, I use these.

Alcohol-based dyes (my experience) work better in more traditional settings. I would use these to do an archtop or any classic, aged-looking finish. Slightly more subdued than water-based, but very colorful all the same. You'd have to use both for some time to see the difference, but it's there.

I usually will use at least 2 if not all 3 sometimes on the same guitar.

1) Water-based for my basecoat color.

2) Alcohol based for my shader 'burst colors

3) Metallics I mix in wherever I think I need them.

I don't have nearly as many metallic dyes as the other 2, that's why I don't use them as much. If I had more I'd use them, but the dyes I bought 8 years ago I'm still using. Dyes go a LONG way!

I mix colors constantly, all the time, and I have yet to replace a single 2 oz. packet of powdered stain.

I use mostly Lockwood anilyne stains.

I've found when doing 'bursting, the alcohol-based dyes mixed in with my lacquer allow me to get the best 'bursts, that -great- bursting effect where one color gently, gently fades into the next color without being overtly obvious (that took quite some time to learn, there's a trick or two to it :D ).

I don't get the same results 'bursting water-based dyes no matter how hard I try, although I've seen it done in videos. My way works for me, so I'm happy.

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These are the dyes that stewmac sells that are usable with water or alcohol, yes?

Stewmac Dyes

Also can be used with lacquer or shellac.

Any tips on mixing. The instructions say 2oz to 2 quarts (I think). When I tried a smaller batch it came out very, very thin, dull and watery - maybe I just screwed up the conversion. Anyway, are their mixing instructions correct?

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I always use baby food jars to mix my colors.

For the powders, I usually use about a 1/2 teaspoon for a full baby food jar, for liquids like those, I would just hip-shoot it until I got what I wanted and make a note of how much it was drop-wise so I could repeat the shade later on.

Try mixing your colors in the smallest containers you can get away with (babyfood jars are perfect for me) so you don't waste any extra dye.

PS, yes, those are the metallic dyes and they're great.

When you find someone you know having a baby, get them to save ALL the jars!

I must still have about 30 of them after several years and tossing a few along the way, they're the best.

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So, do you think the reason my first attempt turned out so runny/watery is due to the mixing instructions being a bit on the thin side? I'll experiment with some differnent quantities and see. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it's something that I did wrong - I never could do those chemistry projects in college. I remember a fire I started once = wow I can't believe no one got hurt. There was another project where you're supposed to so several tests to determine what the substance was - after the third test (out of 7 maybe) I was out of material to test. :D Oh well, after a few tries, I made it through chem III and never looked back - but I still think I'm handicapped when it comes to mixing crud.

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Yeah, always use the strongest solution recommended by the manufacturer, not the weakest, and the use of baby food jars to keep your amounts as small as possible helps conserves product a lot.

No one ever hits the jackpot on the first shot out the gate, experimentation is 1/2 the fun!

PS, those metallic dyes look really great when mixed on the strong side, at least that's my experience.

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Thanks for the tips Drak. I'll try messing around with it tonight. I bought some denatured alcohol to see if I can notice a difference. I was using tap water previously. I doubt it will be a major factor but I'm still interested to see if I can tell the difference.

Should I expect a big difference between the color I see in the cup and what it will look like dried? Should I go stronger, lighter in the mix than the expected final color?

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That's pretty hard to tell like that.

I usually mix some up, apply it to a piece of scrap similar to the piece I'm working on, then shoot it with some aerosol canned lacquer or poly, doesn't really matter, it's just for color depth and comparison purposes, whatever Home Depot has on sale in clear gloss aerosol works for me for testing out colors... B)

When I'm doing color mixing and testing like that, I use those clear plastic pipettes (like little tiny miniature turkey basters) and those metered little plastic cups so you can keep track of what you did and repeat it later on. Then I dump it into my baby food jars. I have tons of baby food jars, pipettes, and metered cups on-hand, I couldn't live without them for color mixing, they're all I use, and I use them all the time.

You can always transfer ratios up if you need to make a bigger batch, I go by pipette drops...like...2 oz. of water to, say, 6 drops of the metallic dye was the color I wanted...and just keep track of it. I keep it real small to conserve product, then transfer ratios up when it's time to fill the spray gun or whatever...

I think water usually works better than alcohol for saturation (if you have a choice, as with the metallics), but that's just my .02 opinion...

Personally, I've never used any metallic dyes straight onto bare wood, I always use them to tone my lacquer shader coats, I usually use water-based dyes for bare wood dying...again, just my own way, we all have our own ways... :D

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  • 4 weeks later...

There are dye powders you can buy and make your own liquid dye using the appropriate solvent. Water soluble are generally considered the most lightfast (keeping their color with exposure to UV rays over time).

When you see a dye concentrate or a NGR dye, it is a water soluble dye first dissolved in glycol ether. That is a bridging solvent making two uncompatible things...compatible. Once it's dissolved in glycol ether it is reducible (thinnable) with alcohol. So it can be used in shellac, lacquer or waterbase coatings.

So if it contians alcohol it doesn't necessarily mean it's an alcohol soluble dye. If it is sold as a non-grain raising dye or dye concentrate compatible with mulitple coatings it's as I described above.

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  • 1 month later...

I always go by baby food jar ratios.

I mix in about 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of powder for a full bf jar of hot water.

That should get you very strong. I will sometimes dilute it if I want a lighter shade, but keep the stuff in the jar at full strength.

It stays pretty much forever good in the jars.

Baby food jars have sealed tops too. After putting the powder in, I cover the jar with an old t-shirt and shake the living **** out of it for a minute or two to mix, using hot water initially.

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