Nether Den

This process uses alcohol-based dyes (also known as spirit-based dyes), which do not affect the texture and "fluff" of the faux fur fibers in a negative way like heat-dependent dyes or acrylic paints. Also, since the dye is only activated by alcohol, the color will not bleed from water/rain.

This process is a work in progress and still experimental. I will update this guide as I tweak things and achieve the most desirable results.
            
This technique works best on white fur, as your results will be less predictable on colored fur. It should go without saying that you can only dye darker than the original color you start with.
I conceived this method because I don't have the space or funds to stock lots of differently colored furs. I use Monterey Mills White Fox for pretty much everything, which has been problematic for making animals that are not primarily white. Manually airbrushing the fur "down to the roots" is extremely difficult to do well quickly or evenly, and I often end up with too much pigment on the fur from my efforts to do so, causing it to look/feel coarse and stiff.
This method simply consists of making a vat of dyed alcohol, dunking pre-cut fur pieces into it (except for areas that need to remain pure white), and laying/hanging them out to dry. The dyed fur gives you a terrific base color to work on, and won't reveal any white roots/backing if the fur is parted by air movements or gravity.
 
I enjoy making these guides and sharing my knowledge, and I would love to make more. I'm also keenly interested in making video versions. Please check out my campaign on Patreon if you'd like to help me achieve my goals: https://www.patreon.com/netherden
 
Materials Needed:
  • spirit-based dye in color(s) of your choice
  • at least 4 cups (1 quart) 99% isopropyl alcohol
  • a one gallon container with a lid
  • a 1 cup measure
  • 1/4 teaspoon measure
  • mixing stick
  • your pre-cut fur pieces
  • a pencil
  • all-plastic wide-tooth comb or hairbrush
  • plastic sheeting or lots of newspaper

 

Step 1: Assemble Materials

 

I used a bucket, but I think a shorter and wider container would have made dunking more controlled. As for sourcing the alcohol, I got it from a local chemical supply company. The dye pictured was bought from www.Fiebing.com, and is their LeatherColors line (color chart is here). Ensure you protect your work area with plastic sheeting or lots of newspaper, as you will often end up unintentionally splashing or dripping dye.

 

Step 2: Mark Dye Borders (Optional)

 

The pictured ready-to-fur underskull and fur pieces are for a Red Wolf, an animal which does have some white areas on the muzzle, cheeks, and neck. If you do not need to retain any non-dyed areas on your fur, you may skip this step. However, if you do need non-dyed areas, use a pencil and mark on the backing where you need the dye to end. Be sure to give a generous allowance so if you have a little bleeding past the line it won't be a problem. You can always manually add color later up to where you truly need it to end, which should be done during your normal airbrushing phase after the mask is fully assembled.

 

Step 3: Mix Dye

 

Put 4 cups (1 quart) of 99% alcohol in your container, then add 1/4 teaspoon of your dye and mix well. Don't forget to RE-CAP your dye and alcohol containers, as these liquids evaporate rapidly. For this project, I used the Medium Brown LeatherColors dye, which is reddish-brown.

 

Step 4: Dunk That Fur

 

Fold one of your fur pieces in half so the backing is on the outside and you can see your dye border line, if any. With your non-dominant hand holding the top, carefully lower your fur into the dye mix up to the desired point (or submerge it if you want to dye the whole thing). If you have a dye line, use your dominant hand to push the fur down along the line so the mix reaches it. You may have to rotate it a bit to get it up along the entire line. When everything you want to dye has color on it, slowly lift the fur up out of the dye mix, using your dominant hand to squeeze the dye mix out and back into the container. Be careful to not touch un-dyed areas with that hand unless you dry it, but even if you do it is the backing side which is less critical than the fur. When it's no longer dripping heavily, move the fur piece to a prepared spot and lay it out to dry. Put the lid on your dye mix container to prevent unnecessary evaporation.

For color testing purposes, you can optionally perform this step and the next two steps with just a swatch of fur rather than one of your cut pieces.

 

Step 5: Brushing & Color Evaluation

 

Brush the dyed fur to even out the color. Your comb/brush bristles will carry color, so do NOT brush any of the un-dyed fur! However, you can use this to your advantage if you want to even out the edges of the dye or "drag" dye into other areas. Let the fur dry for about 10 minutes (it will lighten as it dries) and then evaluate the color. If it is nearly dark enough, leave it alone because you can airbrush it slightly darker later during your regular coloring phase. However, if it is way too light, you can alter your dye mix and dunk again.

Step 6: Re-Dunking (Optional)

 

Add another 1/4 teaspoon of dye to your dye mix, re-dunk and re-evaluate to your satisfaction. Once you are pleased with the result, take a note of how much dye you used per that 1 quart of alcohol. My mix ended up being two 1/4 tsp doses, or 1/2 teaspoon total of dye.

 

Step 7: Dye Remaining Pieces

 

Now that you've got the color right, go ahead and dye the remaining pieces according to the previous steps. Pictured, you can see the hood/neck pieces of the Red Wolf mask, consisting of two pieces of fur I had pre-sewn at the middle front edge.

 

Step 8: Allow To Fully Dry

When the fur pieces are no longer obviously dripping, brush again and hang them up to dry somewhere. Here you can see the Red Wolf pieces hanging on my shower rail. Put some newspapers or plastic down to catch any possible future drips. Once the fur is fully dry, you can use it as you normally would for mask assembly and it will make your coloration phase that much quicker!

 

Step 9: Even Out Color (Optional)

Here you can see the finished product from my Red Wolf pieces after they were fully dry. The color is not even, rather it is a bit mottled, which may be good for certain species of animals.

Possible variables:

  • the amount of time the fur is submerged in the dye mix 
  • the amount and frequency of brushing the wet hair
  • gravity's effect on the position it dries in (laid out vs hanging)

If you would like a more even distribution of color, dip your brush/comb into some alcohol and brush the dyed areas thoroughly, de-furring and re-wetting the brush as needed. Brush the fur with the grain, against the grain, and then with the grain again. You should get a result similar to this:

 

Additional Notes

If your ending color is too dark, or if you accidentally dyed some fur that you didn't mean to, use pure alcohol and a sponge or paper towels to leech dye out of the fur. With some tenacity and patience, you can get nearly all of the dye out and achieve an off-white color. However, I've never been able to get all the way back to pure white with this method.

When I finished dyeing the Red Wolf pieces, I had slightly over 2 cups of dye mix remaining. Since I had started with 4 cups of alcohol, I chose to assume I had used half of the total mix, which used 1/2 teaspoon of dye. Therefore, I added 2 cups of alcohol and 1/4 teaspoon of dye in order to remake my dye mix so I could also dye my Maned Wolf pieces the same base color. I could have technically just used the remaining dye mix, but I didn't want to have to deal with trying to sop up the liquid evenly - plus I will be using this color for at least one fox mask in the near future.

 

Written by Tara Andrus —

Comments

Dani:

I’m thinking of dyeing faux fur and turning it into a rug. Does the dye rub off?

August 26, 2015

Nether Den:

If you rub it vigorously, it may come off a little. The dye coats the fibers, it doesn’t seem to actually “soak in”. It also depends on the color – for example, black seems to not “stick” as well as brown.

August 29, 2015

Chelseah:

does this dye was out like airbrush or does it last longer?

January 02, 2016

Nether Den:

It depends on what you have been using to airbrush with. As far as I know, this particular type of dye is permanent.

January 05, 2016

Lode:

Hello, is this method safe? (i.e. will touching the fur once dried harm humans?)

How do you make the color deeper/darker? How hard is it to get the colors to be completely uniform throughout the fur fabric?

What if you want to do this on a bigger piece of fur? Does it work on seal, beaver, and other type of faux furs?

If you wanted to trim the fur to give it a short look… should you trim it before or after the dye? Will it look differently if you do it after?

Will this seriously not affect the quality of the fur?

Is this a safe thing to do in a private setting?

Should it be done inside ones home, or outside?

Does the paint ever fade? Would it fade from sun exposure? What about washing(machine wash, hand washing, etc)? Constantly being petted or played with?(i.e. if it’s something else other than a fur suit- such as a toy for a child.. would it come off)

Does it ever bleed?

Can you give me a good place to buy dyes that have multiple colors in green shades, browns, and yellows? Though other colors such as pinks, blues and reds would be appreciated…(im in the USA)

Any precautions when doing this sort of thing? Anywhere that does something like this for you already?

I am also wondering if you can just get fur made that certain color.. like special order it or something… (but in small quantities of max of 10 yards— but probably less than 6)

Any sort of care you recommend to give the fur after this?

Also, assuming you’re a fur suiter(or fur suit maker) would you happen to know what’s the softest and fluffiest faux fur that is really sturdy/strong, washable, etc?

It would be used to make fur suits, a child’s toy, furnishing.. So it has to be extra sturdy to hold up against rough housing, normal play, etc. I wanted it to not shed to the point where there are bald spots over it…

I have some seal faux fur fabric from an online store in the usa and it only sheds when I take a lint brush over it… but I’ve gone through 15 pieces of sticky lint paper because it got full of fur from just one patch of the fur fabric… Like a small area I mean… I am trying to avoid that because I feel as if it’ll bald eventually… I want the fabric to last a really long time. Decades maybe, because I am also going to make heirlooms for someone….

Any information would be greatly appreciated.. Especially if you can e-mail it to me(since I won’t be on this exact page for a while).

Thank you.

June 20, 2016

Ellie:

Is it machine washable? :)

April 30, 2017

Leave a comment

Welcome

Please check the feed at https://twitter.com/NetherDenStudio for the most recent progress updates on upcoming art, prosthetics restocking and more!

Sign up for the NetherNewsletter to receive an email notification when new products are added to the store (especially important for one-of-a-kind items!)