Experimenting with Dyeing Minimates

I have wanted to experiment with dyeing Minimates for a long time now,  probably ever since I saw Ivan’s Pantone display. I have been picking up different shades of dye for my 1/6 scale custom figures, so I decided it was time to try it out on Minimates. The dye I have been using is called Rit dye, and from what I have read online, it can be used to effectively dye plastic.

My first test subject would be an ECCC Minimate, as I have several of these in my parts bin, but rarely need a dark green translucent Minimate for customs. I would like him to be black instead, so I followed the directions for using black Rit dye. I started with about a teaspoon of the dye powder, and then added hot water. I stirred it until it was thoroughly mixed, and then lowered in my Minimate, Mission Impossible style.

I gave it 10 minutes and nothing had changed. After an hour, there was still no change. I thought a clear Minimate might not be the best choice, so I tried it with a painted Minimate, but still no luck.

So I checked online, and some people recommended adding acetone in with the dye.  I picked up a bottle at my hardware store, and experimented with different amounts of acetone in with the dye, on both the painted and unpainted Minimates. But still, there were no results.

And that is where I am sitting at the moment. I’m not sure where to go from here, as I keep hearing that Rit dye will work for plastic like this. Does anyone have any suggestions on what else I can try?


8 Responses

  1. Wug says:

    Did you try setting the whole thing on fire? Fire makes everything work better.

    In all seriousness, I would be interested in the answer to this as well…

  2. Brian Felgar says:

    I’ve had limited success dying Minimates with Rit. The translucent ones seem to do better in general, but I’ve found that, in general, the different types of plastic DST uses dye more successfully, and at different rates.

    A few tips:

    • I usually add the dye to a pot of boiling water on the stove, and dunk directly in that using a small tea strainer. The hotter the water is, the better the dye transfer seems to work. A caveat to this: the joints, especially the knee joint, will soften and can break if you leave them in too long.

    • Softer plastic seems to dye more quickly. I’ve dunked ‘Mates whole before, only to have the arms and legs come out darker than the torso. The plastic used on the upper leg tends to be softer than that of the bottom leg, which can make dying legs tricky. But again, it depends on what plastic is used, and they’ve changed the composition of ‘Mates quite a bit over the years. I recommend separating the pieces and dunking for different amounts of time.

    • If it’s your first attempt, dunk for small increments of time. Sometimes the plastic (especially the translucents) will suck up the dye a lot faster than you’re expecting. You can always dunk for more time if it’s too light, but once you’ve dunked, you can’t un-dunk! 🙂

    • Make sure to buy the Rit dye that’s formulated for synthetics. They sell some dye that’s only good for cotton and natural fibers, which won’t work for dying plastic; it notes this on the label. Also, I find the bottled dye works better than the powder dye.

    Bottom line, it can be pretty hit-and miss. I’ve had transparent ‘Mates come out looking great, like what boyd was able to do with his Pantone ‘Mates. On the other hand, I was recently trying to dye a batch of white blanks, and I couldn’t get them to take any color at all.

  3. Brian says:

    Ive rit dyed many Joes. You have to boil the water. I usually stir the figure in the boil, but frequently dip in in and out to keep from warping. Soft plastics take it easily, but harder ones, like minimates, take longer. Also, certain paints won’t take dye, which can be an advantage with things that have silver logos or trim.
    I’ve been meaning to try the same thing, but haven’t gotten around to it. The best is to use the liquid dye, and to not thin it too much with water. And it can be reused as well. I’ve never tried the acetone trick, but have heard about it.
    Keep trying! It will work with patience. 🙂 MrClean

  4. Brian says:

    Also, I use plumbers thread seal tape to mask off any parts I don’t want dyed. If you wrap it tight enough, it’s a good seal.

  5. Luke314pi says:

    Thanks for the suggestions guys! I was just using hot tap water, so that was probably a big part of the problem. I will also look for the liquid dye.

  6. TENIME says:

    I’ve never dyed any toys, but everyone I’ve known that has, has said that any parts that are covered, won’t take dye. I.E./E.G. joints. So, if you wanted the insides of the elbows & knees dyed (or the shoulder & hip pegs/sockets), you’d have to dismantle them for the best results.

    Provided you can get it to work, naturally (boiling water, definitely).

  7. hellmike says:

    voy a probarlo con agua hirviendo ,espero tener un buen resultado ,gracias por la idea,,saludos

  8. Jenny says:

    Regular hot water doesn’t work (at least none of the times I’ve tried). Boil it in a tea kettle, then dump the parts in — tenime is right, dismantling the ‘mate works best. You need to leave it for longer than an hour for better results. (When the water gets too cold, I soup-ladle the parts out & zap the dye water in the microwave to reheat.)

    I’ve found that the transparent clear (think twilight frodo) ‘mates take the dye better than the others. This is why I keep them on my “want” list. (Plus, the older trans-clear ones seem to be made of a more easily-dyeable plastic.

    Good luck!