Dyeing Feathers

Charlie S

Confrimed Reprobate
Get a reliably dye and go at it. Veniard is the dye I use but there are other, and just as reliable products to be had. Follow the directions. If not sure how it's going to look, don't dye the entire skin at one time but carefully cut it in pieces and only do a little at a time. The feathers will look a lot darker wet than they will when they dry. Have fun, as this IS a fun project and rewarding too when you hit it just right.


Active Member
As Charlie mentioned, use a good acid dye (it is called acid dye because it uses white vinegar-an acid-to set the dye to make it water-fast). Also, you should get a bottle of a product called Syntrapol, which is a combination detergent (it cuts the grease and dirt found in feathers, tails, and furs) and dye dispersant (it makes sure the color is saturated throughout the feathers, fur, or tails).

Never, ever use RIT dye! I know A.K. Best wrote a book and a revised copy of a book on dyeing in which he advocates the use of RIT dye. However, the problem with RIT is it is a so-called union dye; i.e. it is comprised of many different types of dyes-some that work only on cellulose (like cotton), some that work on rayon, some that work on nylon, etc. In other words, there is a lot of different dye types in a package or bottle of RIT that is useless for protein based materials like feathers, fur, and tails. This mixture of various dye types also means it is hard to get consistent results with RIT unless you first mix it into a liquid (which A.K. says is how he uses it) and it takes a lot more of it to get the shade you want. You also have to be very precise and close with how much of each shade of the liquid RIT mixture you use and very precise in how much material you dye or you won't get what you expect.

You could also use unsweetened Kool Aide as a dye because it has acid dye in it for coloration. Yes, this means that acid dyes won't kill you if you ingest a small amount of it. Anyhow, the problem with using Kool Aid is that you have to use the whole package in the dye bath and there is a lot more flavoring in the package than there is dye.

Acid dyes are really the best way to go because they avoid the problems of RIT and Kool Aid.

I personally don't use Veniard's dye because most of the colors of Veniard's dye are mixtures of different colors and in some cases not just mixtures of different colors but of different acid dye types (which set at different rates) as well. Thus, it is difficult to get good, consistent colors and shades from most of the Veniard's dyes.

Instead, I use Jacquard's, Fly Dye, Wash Fast, or Kiton acid dyes. All four of them are excellent and produce very good colors with a very high degree reproducing the exact shade or color you got the last time you used it provided you use the same amount of dye powder and water in your dye bath. Some shops carry Jacquard's or Fly Dye; however, all of them are readily available through on-line source. Jacquard's can be gotten through Dharma Trading Company; Fly Dye can be gotten through Fly Dye (Anglers Workshop in Woodland, WA carried Fly Dye); Wash Fast and Kiton can be gotten through Pro Chemical & Dye.

Use about 1/4 teaspoon of dye powder with 2-2.5 quarts of water to make a dye bath (double this to 1/2 teaspoon dye powder with the same 2-2.5 quarts of water for black). I measure the dye powder with plastic or stainless steel measuring spoons. Also, use a stainless steel or enamaled pot to make sure you get true color dying. Add the dye powder to very warm water (about 150-170 degrees) and stir it (mix it) with a wooden stick (a piece of 3/8" dowling works well and it cheap) until completely mixed and dissolved. DON'T BRING THE WATER TO A BOIL WHEN DYING. Add 1/4 teaspoon of Synthrapol to the dye bath and enough white vinegar so you can smell it (around 1/4 cup if you must measure the vinegar) before you put the feathers, fur, or tails into the dye bath. Then add the material you are going to dye, stir it occasionally, and in about 15 minutes it will be dyed (in fact, with the four dyes I mentioned -except for black, which takes 30-45 minutes- the dye bath will look nearly clear or at least very much lighter at this 15 minute time point). Then takes it off the heat and rinse it in warm (not hot or cold) water until the water runs clear. Place the material on newspaper (not full color newspaper) to dry overnight, and you are done.

The best way to get a color or shad that you cannot find in a vial of dye, it to use the overdye process. For instance, fiery brown is a tough color to get unless you dye first one color and then overdye with the other color. A great fiery brown can be gotten by first dyeing with Jacquard's chocolate brown, rinse until the water runs clear, and then dye again over the chocolate brown with Jacquard's pumpkin orange. Wash Fast chocolate brown and bright orange will produce the same wonderful fiery brown. Another example of overdying, you want to have a nice, very dark purple. First dye with Lilac (or better yet Wash Fast #17 bright violet), rinse, then overdye with navy blue. This produces a beautiful very dark purple (which used to be known as Venitian Purple).

Anyhow, this short explanation on dying will get you started properly and help you avoid problems. Also, keep notes of what you do because this will help you reproduce what you did the next time.

Dr Bob

Active Member
Maybe I am just lazy, but when I want some hair and feathers dyed I just give a few feathers or patches of hair to my daughter and tell her to dye my some sample colors to choose from. What better to dye hair or feathers than hair dye. My daughter is a hair stylist and has dyed some great blue dun capes for me. With all the wild hair colors people use today, you can find any color hair dye you want for dying hair and feathers. My next project is to have her dye me some shades of silver blue bucktails. :thumb:

Dr Bob :beer2:
hi. i found this forum a while back while looking for the best dye products. but i have some questions about feathers and thought i'd try to get answers here if anyone is will ing to help me. i'm actually a jewelry designer. i love using quality feathers and have been purchasing from bass pro. they have very limited supply. i am needing dry fly saddle? i believe thats what it's called. i've found some there but it isn't as long as i need it to be. i'm wanting very long pieces to work with. also, i'm looking for some feathers, i guess hen neck feathers? but i haven't found exactly what i'm needing... i'm wanting the same softness of the feather and rachis but not as airy of feathers? i don't know how to explain it, i'm new to this lol. i'm wanting more rounded tip but feathers that are dense instead of whispy...? but still very soft. i do not want these stiff.
also, can you dye all natural feathers?
where is the most affordable online and are there any wholesalers?
i'd GREATLY appreciate the help!


Active Member
1) You can get the feathers you are looking for from any fly fishing shop (which is what fly fishing retail stores are called). There are a lot of fly fishing retailers who have web sites and any of the fly shops that are sponsors of this site will have what you are looking for. Also, many of the feathers you are looking for are available already dyed, so you might be able to safe yourself the time and trouble of dyeing if they have the colors you are after.

2) Yes, the soft, webby, rounded tip feathers you are seeking are hen feathers (that is like in hen chicken). Either the neck or saddle (back) feathers will work because both have the rounded tip with very webby feathers.

3) If you wish to dye your own feathers, read the post I make earlier in the thread, it has some information on dye suppliers. Plus, there is a post just before yours by a fellow who has feathers dyed with beauty shop hair dye, which is an acid dye that works very well on feathers too. Anyway, Jacquard's (Dharma Trading Company), Orco Dyes (they also sell a line called Fly Dye), and Pro Chemical & Dye are the three I deal with because they have great customer service, are easy to deal with, and will answer questions, as well as all of them carry very good acid dyes and other things such as Synthrapol (a degreaser and dye dispersant-trust me you need it to keep splotchiness away).