Gradient dying feathers

Here I’ll show you how I dyed the feathers for my Kimahri Ronso genderbend cosplay!

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Material list:

  • Jacquard acid dyes in sun yellow, fire red, turquoise, and jet black
  • Citrix Acid (mine came with my dyes)
  • Water
  • Mason jars
  • Plastic spoons
  • Feathers
  • Foil
  • Trays (like baking sheets)
  • Hair dryer (optional)

Step 1: Boil water

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You’ll need boiling water to mix your dye into, so boil enough water to fill all the mason jars up.  I had 3 colors I’d be mixing for my feathers, so I needed to fill 3 jars.

Step 2: Soak feathers in water.

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Its exactly what it sounds like.  While you wait for your water to boil, soak all your feathers in warm water so that they’re sopping wet.  Do all of them at once so you don’t have to stop to do more while you’re dying.

Step 3: Mix your first dye color

Go ahead and pour your boiling water into your mason jars and mix up your dyes.  You’ll need to mix some citric acid in along with the actual dye.  Its hard to tell how much you’ll need because the bottle the dye comes in only gives direction for dying large amounts of fabric.  In this case, we only need a small amount of dye water for our feathers, so we only need to use a VERY small amount of each thing.  What you see in the pictures is exactly how much I used.  Mix it up with your plastic spoon and you’re good to go!

Step 4: Start dying a test feather.  

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Before moving on to mix the other colors, I wanted to make sure I had the yellow mixed properly, so I tested it out on one of my feathers.  I was happy with how the color turned out (it was exactly the shade of light yellow I was looking for) so I moved on to mixing the next color!  To dye the feather, I dipped in the dye water and immediately brought it back up.  I wanted the feather to have smooth gradient, so I couldn’t leave it in too long or the color would end up being too harsh where it met the white. Then, I dipped it back down again, but didn’t dip it as far as the first time.  I focused the color toward the tip of the feather so that the color would be darker and gradually get lighter as it went up.

Step 5: Mix and test the rest of your colors

Since I was happy with the yellow, I could then mix my second color.  I needed orange, so I mixed the same small amount of citric acid as before with about the same amount of yellow, plus a tiny bit of red.  I mixed it up and it resulted in the bright orange you see above.

I tested the color just to make sure I had it right before moving on.  I did this the same way as I did the yellow.  I focused the color toward the end so that it would gradually fade as it went up towards the white.  I was pleased with this color too, so I moved on to the last color.

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For my last color, I ended up mixing all 4 of my colors (yellow, red, turquoise, and black) together to get a dark, purplish brown.  It was a bit of an experiment and I had to try a few times before I got it right, but eventually I got the color you see above.

I only needed this color for the very tip of my feathers.  It was a bit difficult to make sure the color faded into the orange since it was so much darker, but with some patience I was able to make it work.  You have to work quickly and not let the feather sit in the dye at  all.  Just poke it in and take it right back out, and always focus the color at the very end, going a shorter and shorter amount into the dye each time so that the color builds up at the end and fades out.

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Now you have all your dye colors mixed perfectly, and you’ve practiced the dying process!  Now the rest of the feathers will be a breeze!

Step 6: Dye the rest of your feathers

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The only thing left to do is finish dying your feathers.  I had a total of 50 feathers to dye altogether.  If you have a lot, you may end up having to remix your dye solution after a while.  The feathers will eventually absorb too much of it and the color won’t be as vibrant.  If this happens, just add a little more citric acid, a little more dye, and top the jar back up with boiling water again.  No need to completely remix, just add more the the mix you already have.  Follow the same process for all your feathers as you go.  Dip them into each dye mixture, starting from the lightest color and move down to the darkest.  Focus the color towards the end so that it fades, and when your done, lay the feather down flat to dry.  I used trays and baking sheets covered in foil so that I could move them easily if I needed to.

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If you want to, you can speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer.  Just wait until the feathers have at least dried for a while before doing this.  If you try to blow dry them as soon as you’re done dying you’ll just end up splattering water from the feathers all over the place.  If you wait until they dry a bit though, the hair dryer will do wonders.

Thanks for reading!  I hope this helps!  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me and ask!