Disc golfers love custom discs and place a great deal of sentimental value on disc golf equipment. It should come as no surprise that many of us have attempted to dye our discs ourselves. Most of us end up with a mess of mis-colored discs and stained shirts, but a few of us press on and go searching for the best way to die a disc golf disc.
I’m with most of you, I’m not good at custom dying discs. The good news is that you can learn from my mistakes! This post will go over some basics of dying discs that I’ve experienced and address some important components of each step in the process. Later we’ll publish a few additional posts that go into more specific and advanced methods.
Disc Dying Process Basics
Like all good processes, the disc golf disc dying process begins with planning. Planning will help achieve optimal results as well as save you from humongous stains on your clothes and counter tops. Here’s my arrangement.
What Discs Are Best To Dye?
Before dying your selected disc I’d recommend practicing on a water disc (one you don’t care much about). I set up a full experiment for the purpose of this article. Keep in mind that different plastics hold dye differently and as I’ll show you later, here are the 4 primary plastic types in order of dyeability.
- Opaque Premium Pastics – Innova Star, Discraft ESP, Dynamic Discs Fuzion
- Just above Base Plastics – Innova Pro, Discraft Elite X
- Base Plastics – Innova DX, Discraft Pro D, Dynamic Discs Prime
- Translucent Plastic – Innova Champion, Discraft Elite Z, Dynamic Discs Lucid
Also remember that the more curved your disc’s flight plate, the more dye drips you’ll experience and the more difficult it will be to place a template or design cut-out.
Prep Your Disc For Dying
Maybe I don’t need to say it, but clean your disc first. Dirt and grease will result in imperfections in your dye job.
Since the dye usually won’t hold on the stamp, you may wish to remove it. There are a few ways to do so.
- Rubbing Alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) – one of the safest methods as it won’t eat away at the plastic, but it’s also not as effective as other chemicals
- Acetone – usually removes the stamp easily, but be careful because that will burn the plastic if you don’t remove it quickly
- Brake Cleaner – recommended by Tim at Mind Body Disc, stronger than rubbing alcohol and great at removing dirt, grease, and sticky substances but won’t burn the disc as quickly as acetone
When you’re done, make sure you rinse off all the chemicals so that they do not affect the dye job.
One word of precaution: Use cotton balls and don’t scrub or scrape hard on soft plastics. This may sound like a no-brainer but when you’re in the middle of scrubbing it’s easy to forget and leave scratch marks. Specifically Innova Pro and G-Star, Prodigy 400G, and other soft and gummy types of plastics are susceptible.
Prepare Your Golf Disc Dye
There are many options so do your research in the planning phase. I’ve tried a number of dyes including Rit Dye and Indigo but I prefer iDye Poly above all others. Jacquard Products was kind enough to send me a sample of each of their iDye Poly colors for testing and we’ll post a separate article testing each of the colors in the near future.
I’ve learned the hard way that simply mixing dye and water is not sufficient, especially when dying translucent plastic like Champion. Boiling the water before you add the iDye Poly helps the powder to dissolve. It’s important to use a mixture of water and some chemical for the dye to set in, I recommend using acetone. I devised an experiment to determine exactly how much acetone to mix with water and tested different rations. I’ll spare you the details and tell you that a 3:1 mixture of acetone to water works best across all plastics. You can see the lines with the 75% label are darkest on all the discs in the image below.
The best mixture I found contained 1/4 cup of liquid and 3/4 tablespoon of iDye Poly powder. I’ll post more about colors and different amounts of dye powder in another article.
Dyeing Your Disc Golf Disc
On to the fun part, actually dyeing a disc golf disc. I’ll expand on each of the methods in other articles and share some awesome videos and resources on each method later, but right here I’ll focus on the basic process.
Select your Disc Dyeing Method
After you have mixed your iDye Poly solution, there are many methods to applying the dye to a disc. Here are a few that I’m testing:
- Paint brush – Not very elegant and can leave brush strokes, but is fairly precise
- Shaving cream – Helps keep the dye in place
- Soaked fabric – Also more work but great for tie-dye and other neat designs
- Squirt bottle – Cool splatter patterns but can be more work
- Bucket – In case you want to completely change the color of your disc
When selecting your method you need to consider how you’re adding a design. If you’re using an adhesive vinyl decal then it’s often best to use a paint brush to cover all the exposed areas of the disc, especially if you’re using multiple colors. The risk here is that if you’ve selected a cheap decal or low quality contact paper, the dye could pool up and bleed under the decal. In this case, using soaked fabric or shaving cream to hold the dye in place may provide benefits. Here’s the result of using cheap contact paper, and while this disc design is cool in its own right, it was meant to be a clean and crisp slash design.
Soaked fabric can prevent the dye from running off or bleeding through and it can off some neat textures and designs. This method is also great for tie-dying a disc. Of course here you’ll need to make sure the fabric is touching all areas of the disc that need to be dyed and that the fabric is fairly evenly soaked. Shaving cream can also help prevent run-off, but again you need to make sure it’s evenly mixed and it can be a little more messy to work with.
Squirt bottles are best used when you’re interested in an abstract splash or drip design and can be messy if you’re careless. However, they can be useful if you’re concerned with ensuring an even distribution of dye over a decal because sometimes a paintbrush will leave brush marks. You may choose to use a lower concentration of acetone for this method as well. Here’s an example of a very basic, and also not well crafted, drip design.
If you want to completely change the color of your disc then go with a bucket or large bowl. Submerge the disc and make sure that none of the edges are sticking out which can lead to an odd looking dye job; I know from my experience with an old Champion Coyote. You may not need any acetone for this method unless you’re dying difficult-to-dye plastic.
Pick a Custom Dye Design
There are many more options than I can cover here and as you can see by the images above, I’m nowhere near mastering the design types yet. Here are a few design types that you may consider, and I’ll cover these in greater detail in another article.
- Adhesive Vinyl Decal – one of the most popular and allows for very personalized designs and images.
- Hot Glue Design – unsophisticated and may result in a high school art project, but can offer neat designs if you know what you’re doing
- Spin Dye – one of the most elegant design types, requires a steady hand and spinning equipment
- Patterns – not often as exciting as a concrete image but forgiving of errors and you can get very creative
In the featured image, the first two discs in the top row were dyed using adhesive vinyl contact paper, unfortunately it was cheap and I experienced a large amount of bleeding. The disc in the top right was dyed using gauze to create a bloody zombie look with a splash of watery color in the middle (I should have used red instead of pink). On the bottom left discs I applied hot glue prior to the dye job then peeled it off afterward. The Challenger in the middle came out cool, but the spiral disc would have probably received a D- in elementary art class..
Cleaning Your Dyed Disc
This phase is simple, just make sure you’ve let the dye sit for long enough; I’d recommend 4-6 hours or until all liquid has dried.
Remove all vinyl, fabric, or hot glue. Rinse in cold water for a few minutes. Scrub the disc lightly under running water. I let my discs air dry for 15 minutes after this then wash with dish soap to make sure no dye will rub off later, but this may not be necessary.
Disc Golf Dyeing Conclusion
Given the materials and time you’ll spend on dyeing discs, it’s probably more efficient to simply buy a sweet custom DyeMax from Dynamic Discs or join the Infinite Discs VIP program. But for those of us who feel the need to create and leave our own print on discs, it will take a lot of work but can be rewarding.
If you decide to dye a disc, it’s clear from the experiment that the softer plastics take dye the best, specifically Pro or Elite X type plastics. Champion and Elite Z are the most difficult to dye and don’t hold dye as well so you’ll need to leave the dye on longer and possibly heat the dye mixture first. However, 0ne important thing to keep in mind is that the softer plastics tend to bleed and fade over time at a much higher rate that the the firm or Champion like plastics. This means that if you’ve chosen an intricate design or a custom stencil, those designs may become fuzzy after a few months on your softer plastics.
We’d love to hear about your process and see your custom dye jobs that you’re proud of. We’d also love it if you shared this article with your friends who have potential to create some beautiful custom dyes!
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