How to Dye Feathers

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Fabric dyes or drink mixes can be used to tint feathers.
Fabric dyes or drink mixes can be used to tint feathers. (Image: svetlana zayats/iStock/Getty Images)

Instead of purchasing pre-dyed feathers, make your own. By dyeing your own feathers, you can create unique shades and custom color combinations. Natural, clean white feathers work best, rather than synthetic versions that may not accept the chosen dye material. Fabric dyes, fruity drink mixes or food coloring may be used to tint feathers.

Project Preparation

If the feathers were found outside, they need to be cleaned before dyeing. Wash them gently in warm, soapy water and pat them dry. If you’re using packaged white feathers bought at a craft store, they come already clean and ready to use.

Cover your project area with a plastic tablecloth and set up at least one plastic or disposable bowl for each dye color—the bowls should be large enough to submerge the feathers. Do not reuse the bowls for food purposes, save them just for crafts or recycle them afterwards. Keep stacks of paper towels handy for freshly dyed feathers, as well as a few plastic forks or spoons to lift the feathers out of the dye.

Fabric-Dye Feathers

Dyes made for fabrics also work on feathers. Mix 1/4 cup liquid dye or 1 tablespoon powdered dye per quart of hot—not boiling—water, stirring to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Place the feathers into the dye bath, pushing them down with a plastic fork or spoon to ensure the dye covers each feather.

Lift the feathers after several minutes to check their color; leave them in a bit longer for darker shades. If the shade still isn't as dark as you would like, stir more dye into the liquid. Once happy with the color, remove each feather, rinse it and set it on top of stacks of paper towels to dry. To dye just a portion of a feather, hold it between tongs and submerge the desired portion in the dye bath for several minutes.

Drink-Mix Dye

Pour 3/4 cup of boiling water into a glass pan along with 2 tablespoons vinegar and the smallest packet of powdered fruit-drink mix available. Stir to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Add the feathers, swishing them around a bit in the liquid. Remove them when they appear slightly darker than the desired color, then rinse, setting them on top of paper towels to dry. If the feathers never get as dark as you would like, add another packet or two of the drink mix to the dye bath and leave the feathers in longer.

Food-Coloring Feather Dye

To tint feathers with food coloring, blend 3/4 cup of water with 2 tablespoons white vinegar and several squirts of food coloring. Stir the liquid to blend it, adding more coloring if the shade still looks too light. Set the feathers in the dye for several minutes, submerging them with a plastic fork or spoon at all times to ensure they absorb the liquid. Lift the feathers and remove them once they appear as dark as you'd like. For a stronger concentration, use less water.

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