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Case Modding - Vinyl Dye Guide


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Case Modding

- Vinyl Dye FAQ and Guide -

If you have been case modding for an extended amount of time, or have just been browsing galleries thinking about modding your own case, you have undoubtedly noticed that the most common mod is painting. You may have also noticed that plastic isn't exactly the best surface to paint. There all those little nooks and crannies that paint likes to fill up and plastic is incredibly difficult to sand. Even if you manage to get your paint job to work, it just never seems to last. A dropped pen here, a scuff there…

Since leaving the plastic bare just screams ugly, many people just resigned themselves to a long and difficult process of painting, knowing it will eventually fade, crack and chip.

Low and behold, a product to cure the dilemma of "ugly case syndrome"! Vinyl dye.

Vinyl Dye Background

Vinyl dye is a type of paint that is used primarily on plastics. The theory is that the dye is thin enough to seep into the plastic and colour it, rather than covering over its surface. The benefits of this are that it won't chip, scratch, or peel. It also means that you do not need to sand, or to use a primer. This is because you are staining the plastic, rather than hiding it.

This method will also leave surface impressions visible, such as lettering cut in CD-ROM drives, and deep scratches. It won't fill them like paint.

Another nice feature is that some colours will allow printed markings to show through. Such as the lettering on a drive bezel or markings you've made yourself. The key is to be creative. These markings do not always show through, so it's best to test on a scrap piece of plastic. The lighter the colour, the more the markings will show. I do know that red and white don't conceal markings, while blue and black will mask said markings.

How to Apply Vinyl Dye

First of all, if you are going to dye something that is coloured black, or some other relatively dark colour, you need a white vinyl dye as well as your coloured dye. If you try to apply a colour to black, you simply get a black piece that is tinted in the colour that you were shooting for. It works like you were trying to dye a black t-shirt red. You can't use red dye on a black t-shirt, you have to use bleach to make it white, and then you can dye it red. So use the white dye to get a light grey colour, and then apply your colour coat.

Fortunately, vinyl dye is newbie proof, for the most part, unlike spray paint. Since priming, clear coat, and sanding are eliminated, the process is pretty strait forward and quite simple.

The dye is extremely useful for all plastic parts including: bezels, drive covers, CD-ROM faceplates, floppy faceplates, buttons, fan housings, monitors, case feet, and pretty much anything made from plastic.

Painting Timeline

Piece to be painted:

o On the first coat lightly spray the entire piece down until you have approximately 75% coverage:

o Wait five minutes, second coat; spray the piece until you can no longer see the original colour. Wait for another ten minutes.

o Third coat, spray down any area that is discoloured, or still shows the original colour, and then lightly spray down the entire piece. Wait ten minutes:

The finished product, no sanding, no primer, and no clear coating

o Fourth (optional) coat, repeat Third coat.

Ten minutes after your final coat, and you can handle whatever you were painting. Vinyl dye is dry to the touch in five to ten minutes and fully cured in 12 hours:

*NOTE* The plastic that you were dying could be soft in the first 12 hours. This may happen because some of the thinner that is in the dye could also seep into the plastic, and this causes it to go soft until it cures.

People often panic when they get a run with vinyl dye. It’s a lot easier to do than with paint. If you get runs in the surface don’t try to fix them. Any raised areas in the dye will seep into the plastic over time, and the runs will vanish.

It’s damn near impossible to make a dye job look bad.

Vinyl Dye FAQ

Q: Can vinyl dye be used on metal?

A: It’s not supposed to be, and I really can't recommend using it on metal. I have seen people who used it on metal and have had good luck with it. Try it on a small piece and see if it works for you.

Q: Can I sand vinyl dye?

A: Yes, but you don't have too. People have sanded vinyl dye projects down, but the only thing that I ever got out of sanding was I used more vinyl dye. The manufacturer states, directly on the can, that you should not sand dyed objects.

Q: Where can I buy vinyl dye?

A: Just about any automotive store should carry it. Mitre 10 and some other hardware stores carry limited selections of it.

Q: My vinyl dye has runs in the surface, how do I fix them?

A: Don't. Any raised areas in the dye will seep into the plastic over time, and the runs will vanish.

Q: I have a crack in my dye, how do I fix it?

A: Simply reapply the vinyl dye. Chances are that you didn't shake the can long enough and it wasn't mixed well, or your air temperatures changed suddenly right after you finished painting.

Q: Do I have to use a primer?

A: No, if you do the dye will not be able to adhere and needless to say it won't look very good.

Q: I have painted something in the past; can I sand the paint off and apply vinyl dye?

A: Nope, using paint fills all the little holes in the plastic, and the dye can't stain the plastic.

Q: Is vinyl dye glossy?

A: Well, it depends on your definition of glossy. It's not a dull finish, but it doesn't have an automotive gloss either. It looks just like plastic that came out of the factory in that colour. Kind of like your dashboard when it’s new.

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