[3.20.10] Dyeing Printed Circuit Boards

DIY PCB's are wonderful, its an artform any good EE should know. Its great for prototyping, but what about when the prototype is the final product?

Dingy pale brown material isnt terribly attractive

How Much
Components How To Results IMAGE DIRECTORY

Edit: Check out the a pcbdying project by Aaron Alai, good work!   http://www.aaronalai.com/pcb-board-dyeing
How much is this gonna cost me? Image/ Media
Very cheap, I used RIT dye, a common product available at most food stores, used for dyeing clothes. A standard package of dye is good for coloring a washing machine full of clothes. After modifying the instructions a bit, you can dye your pcb just the same.
I used 'DARK Green' however, something lighter might work better, more colors will be posted soon

Total cost, less than $3   ($1.40 for the dye, $1.50 for the SOBE drink)

What Do I Need  Image/ Media
RIT DYE / Powerful Clothing DYE:

(image above is of rit dye container. They are available at food stores
(price chopper / wegmans / whatnot). This was in the Tea isle. Its generally used for dying large batches of clothes. Its a salt-based mixture, that is safe for a washing machine.

(I mixed it in an erlenhymer flash, for the sake of science)

A Glass Contiainer that you wont mind ruining: I used a SOBE Bottle

(i was in a rush, and didnt have an appropriate container)
realistically, a large glass jam jar would have worked perfectly.

Other acceptable containers would be glass measuring cups or any other large mouthed glass jar / beaker.  (larger than the size of the pcb)
A Board, I used one that over etched / came out bad

This is a standard etched pcb, on FR4 style material. tandard single sided copper on fiberglass.

Yep it came out bad. I know. Keep in mind, this was a test :)
A Hot Plate / something that can heat to 200 F

(heater plate is below)

Doing this on a stove that food is cooked on, or will be cooked on, isnt advisible. The dye isnt terribly dangerous, but it can bubble over and leave odd marks.
Also, its best to heat in a ventelated area. The cardboard was to shield if any spillage happened.
String / Wire / Safety Goggles
[image not needed]

How to pull it off in under 2 hours  Image/ Media
Get a container thats expendable, preferably a glass one.  Jam Jars would be great

If you dont have one, make one, if you do have one, skip ahead
I didnt have one that a pcb would fit in, so i made one.
Here's how to cut a Sobe Bottle. Score around bottle with a dremel


BREAK THE BOTTLE (WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES) then heat treat the edges.

heat treating, melts the top edge just a bit, enough to prevent fractures later on.

Just use a recycled jam jar if you have one.
You now have some kinda expendable glass container, now mix the dye packet into some warm water

i mixed half of the packet into ~300ml of warm water (heated from a microwave)

So it was basically SUPER concentrated Dye mix.
Wear appropriate splash prevention gear (goggles / lab coat / gloves)
Also, make sure to have Ventilation!
Next up, heat the solution and stir it. My hot plate has a stirring rod function (which is awesome) if you dont have one, just dye it longer and agitate it every few minutes. If you've got a non-contact thermometer, you want the solution to be nearly boiling. Boiling results in bubbling, and bubbling overflowing dye is A MESS avoid overheating at all costs.

This image was at 179.9 F, eventiually it got to 200F.   WEAR GOGGLES
So at this point, you have a hot Dye Solution, time to insert your PCB!

Tye a wire / string to your pcb,

try to avoid taping the wire to it, as the tape will melt off.
Wait an hour, add water to the mixture regularly, it should be nearly boiling for the whole time.

As a rule of thumb, (longer in the mix = darker, shorter = lighter),

Keep in mind, the substrate started as pale / dark brown, lighter colored dyes (pink / whatnot) will come out odd.  I left mine in for an hour and 39 minutes,
(i lost track of time doing a hw assignment)

Before / After  Before After
First off, the board i used was over-etched.  The Dying was a test, to determine if the fiberglass pcb would absorb Dark Green RIT Dye,


UPDATE [4.5.10] Crimson PCB Dyeing
Process Before
Using the same dyeing procedures, another pcb that was left over (over etched / under exposed) was dyed crimson red. total cost <2$, time = less than 2 hours.

More info about the Crimson Dye used 
More Crimson PCB

More Before / After images will be posted soon

(There's other photos in the photo gallery)
Concluding Remarks:

I was actually suprised this worked. I will test out different colors later this week, i would surmise darker colors would work better than lighter ones
Finally, find an appropriate container. Chances are you have something appropriate, dont use broken glass bottles, they can be dangerous.

Otherwise, if you try this, and it works out, send me a picture, i'd love to see what you come up with!

The origional idea stemmed from a combination of Arron Allai's work on his business card and some video documentation from
Check out Aaron's work

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(be careful, im not responsible for your newly died clothes / shoes /  skin)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 
Electrical & Electrical Power