Being able to color or dye resin opens our imaginations and allows us to create more depth in our projects. Clear resin makes our art shine while giving it more dimension, but color brings us a whole new world of possibilities and excitement.
While it may seem like there is an endless number of options to color or dye resin, it is best to start with the supplies you have on hand to learn the technique. Once you have an understanding of how resin works with color, then you can invest in and explore other options.
I have created a video on coloring resin and I thought it would be helpful to share it with you so that you can learn from my experience. In this video, I use 10 different methods to color and dye clear epoxy resin.
Coloring and dyeing resin is a simple and easy process. Follow the directions provided by the resin manufacturer as you mix the resin. Once mixed, you can then add the desired color into the mix. The rule of thumb is to add no more than 5% color to the clear resin or 1-part color to 20 parts resin. Once done, stir thoroughly.
Products you need to color or dye resin
It is best to use products that you already have at home to learn how to color or dye resin. Most crafters’ closets are full of hidden treasures. I recommend purchasing color options that you do not have on hand once you have practiced coloring resin and understand the process.
Here’s a list of what you can use to color resin:
- Acrylic paints
- Mica powders
- Alcohol Inks
- Kitchen spices
- Food coloring
- Pigment powders
- Rit Dye powders
- Pearl X powders
- Air Brush paint
- Resin tints
Only a small amount of product is used for coloring, so don’t worry if there is only a small amount on hand. The phrase “less is more” is true when coloring or dying resin.
Other supplies needed to color or dye resin
You will need:
- Clear resin that is not fast curing. You want a resin that will give you more time to work. Some popular brands are Pro Marine Resin and Art Resin and you can’t go wrong with either of those.
- A plastic table covering. Plastic trash bags will work just fine for this.
- 3 cups at a minimum – You will need 2 cups to mix the resin, and a cup for each color you choose to use.
- Popsicle sticks, or other small sticks – you will need one stick per color.
Remember, resin is toxic, and it is important to be cautious and take the steps needed to be safe. It is recommended to color or dye resin in a well-ventilated area. Using proper safety measures now will allow you to enjoy this craft for years to come!
Best surfaces to use colored or dyed resin on
Once you start to work and experiment with resin, you will find that some surfaces take to the resin better than others. Canvas, tiles, old vinyl records, ply-wood boards, cradled birch wood, wood cutting boards, and resin molds all work well with resin.
A very popular surface to use colored or dyed resin on is wood. While I have not experimented with wood I have seen some amazing results online.
The resin brings out the natural grain in the wood and gives it a shine that is hard to duplicate with other products. The combination of the colored resin and the natural characteristics of wood make this a popular surface to use.
How to color and dye resins – a step by step tutorial
- It is important to protect the surface of your table with plastic sheeting or even a plastic trash bag. Ensure there are no holes in it before placing it on your table.
- Select the coloring additives you would like to use and place them on the table.
- Have some loose paper towels available in an easy to grab location on the table in case of any potential accidents.
- Put on your gloves and your respirator. Open any windows, if possible, to assist with ventilation.
- Mix your resin according to the directions provided by the manufacturer.
- Divide your resin into smaller containers.
- Add the color additive to each container. You will use a very small amount of color: 1-part color to 20 parts resin or less than 5% of the amount of resin in your container.
- Mix thoroughly. You will be stirring a lot. Scrape the sides of the container, the bottom of the container and scrape your stir stick occasionally. Powders can take a little longer to mix so it is important to be patient.
Common mistakes people make coloring resin (and how to avoid those mistakes)
Working with resin is an advanced technique that requires patience. It does take some practice and trials to see how resin reacts and how it works with additives. Not all resins are created to be colored. Look for a resin that is in a 2-part system and that has a long work time.
A common mistake people make is not mixing the resin thoroughly before adding the color. Each manufacturer has precise directions on how to mix the resin. If you do not follow these directions the resin will not cure properly and you will end up with a sticky mess.
Also, make sure you are measuring the clear resin properly or it will not cure. Resin usually comes in two parts, Part A and Part B. It is a very common mistake to “eyeball” the measurements incorrectly. Read the instructions provided by the manufacturer for the best results.
Lastly, make sure that you are not using too much color. Resin is a chemical and if you add more than 5% color to the resin or more than 1-part color to 20-parts resin then you are changing how the resin will react and cure. In most cases, using too much color will create a sticky mess before you even get the chance to use it in your projects.
Tips and tricks for coloring and dyeing resin
- A small amount of color goes a long way!
- Familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s directions for mixing the clear resin including the safety and application direction. In order to color resin successfully you need to make sure the resin is mixed properly and safely.
- It is best to use a resin that has a longer work time so that you have more time to mix the color. This is especially important if you have several colors you are trying to mix.
- When your project is complete, save the colored resin drippings that are on your plastic table covering. Resin does not stick to plastic when cured so you can peel these drippings off and use them in a fun future project.
- Work in small batches. Even though you may be working with resin that has a long work time, you might find it helpful to work in small batches to color. This ensures that you are not wasting resin if you spend too much time in one area.
Don’t use these to color or dye resin
Try to stay away from Polyurethane resins. These are extremely sensitive to moisture and most likely will be problematic for beginners.
Do not use oil paints to color your resin. Oils paints do not mix well with the resin and in most cases your resin will become a sticky mess before you use it on your project.
Nail polish is not recommended to color resin because of how it reacts with the resin. Nail polish does not want to mix well and can become a lumpy mess, depending on the brand of nail polish. The colors can turn muddy when mixed with other colors and they can change how the resin cures. With so many other alternatives that work well to color resin it is best to stay away from nail polish.
Glitter paint or glitter glue does not work well with resin. It gives the resin a cloudy look that takes away from the sparkle. It is best to use glitter itself, not glitter paint.
Latex paint often has challenges when adding to clear resin. Think of Latex paint as being a plastic paint. Resin and plastic do not play well together. I have been successful with using the Glidden Premium Interior Paint but only if I use less than 5% paint in my resin.
What types of resin can you color and how do they differ?
Choosing which resin to use is a personal preference often guided by ease of use. To understand resin and how it works, here are a few terms that you should familiarize yourself with:
CURE TIME: This is the amount of time that is needed for the resin to finish its process after the initial demolding time. This could be 3-4 weeks or longer depending on your environmental conditions.
POT TIME or WORKING TIME: This is the amount of time that you must work with the resin, including coloring the resin, before it starts to cure.
DEMOLDING TIME: This is the amount of time that is needed for the resin to cure (harden) in the mold or on your canvas before moving it. Your resin will appear to be hard, but this is only one part of the process and it needs more time after this part in order to fully cure.
When selecting the type of resin to use, it is important to understand the qualities of the product. Be sure to check with the manufacturer’s product guide before using it. I have created this Quick Guide to help you select and understand which resin is best for your needs:
Epoxy Resin is the most common type of resin that is used for crafters due to it being the easiest to work with. This resin type has the most color options that work well. It has a pot time of several minutes, a demolding time of approximately 24 hours, and the cure time can range from 24 -72 hours
Polyester Resin can be of interest to crafters because of the initial lower cost, but there is more work required in order for it to be ready for coloring. Since this type of resin is used mostly for clear casting, this type of resin is also limited to what you can use to color it. Resin colorants and Castin Craft pigments are designed to work well with this type of resin. The pot time is 15 – 20 minutes, a demolding time of 20 – 30 minutes, and the cure time ranges from 1 – 24 hours.
Polyurethane Resins are quick curing and have a short work time. While this type of resin does have its own coloring kits it is not recommended for beginner crafters to use because it can be a little picky when color is added to them. It does not work well with acrylic paint or any other water-based colors, but it does work well with Alumilite Dyes and Pearl Ex powders. It has a very short pot time of 8 – 10 minutes, a demolding time of around 12 hours, and it can take approximately 24 hours for the cure time.
You may also find it helpful to review this resin guide. It is filled with more in-depth information including viscosities and food safeties.
COLORING PRODUCT QUICK GUIDE
Here is a quick coloring guide that I have put together to aid you in your projects. Since resin is an expensive product to use, it is best to make up a small sample batch of resin to see how the resin will work with each color option.
- Alcohol Inks can be used with Epoxy, Polyester, and Polyurethane resins.
- Food coloring can be used with Epoxy, Polyester, and Polyurethane resins.
- Glitters can be used with Epoxy, Polyester, and Polyurethane resins.
- Powdered Pigments can be used in Epoxy and Polyurethane resins.
- Pearl Ex Powders can be used in Epoxy and Polyurethane resins.
- Castin Craft Color Pigment can be used in Epoxy and Polyurethane resins.
- Rit Dye (powder) can be used in Epoxy and Polyurethane resins.
- Mica Powders can be used in Epoxy and Polyurethane resins.
- Kitchen spices can be used with Epoxy and Polyurethane resins.
- Aluminite Dyes can be used with Polyurethane resins.
Frequently asked questions about coloring and dyeing resin
- Can I use food coloring in resin? Yes, you can use food coloring in resin, but it does require a lot of mixing. The color is more concentrated than most other options, and it can look “spotty” until thoroughly mixed.
- How much pigment do you put in resin? The rule of thumb is to add no more than 5% color to the clear resin or 1-part color to 20 parts resin. It is best to make a small sample batch using the pigment of your choice to see how it reacts to the resin.
- Can I mix acrylic paint with the resin? Yes, if you use a resin that is not polyurethane resin. Those types of resin are very sensitive to water-based additives. Because acrylic paints are water-based paints you must make sure you use less than the recommended 5% rule. Also, if you use acrylic paint your resin will be more translucent and not opaque along with not having the shiny finish that clear resin has.
- Can I use nail polish to color resin? Yes, but it is not an effective way to add color to the resin before it cures. The results are often ineffective, can be muddy when blending with other colors, and can alter how resin cures. Using nail polish also is not cost-effective for your project. With so many choices to color it may be best not to use this product. Nail polish is effective after resin cures if you brush it on but be advised it will take a few coats to get an opaque look. I like to use gold or silver nail polish on the edges of my resin pieces I pull from molds. This gives a nice, finished look. Here is an experiment I recorded so you can see my process and results:
- Can you color resin with enamel paint? Yes, but you need to make sure you are staying with the 1 to 20 rule or your resin will end up a sticky mess.
- Can you use eye-shadow to color resin? Yes, but make sure that it has not clumped. It must be dry powder with no moisture. It may also require longer mixing times.
- Can I mix coloring additives to create my own colors? Yes! Be sure to practice your color mixing in a smaller amount of resin to ensure you achieve the result you desire. Also, keep a notebook handy so you can write down your recipes for future use.
- How do I dye UV resin? UV resin is a polymer resin that is used for small projects such as jewelry or miniatures. It cures while under an ultraviolet light or using the sun. You can dye UV resin by using all the options that are available to Epoxy Resin. Just remember, a lot goes a long way especially with the smaller projects! Here is a video I found that will help with learning on how to use UV resin:
I hope this information is helpful for you! Please comment below and let me know what your favorite and least favorite resin coloring methods are.
Erika Tenney is the owner and mixed media artist of Desert Hippie Arts. She loves crafting new projects and discovering new ways to enhance her art techniques. Erika loves teaching various methods of acrylic paint pouring during the classes she hosts in Tucson, Arizona, as well as posting videos on her YouTube account.