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Can You Dye PLA Filament? 3 Things To Know

3D printing is revolutionizing multiple industries because of its accessibility, ease of use, and environmentally friendly solutions. It’s possible to paint your 3D printed parts after you print them, but have you ever wanted to change the color of your PLA filament before you use it to print? Thankfully, you can. 

You can dye PLA filament. The dyeing process works best with liquid Rit Dye because it’s safe for PLA’s components. You must dye PLA filament at proper temperatures to maintain its structural integrity and achieve balanced color. Dyeing PLA won’t harm the filament or your 3D printer. 

Dyeing your PLA filament is a game-changer for those who want to be creative with their 3D printing. With a virtually endless supply of dye colors, you can make your filament in just about any color you want. So, let’s talk about how you can add a splash of color to your 3D prints

What Is PLA Filament?

PLA, which stands for Polylactic Acid, is one of the most popular filament materials used in 3D printing. 

PLA filament is a thermoplastic made from biodegradable sources such as sugar cane, corn or potato starch, and tapioca roots. Therefore, PLA is much better for the environment than traditional sources like petroleum because it is renewable. 

Because PLA filament is environmentally friendly, it is one reason 3D printing is becoming a popular production method. 

Most people with extrusion-based 3D printers prefer PLA filament because it doesn’t require a heated bed so that you can print it at low temperatures. PLA is also: 

  • Economical 
  • Easy to use  
  • Highly versatile 

You can use it to print many different types of products and designs, making it perfect for users who are new to 3D printing. PLA filament is generally shiny and smooth, and when printed, it produces a sweet fragrance. It is non-toxic and breaks down quickly after use. 

What Is the Best Dye for PLA Filament?

When dyeing PLA filament, it’s best to use liquid dyes. 

Rit Liquid Dye is the best dye for PLA filament and other synthetic products. It’s been tested by various users and is one of the most popular dyes for PLA and other plastics. 

This Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dye from Amazon.com is excellent for dying PLA filament. It’s available in at least five colors, but a quick search will get you pretty much any color under the sun. It’s perfect for dyeing various fibers and fabric types, and it’s available in liquid or powder form. 

If you don’t have access to liquid dye, you can also use powders to dye your PLA filament. 

If you opt for a powder, look for products designed for synthetic fibers because they will work best with the PLA filament. One of the most popular examples of synthetic fabric is nylon, so check the label of any dye and see if it’s nylon-compatible. You can look for other examples of synthetic materials such as polyester, acetate, and acrylic. 

If Rit Dye is unavailable, be sure to test your dye product before you dye the entire PLA filament. Before working on a large amount of filament, use a small amount of filament and test to see: 

  • How much dye you will need. 
  • How concentrated it needs to be. 
  • How much time it will take to achieve the perfect color.
  • The water temperature you need to dye it.

The colors can vary depending on the amount of dye you use and the time you allow the filament to soak. Always perform a practice test first for a more consistent color. You might also want to take notes to ensure that you can achieve the same color time and time again.

How Do You Dye PLA Filament?

Dyeing PLA is easy, and anyone can do it in just a day or less. 

To dye PLA filament, you’ll need to: 

  1. Gather your materials. 
  2. Start by boiling your dye in water.
  3. Let the dye mixture cool. 
  4. Dry your filament. 

So, let’s walk through these steps together!

Gather Your Materials

Gather all your materials before you attempt to dye PLA filament. 

You will need: 

  • Rit Dye (or another dye type) 
  • PLA filament 
  • Water 
  • Thermometer 
  • Stove 
  • Pot 
  • Drying rack 
  • Gloves (optional) 

Start by Boiling Your Dye in Water

Because dying synthetic materials can be more complicated than dyeing natural fibers, you need to dilute your dye in hot water. Raising the temperature will allow the dye to soak into the filament, giving it a permanent stain. 

So, you can dilute your dye by boiling it in hot water. 

Be sure to stir it occasionally so that the dye completely dissolves, especially when using a powder. Boil the mixture for about five minutes. Use more pigment with less water for a more concentrated color. If you don’t want your color to be as vibrant, use more water to dilute the stain. 

This process is where testing your filament beforehand becomes essential. 

For a more potent concentration, aim for about three teaspoons (15 ml) of your dye of choice with about 1.25 cups (310 ml) of water. For a weaker concentration, use a half teaspoon (2.5 ml) of liquid dye with the identical 1.25 cups (310 ml) of water. Adjust your coloring and water ratio as needed to achieve your desired color and pigmentation. 

Let the Dye Mixture Cool

After achieving your desired concentration, let the mixture cool to about 160 to 180°F (71 to 82°C).

Use your thermometer to check the water’s temperature. The water still needs to be relatively hot when placing the PLA filament in it. 

Be sure not to keep the PLA filament inside the mixture if the temperature is above 180°F (82°C) because it can damage the PLA’s structural integrity if left in such high temperatures for too long. 

Immerse the filament in the dye for around 30 minutes. Don’t leave the filament unattended, but be sure to stir the mixture often to achieve the best look. The filament tends to float to the top of the water, and leaving it there will result in an uneven distribution of color. 

multiple color filaments

Dry Your Filament

After you dye the PLA filament for 30 minutes, set it out in a safe place to dry. Make sure to put it in a quiet location and let it sit for several hours or until dry. 

If you’re using a drying rack, be sure to set some rags underneath it to catch any drippings. You can place the filament on newspaper or other safe surfaces while it dries. 

Then, be sure to dehydrate your PLA before you feed it into your printer to ensure that your print turns out solid and flawless.

Final Thoughts

PLA filament is easy to dye. Because PLA filament contains plant starches, the color will bind to it and remain permanent. Liquid Rit Dye works best with PLA filament. However, you can use other dyes if they are available. Just make sure you test them first to ensure they work well with your PLA filament. 

Follow the proper safety precautions to properly dye your PLA filament so that you achieve your desired color and maintain the filament’s structural integrity. Be sure to test the dye first to find out what concentration you need to get the color you want.