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Vinyl Free Dyes: The Fade —#TheGopherProject

For this week’s edition of #TheGopherProject, we are going to visit how to do some dyes with nothing but things you may have around the house (or can easily purchase). While elaborate dye jobs can be great, there is also something that is pretty rad about a simple fade. Back in the day before vinyl cutters, you had either vinyl numbers and letters you had to buy from the hardware store or hand cut them out of electrical tap. E-Lacrosse was the hotbed of how tutorials on this before TLF. Max McCool was THE early pioneer of these dyes and still someone to go to for advice. Of course, a new generation of phenomenal dyers is out there but here, we are going to start with an instant classic dye… ‘The Fade’. And, it’s one of those completely vinyl free dyes!


Last week, #TheGopherProject featured Robin Brown (@laxtractive) who showed us her single twist pita pocket. Learn how to string that masterpiece here.


So, let’s start, here is what you are going to need:

  1. Parents’ permission….
  2. A large pot and lid that you can fully submerge a head in.  Note, this needs to be dedicated to dyes moving forward, you don’t want to cook in this after.
  3. A white head.  As I mentioned in the mailbag, if you use a colored head, you can only dye darker than the current color of the head.  
  4. Dye.  I will be using Laxdip but use any dye you prefer.  
  5. Citric Acid (needed for Laxdip)
  6. Vinyl or Rubber Gloves (you do not want stained hands)
  7. Rags….clean-up is a must
  8. Stainless steel sink (to pour out the dye).  
  9. Proper ventilation (either an exhaust hood fan or do it outside)
  10. Cleaning supplies  

Before we begin, just a quick reminder.  Not all heads will take dye the same way.  Some may take longer to get the color you prefer and there may be areas of discoloration do to injection molding sites.  

This Week’s Vinyl Free Dye

The Fade  

Just as it sounds, the fade is a gradual transition from one color to the next.  

Step 1:

Let’s decide if you are going to do a throat up fade or scoop down (even both where the mid one-third of the head is white.   For this example, we are going to do a throat up fade. For this week we’ll be using the True Key.

vinyl free dyes the fade #thegopher project

Step 2:  

Clean the head… ‘Why?’ you may ask. ‘I just bought it and it’s brand new?!’ Simple, even new heads need to be cleaned.  Sticker residue, grease, someone trying to claim dibs by licking the head, can all leave deposits that will impact the dye area.  You can remove the ballstop (it’s really just for aesthetics these days anyway) if you want the entire area dyed and cleaner. After everything is removed, I like to use goof off and a rag to wipe down the entire head (even the part I am not dyeing).   I then rinse with soap and warm water and dry.

vinyl free dyes the fade #thegopher project

Step 3:  

Plan out the fade.  Doing this will allow for you to get a clean zone across the head and not a lopsided dye.  Take a ruler or straight edge and with a pencil, make a line of where you want the fade to begin.   Now, this is the line we will do the initial dip in the dye.

Note from Future Self: Make sure to measure that the water line in the pot is at or higher pencil level before bringing to a boil.

vinyl free dyes the fade #thegopher project

Step 4:

Start water and turn exhaust fan on.  As the water is boiling take time to set up the rags.  Keep a couple on hand to hold the head and cover it as you remove it from the dye.  Lay the rest on the counter to avoid splashes.

Step 5:  

Bring the water to the right temperature as listed on the dye’s instructions. There are only really three companies (LaxDip, RIT, and Throne) and all have different instructions.  Follow them….

Step 6:

Water is ready!  Add the dye and stir in order to make sure there are no clumps.  Turn down the water so it won’t spit dye up the head where you don’t want it.  If you notice this, quickly remove head and run water on it.

Tip– Remember that the head will darken after it’s dyed.  If you cool the head down and still want it darker, you can always re-dip.  The dye will remain “active” until it has cooled. If it does cool, simply turn the heat back up and wait until the water is the proper temperature.

Step 7:

Put the gloves on and dip the head in the water until you hit the pencil lines on both sides and then raise a few inches.  From here on out, slowly dip the head in the dye while holding the head out of the water higher in higher. You want the pencil line to be only dipped once or twice while the areas lower to be to be in the dye longer.  This will allow the gradient to be darker down to the throat. When you have the desired effect on the sidewalls, dip the ball-stop to throat area for another minute. This will leave this area the darkest and showcase the fade.

Note Not Followed by Future Self: You’ll see the pencil line sat above the water line of the pot.  You can either add more water and bring to temp or gently rock the head from side to side at the beginning to get to that line.

Step 8:  

Remove head from the dye, rinse, and place in freezer for five minutes.

Step 9:

Is the head the desired color?  Great, wipe down with goo gone and rewash, you are done.

vinyl free dyes the fade #thegopher project

Step 10:  

Clean up. This is the most important part, get your parents help if needed. Carefully and slowly pour the dye down the drain. Rinse the pot and place aside (on a rag).  Then clean any area that was near the dye process.

Step 11:  

Allow for the head to completely dry, string, and go hit the wall.

There you have it! In our next vinyl free dyes article, we’ll tackle a slightly more challenging dye — the Galaxy Dye!

Have any questions about our vinyl free dyes? Want to suggest a topic for us to cover? Use the hashtag #TheGopherProject on social media and tag @LaxAllStars and @GopherLax5 in the post for your questions to be answered! Share your creations with us!

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