Have you ever wanted to put your own design on one of your favorite discs? Sometimes the stock stamps are great, but other times you have your own idea and want to show it off. There are plenty of YouTube videos out there of people teaching you to dye your own discs, but we caught up with dyeing professional, Adam Hassett of Sweet Hat! Disc Supply, to teach us all a thing or two about dyeing the right way.
Before we get to the tutorial, we asked Adam a few questions to get a feel for his background, history with dyeing, and plans for Sweet Hat.
All Things Disc Golf: Tell us a bit about how you got into disc golf and how you started your dyeing career.
Adam Hassett: I started playing disc golf about five years ago. Newton Hill DGC had just been built across the street from where I lived, and there was an article in the newspaper about it’s construction. It sounded like fun, and before I knew it I was up there for three rounds a day playing with a beach frisbee. One of those rounds, a bunch of players stopped me and handed off a disc golf disc for me to play with. I promptly lost it about fifteen holes or so later, but the love affair was born. (Whoever gave me that disc- thanks!) I went out the next day and bought myself some actual disc golf discs, and I’ve been playing ever since.
The person who was the driving force behind the construction of Newton Hill, Jason Southwick, was also the person who got me into dyeing discs professionally. I had seen pictures of disc dyes online and got into it casually, hand-cutting my own designs. Marshall Street Disc Golf owned a vinyl cutter which several people had tried and failed to get working, and Jason offered to sell discs I dyed at Marshall Street if I could get it up and running. Three years later, we’re still selling dyes. It’s the literal truth that I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for Jason Southwick’s involvement in disc golf. (Thanks, Jay!)
All Things Disc Golf: What plastics take dye overall? What are the best for dyeing?
Adam Hassett: The general rule of thumb as far as which discs will dye is that the higher quality (and cost) of the plastic, the better it will dye. Innova Star or Champion would probably be the most familiar to people, but most companies these days have a premium plastic or two which will take dye. Discs that won’t dye are the low-cost plastics, like DX plastics.
For the best discs to dye, it’s a draw between MVP Discs’ Neutron plastic, and Latitude 64’s Gold Line plastic. Colors appear very bright on both of them, and it takes a very long time before the dye starts to fade. Dyes on MVP’s Neutron appear very sharp, clean, and bright, while Gold Line plastic often has this beautiful natural pearliness to it.
All Things Disc Golf: What’s your favorite dye that you’ve done in the past?
Adam Hassett: My favorite dye wouldn’t even be one of my more complicated ones. I dyed Ron Jeremy’s face onto a Latitude 64 XXX, and had him sign it while he was in town promoting his brand of rum. He had me send him one, and somewhere out in disc golf land is a third one.
All Things Disc Golf: What are you plans for the future of Sweet Hat! Disc Supply?
Adam Hassett: Short term, we just launched our website, sweethatdiscsupply.com, which is going to make it a lot easier for customers to get in touch with us, and will hopefully increase the visibility of what we do.
The long term plans for Sweet Hat are to become not just a disc dyeing company, but a disc golf services company. Anyone who’s reading this article is aware of how fast disc golf has grown over the past few years, and as more players continue to get into the sport, there’s going to be room for businesses who are able to provide an ‘all-in-one’ stop for course construction, improvement, and event planning.
Beginning in that direction this summer we’ll be offering tee sign design, which is something I’m quite excited about. Courses that sell advertising on these signs can turn them into substantial money makers, while also improving aesthetics and course navigation.
All Things Disc Golf: Do you have information on the contest you’re running with this article?
Adam Hassett: Yes! We’ll be giving away the All Things Disc Golf dyed MVP Neutron Tangent that you see in the article to one lucky winner. To five other people, we’ll send off one of our custom dyed MVP Nano minis. To enter, just go to the contest page and enter your name and e-mail. If you’d like, fill out the short survey while you’re there, which is entirely optional. (We aren’t after and don’t store your personal information! We just want to know our customers a bit better.)
We’d like to thank Hassett for taking the time to answer some questions. He’s got a lot of experience with dyeing and we’re excited to learn a bit from him! If you want to learn how to dye like a pro, keep reading for Hassett’s tutorial!
Disc Golf Dyeing Tutorial
In this article I’ll show two methods for dyeing discs, stencil and shaving cream. Each method can be done independently, but I’m going to combine them to create the final product. For both methods, you’ll need a disc, obviously: Cheap, DX style plastics don’t dye. In general, the opaque plastics like Star and Gold Line, and transparent plastics like Champion and Opto Line take dye. The shaving cream method doesn’t work all that well on the transparent discs- if you’re looking to do that, go with the opaque.
The Tools of the Trade
- Acetone– This strips the stamps off of stock discs. Make sure to use this in a well-ventilated area.
- Vinyl Paper– You may be more familiar with this as bumper sticker paper. I use Oracal 651, but if you’re just getting started, I recommend Oracal 631, which is slightly thicker and more forgiving of mistakes. You can either get this as scrap from a sign shop, or purchase a small roll of it (30’x24”) for about twenty dollars, which will be more than you’ll ever need (until you start a dyeing company). Pick a light color, as you’ll want to be able to see through it.
- iDye Poly– There are two kinds of iDye: normal, and poly. The poly is engineered to soak into plastics. DO NOT buy the normal; it doesn’t work. If you’re lucky, an arts and crafts store or a fabrics store near you will carry it, but you’ll likely have an easier time finding this online.
- X-Acto Knife– Purchase a few extra blades, because you’re going to snap the tips off of these. Spend the few extra dollars and get an X-Acto knife with a rubber grip, which will feel much more comfortable in your hand and be easier to work with.
- Needlepoint Tweezers– You’ll use these to peel the vinyl off once you’re done with the X-Acto knife.
- Painters’ Tape– You’ll use these to peel the vinyl off once you’re done with the X-Acto knife.
- A Gift Card (or something similar)– This is used to get small bubbles out from under the stencil, as you’ll see.
- Goo-Gone– The vinyl paper leaves a gooey residue behind when you peel it off; this stuff cleans that right up. You can find it at most hardware stores.
- An 8″ + diameter Cooking Pot
Shaving Cream Dyeing
- iDye Poly
- Mixing Bowl
- Plates– Need to be big enough to hold a disc
- Skewers– These are used for stirring the shaving cream and tracing designs. You can use anything long and pointed.
- Shaving Cream– This holds the dye in position while it soaks into the disc.
- Syringe– You can get these at a pharmacy, usually behind the counter. Ask for the type of syringe that you’d use to squirt medicine in a baby’s mouth.
- Something hard-eyed like a ruler
Setting up the Dye (needed for both methods of dyeing)
To get started, mix up your iDye. It comes in dissolvable packets, and I mix one liter of water to one packet of iDye. I add a couple of drops of dish soap into the mixture, to reduce surface tension on the dye and help prevent air bubbles from forming.
Pour some acetone into a bit of toilet paper and wipe off the stamp on top of the disc. I don’t use paper towels, because those are just slightly too abrasive and can scuff the disc. Also, try to avoid rainbow stamps; unless the disc is fresh out of the factory, these tend to soak into the disc and leave an ugly, yellow-colored stain behind once removed. If you’re just doing a shaving cream dye, this part isn’t necessary, but make sure to rub down the disc well with toilet paper beforehand. The reason for this is that oil from people’s hands will be all over the surface of the disc, keeping the water-based dye from making contact.
Part I: Stencil Dyeing
Before anything else, the overall rule for dyeing discs: go slow. Almost all of the mistakes you can make dyeing a disc are as a result of trying to move too quickly. Take your time and you’ll get better results.
Start by choosing your design (in this case, the All Things Disc Golf logo). I have a vinyl cutter which saves an enormous amount of work for me, but the way you’ll be starting is by hand-cutting. Print out a black-and-white image of the design you want, and cut off a 12”x12” piece of vinyl. Place the image underneath (you may want to use painters’ tape to hold them in place), and start tracing the edges of the design with the X-Acto knife. You’re looking to apply enough pressure to pierce the vinyl, but not the paper backing to the vinyl. This isn’t critical, but will make things easier when you go to transfer the stencil to the disc.
What you may find helpful in this is a lightbox. If you really want you can purchase them from an art supply store, but I built one out of a cheap glass garden table I found at a yard sale and a light bulb. This will make the image appear much brighter under the vinyl, and give you an easier time tracing. In the pictures you see me using black vinyl- I use that since I have a machine that cuts it for me, but if you’re cutting by hand I recommend getting white, transparent, or some other light color.
Once all of the outlines have been traced, it’s time for weeding. All of the areas that we want to be dyed, we’re going to take off. Use the needlepoint tweezers to pull off the vinyl. Be careful not to let the sticky side of the vinyl you’re removing fall on your stencil! If you do this, it will stick, you won’t be able to remove it, and you’ll have to start over from scratch. Remember the rule- go slow.
With all of the weeding done and our stencil ready, it’s time to prepare it to be placed on the disc. Cover the weeded parts with painters’ tape. This provides a backing material and keeps the stencil in the shape it’s in once we remove the paper backing. Flip the stencil over so it’s paper side up, and rub down the back so that the painters’ tape firmly contacts the vinyl. Slowly remove the paper from the vinyl, watching for any bits of vinyl that are still sticking to the paper and not the painters’ tape. If they are, press the paper back down over the painters’ tape where it isn’t sticking, and try again. Go until you’ve got all the paper removed, and you’ll be left with your stencil, ready to be placed on the disc.
You’ll see on my worktable the black centering lines that I have. Center your stencil over that, then using both hands to keep the disc steady, lower it flat onto the stencil, starting from the middle. Once you touch the vinyl with the disc, do not try to remove it to re-center it. It doesn’t work and you’re going to end up ruining your design. (If you’re using Oracal 631 instead of 651, you may be able to get away with this.) Press down on the edges of the disc, so that the stencil adheres itself to all of the disc, and wrap the vinyl edges tightly around the sides of the disc. With the stencil firmly attached to the disc, slowly start peeling off the painters’ tape. As with the paper backing on the vinyl, if you notice vinyl sticking to the tape and not the disc, go back and try to make it stick.
Once all your painters’ tape is off, you’re almost ready to dye the disc. Before you do, take a hard-edged card- an old gift card or credit card works perfectly- and rub the places where the cut vinyl meets the weeded areas. What you’re trying to do is get rid of any stray air bubbles that will inevitably form between your stencil and the disc. When you place the disc in the dye, the dye will get into these air bubbles, causing ugly looking bleeds. You don’t have to remove all the air bubbles- just the ones that are near an edge.
With this done, you’re ready to place your disc in the dye. Put your iDye Poly mixture on the stove, and heat it to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (Too hot, and you’ll create an ugly looking heat rash on the undyed parts of the disc- plus risk warping your disc and turning it into a dog toy. Too cold, and you’ll get less vibrant colors that take much longer to set onto the disc.) Place the disc in the dye at a slight angle- air bubbles (which show up as undyed parts of the disc) will get trapped between the disc and the dye as you place it in, and you’re trying to push those out from the edges of the disc. You’ll probably get a couple of these anyways; you can mitigate this by taking your dye out of the pot after a couple minutes, rinsing it off, and placing it back in.
Depending on what color you’re using and how bright you’re looking to get the design, this can take anywhere from five seconds to ten minutes. Red is the color which dyes the quickest; the others dye at about the same rate. Once you’ve checked it and you’ve seen all the dye has taken, you can peel off the vinyl and you’ll have your dyed disc! However, for this article we’re only going to peel off some of the vinyl, and dye that part using the Shaving Cream Method.
Intermission: Goo-Gone Time
Peeling off the vinyl leaves this sticky, gooey residue on the topside of the disc. To remove that, we’ll use Goo-Gone. First, rinse the top of the disc off as well as you can with water- you can even rub the top down with a sponge. The reason for this is that even after you rinse off all the dye, a small dye-type film clings to the disc. Goo-Gone will strip that off and rub it onto other parts of the disc, creating smears and blurs. Rinse your disc off and give it about an hour to sit. Spray some Goo-Gone onto the disc (about ten drops worth is enough), and rub it onto all of the spots with residue. Give the Goo-Gone a few seconds to penetrate, and the residue will rub right off with your thumb or a piece of toilet paper. With this done, wash the Goo-Gone off the disc and you’re ready for Part II.
Part II: Shaving Cream Dyeing
You can do this part without doing a stencil dye as in Part I, or without removing the stamp from the disc. However, make sure to wipe down the disc first with toilet paper or something similar to remove any leftover oils from people’s hands. Otherwise, you’ll end up with undyed streaks all over your disc.
To set up, we’re going to mix shaving cream to two different consistencies– one to serve as our base mixture, which holds the disc and dye in place while it absorbs into the disc, and the other to hold our dye. For the Base mixture, you’re going to mix shaving cream with water in the large mixing bowl. There’s no set rule about how much water to how much shaving cream; what you’re looking to create is a mixture which will pour easily out of your hand, but is still thick enough to form waves and peaks instead of spreading into a pool. Add water or shaving cream and mix them together until you get this result. For the Dye mixture, put a little bit of shaving cream into each of the cups, then add a small amount of the iDye Poly. You won’t need much- a couple tablespoons is plenty for half a cup of shaving cream. Stir this mixture together really well until the dye is blended evenly into the shaving cream.
Take the Base mixture and pour enough of it into one of the plates to fill it. Use your cardboard flap to spread the shaving cream over the plate, scraping some of it off the sides to create a flat surface of shaving cream. This is what we’ll be placing our dye mix on top of, and doing this creates a smooth contact surface for that.
With this done, use the syringe and start spreading your dye mix. You can lay out patterns such as yin-yang symbols or peace signs if you’d like, but what I’ve done for this disc is spread each color out at random. You can then use a bamboo skewer (or something similarly long and pointed) to trace lines and swirls into your design. Here, I’ve used one to spread the shaving cream outwards into a starburst pattern. When you’re happy with how your dye is laid down, place the disc onto the plate at a slight angle, to minimize any air bubbles that get trapped underneath. Once the disc is on the plate, give it a slight push downwards to make sure your dye mixture is contacting the entire disc. It takes at least a couple hours for this mix to set in, and the longer you leave it, the bolder your colors will be.
With this done, rinse off your shaving cream mixture and you’re finished! If you’re doing this in combination with a stencil dye, remove any leftover vinyl and go through the Goo-Gone process again to get rid of any clinging residue.
Thanks for reading along, everyone! We hope that Adam’s tutorial will help you come up with some creative designs for your discs. A huge thank you to Adam who will be giving away the disc he designed for the article. To enter, click the link http://www.sweethatdiscsupply.com/contest and submit your name and email address. Good luck to everyone and happy dyeing!