Dye Mac Dye!

Fabric dye is one of those products where it keeps popping up for unintended uses, we have seen it coloring printed circuit boards, and now a Macintosh computer? [The Brain]’s project to add a little color to his Macbook has been done before, but he chooses to do it in a different way, which comes down to a little bit of sandpaper.

You could go ahead and dye the Macbook plastics as is, but that thick layer of glossy plastic is going to take much more time to penetrate and its going to resist taking the color, so it might end up splotchy. The simple solution to this is to just sand off the gloss, that way the color has much less of a barrier to dye the plastic. Once the protective gloss shell is sanded away and cleaned throughly, Rit brand fabric dye is added to a pan of water and set on the stove to boil.

While most of the case plastics are thick and tough enough to withstand some heat, care does need to be taken when dealing with thin soft parts like the display bezel. After about 45 min the parts are dyed and popping with super bright orange color in record time.

37 thoughts on “Dye Mac Dye!

  1. now he should take some industrial acrylic sealant and buff it over the case to give it that shine again. color looks great in the pics, but the texture makes it look bad IRL I bet. I had a similar excursion with the original wii-mote before colored ones were available. The sandpaper method really is the best and only way to get an even color.

  2. Cool project, but absolutely a waste of time.

    Why go to all that work to reinvent the wheel, when a bit of sanding, priming and painting gives the same result without disassembling and overpriced hunk of hardware or risking damaging components with heat?

  3. No way! I thought of this exact same thing earlier today. Even the same bright yellow color. Nice to know it’s possible. I don’t have the device yet and didn’t know if the case is metal of plastic.

    1. It depends on which Apple you get, the Macbook Pro and Air have a metal casing. The regular Macbook has a plastic casing, but they stopped making the unibody plastic ones in July of 2011.

  4. Nice idea, but I would never use Rit dyes – they are crap and you are limited by their colour pallet. Also, the dye particles are heat sensitive – anything over 115 degrees F will destroy much of the dye, most particularly any of the red components. I dye fabrics as part of my job, and never use Rit as the results are inconsistent.

    If you do want to dye plastic this way, go online and find “fiber reactive dyes”. Rit is one form of fiber reactive dyes, but are formulated in such a way that they don’t work well. Fiber reactive dyes are are relatively inexpensive, easy to use (you will need to also purchase some soda ash), are far more lightfast than Rit. Beware of the heat issue with them though.

    I am not sure what kind of plastic the cover is made from, but it may react even better to acid dyes. These are easier to use than fiber reactive dyes, and there is much less wasted dye at the end of the project – fiber reactive dyes don’t “exhaust” well, acid dyes do. The “acid” used is 1/4 cup of vinegar. These dyes need to be taken up to just under the boiling point and held there for 15 – 20 minutes in order to fully bind with the substrate, but the results are beautiful, rich colours. Acid dyes are the dye of choice for nylon, and may well work with other plastics as well.

      1. I’ve never worked with modacrylic fibers, but I would try the iDye Poly dyes first – it is what I use when dyeing synthetic fibers with the exception of Nylon. You may be able to find iDye Poly dyes at a local Michael’s store, if not, Dharma Trading carries them. They are simple to use: Heat a LARGE pot of water to the boiling point, drop the entire dye package in (it will dissolve), and then add the fabric. Stir and continue to boil for about 20 minutes, then let cool. Rinse/wash the garment and it is ready to wear.

        If that doesn’t work then your last resort is disperse dyes. I have never worked with them, but my understanding is that they are a bit more difficult to us. Prochem is one of the major suppliers of disperse dyes:

        The Rit would not affect the modacrylic as they are formulated to work on cellulose fibers like cotton and rayon. They will also work to a degree on silk, but you will end up with colour shifting as silk is a protein, and will interact/absorb differently than cellulose. The acid dyes I mentioned earlier are formulated to work on protein fibers like silk, wool, leather, feathers, etc., but also works VERY well on nylon.

        Best of luck with it! :)

  5. Hmm,
    ya Mac guys gonna be frustrated with ya stylish puta’s, he?
    Turn your one-color-stylish-fashioned-ultimate-pcreplacement orange and you you think u r special?
    In my opinion U r the one whose mommy tells U u’re special.

    1. I think it’s a cool project which could be applied to most any gizmo. His just happens to be a Macbook, so what! I have an aging grey & white Dell Inspirion which could use a re-freshening of it’s appearance. I’ll have to explore this method with the different kinds of dyes available.

    1. Anodized aluminum can be anodized with dyes. Some RIT dyes can sometimes work but generally you need real anodizing dyes. And you have to, you know, actually anodize the part – not just dye it.

  6. The old iBooks had transparent polycarbonate cases with paint on the inside. With a bit of knowledge or Google, one could strip or sand the paint and either repaint the inside or leave it smooth enough to put a printed image inside. It was pretty damn cool.

    1. IIRC (and I hope I do) the iPhone 4 and 4S are the same way, just use paint thinner on the back and you get a clear iPhone plate. I want to try printing a design on the inside of mine once I upgrade.

      1. Yeah, there has to be a way to get the paint off. You can get different coloured or clear glass off eBay. I’m not sure of the quality, but I would like to be able to put prints inside the phone.

  7. So he took a poorly designed white computer and turned it into a poorly designed tasteless orange computer without warranty. I can see several mistakes in this project, the first of which is buying an aPple lAptop in the first place. :P

  8. All that work and a simply paint job using proper 2K paints and a clear would have produced a better result that has more options.

    Catalyzed automotive paint + automotive clear = more durable than a standard laptop finish.

    Plus every dye job like this that is not covered in a clear always ends up fading or getting he dye color on everything slowly over time. I know, I tried dying instead of paint for years. I gave up and started doing it right and wont turn back.

    Note: use a 2K polyurethane clear with a touch more hardener and you will get a clear that cant be scratched. You have to do the wetsanding and final buff before a full harden or you will never get it to sand or buff.

    1. Note: use a 2K polyurethane clear with a touch more hardener and you will get a clear that cant be scratched

      My carbide engraving tip begs to differ. I doubt the urethane goes much past a shore D hardness. Let alone even approaches a high Rockwell.

  9. This is great. I have have used Rit dye to do custom motorcycle parts made from white nylon. I boiled them in the dye for about 45 minutes. I wanted a dark purple. Then i cooled them slowly and washed in cold water. They lasted for over 4 years till the sunlight started to fade them. I had many compliments on the custom parts. Most people just had white or black parts. I would do this to my Macbook, but it is to much trouble to disassemble at this time. You always have to dye it darker than you think, a lot will wash off.

    Great job.

  10. I did this with my xbox 360 controllers and rit dye. Heat is a big factor when doing this. I melted one of the housings on my controllers and had to buy a new one. But this will come off on your hands with use.. and the color will fade because of that in the spots where its constantly touched. I would see if you can seal it before you use it a lot.

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