How to Dye Colors on Metal Art

By Brian Moynihan ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Rubber tubs
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Tongs
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Thermometer
  • 12V charger
  • Charging rods
  • Fabric dye
  • Boiling water
  • Pot
  • Stove or hotplate
  • Vegetable steamer
  • Safety glasses
  • Latex or rubber gloves
A lock anodized using gold dye.

The process of dyeing metal is not reliant on the dye, but rather the susceptibility the metal holds for retaining color. This is done through a process called anodization, whereby metal is made porous so that dye can be absorbed into its surface. By using sulfuric acid and an electric current to treat metal surfaces, you can easily dye any type of metallic art.

Set up your anodizing station. This will be composed of five separate stations: an electrolysis station, a rinsing station, a dyeing station, a cleaning station and a setting station. The electrolysis station consists of a rubber tub filled with sulfuric acid and charging rods that are attached to a live 12-volt charge. The rinsing station requires a rubber tub and access to boiling water. The dyeing station contains a large pot with concentrated fabric dye solution and a heat source beneath. The cleaning station requires a rubber tub with sodium hydroxide. Finally, the setting station is composed of a vegetable steamer.

Clean the alloy. Do this by placing the metal within the sodium hydroxide of the cleaning station for roughly thirty minutes. This process eliminates intermetallic substances.

Remove the metal from the cleaning station and move it to the electrolysis station. Using the 12-volt charger, heat the sulfuric acid solution to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Do this by putting the charging rods into the solution. This will also create an electric charge. Leave the alloy in the electrolysis station for 90 minutes to two hours.

Place the metal into the dye solution. Heat the solution to boiling and allow the alloy to remain for thirty minutes. Remove the dye and rinse the metal with boiling water.

Move the metal from the dyeing station to the setting station. Place the alloy in the vegetable steamer and steam for half an hour

Warning

Acids are corrosive and can be damaging to skin, clothing and other porous objects.

Use caution when handling acidic chemicals.

When moving metal between stations, use protective gloves or tongs.

Always use safety glasses to protect your eyes.

Do not attempt this process in the presence of children.

About the Author

Brian Moynihan started writing in 2006 for "The Depaulia" newspaper. He has also written for "The Berkeley Beacon" and his creative works have appeared in "The Emerson Review" and "Literary Laundry." Moynihan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College.