LMI Help Center

Color to Dye For – October 2016

Luthiers use dyes to warm up or accent the color of a plain hued wood, to make a bold statement, recreate a classic sunburst and in a variety of repair situations. LMI carries a wide variety of dyes to choose from. Although many dyes can be mixed in a strong enough concentration to become essentially opaque, they differ from paints (commonly used on solid body electrics) in that they allow at least some of the wood grain and color to come through.

We are often asked, “Do you have a color mixing chart?”. Long ago, we did, but with the inconsistencies in printing processes, and in the presentation on computer monitors, we found they created more trouble than they were worth, so be prepared to get to the color you are after by going through a trial and error process with scrap wood. Many people find this process to be enjoyable.

Here is the key to compatibility success with dyes. If you are using a water-based finish, you can add a water-based dye to it –but use a solvent-based (alcohol or MEK) dye if you are dying the wood directly and then adding a water-based finish on top. This will keep the colors from running. Similarly, if you are using a solvent-based finish (like lacquer) add solvent-based dye to tint it, or use a water-based dye directly on the wood beneath it.

Aniline Dye –this the most traditional, and also the most economical choice. These are the colors seen on many vintage guitars.

Dye Concentrates –a more modern dye, bolder than aniline and more colorfast over time.

Universal Tints (paint pigments) –these are mainly used for dying pore fillers, especially the Chemcraft fillers, but they can be used in other coloring applications.

Fingerboard Dye –just the right color for rendering streaky Ebony boards jet black.

TransTint –one formula is compatible with both water and solvent-based mixtures. Available in some really cool pre-mixed colors.

Looking for info on doing a sunburst finish?
See Robbie O’Brien’s video.