File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 469

To: <>
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2008 02:51:29 -0500
Subject: [Puptcrit] TIP: dyeing feathers with markers

Hi all.
I've just re-cut and dyed 240 very small feathers, so that they would be to 
scale for the project (flying machine for a puppet) and look like pidgeon 
I think they are chicken wing and/or tail feathers, but I'm not sure, there 
were no mentions on the package.
The feathers I bought were small already, about 2 inches high. I cut them 
down (and reshaped them) to an inch and smaller (2 average sizes).

NOTE: The following tip applies to feathers and synthetic furs as well.

To do the dying, I did two steps:

Working on a piece of plastic (to waste as little ink as possible)
1) make the darkest patches by  drawing them on directly with the permanent 
marker (I used Sharpie Liquid Tip) Permanent markers do not stiffen feathers 
at all, contrary to paints. They will sometmies add sheen, depending on the 

2) dilute the the ink that's on the plastic with some strong alcohol (100% 
was what I had, 70% would probably work too, but less so) then brush on the 

Variations: I sometimes made  darker wash and applied it by dabbing on the 
feather. Sometimes I dipped the end of the feather in a much darker wash. 
Randomness is key for a more natural and real look. Every feather is unique. 
Some are downright caricatures.

Note: the marker ink on the feather turns frighteningly purple when diluted, 
but dries back to a near neutral grey, but slightly colder then real 
neutral. Make the dye job darker then needed, as it dries lighter than what 
it looks like when stillwet with alcohol.  For a very durable result, I 
recommend using a permanent and LIGTHFAST marker. In our case, we used 
Sharpie out of convenience. It's for a short film, the shoot is next week. 
It will still last a long while. But for theatre purposes, or any situation 
whre the puppet needs to last, I'd use the permanent lightfast markers, 
surch as Lumocolor, by Steadtler.
The leftover feather bottoms can be kept for making second quality feathers, 
to go underneath the good ones. Or the fuzy parts can be made into neat 
little fuzzy eyebrows for puppets.

It was much faster (and some amount of fun) than I expected, once I decided 
to do each step until finished, instead of doing all steps for each feather. 
24 feathers took about 10 minutes to cut down and reshape, and maybe 10 
minutes to dye. I may redye some feathers when they are dry, depending on 
how dark we decide to have them on average.

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