Issues with Water Based Aniline Dye

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Forum topic by Ed posted 06-02-2011 11:41 PM 12088 views 16 times favorited 76 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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65 posts in 3908 days

06-02-2011 11:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi Folks,

I am new to this forum and even more new to wood finishing. I’ve always loved working with wood. This happens to be the first artistic project I’ve taken on. And I’ve hit a wall.

It involves tiger maple and water based aniline dyes.

I have done numerous tests on scraps and just can’t seem to get the dye from running. This finish was totally inspired by Trifern. I plan on using multiple colors as he does so often. My issue is that once I apply the 2nd color my first color bleeds. It looks fantastic for about 30 seconds and then it starts bleeding all over the place. It’s looks awful in a very short period of time.

Here are the pics….

What I did on this piece was split it into 4 tests. I left the black on for different amounts of time to see the affect I wanted to go with.

My process is to wet the wood a little then apply black. Leave it soak and them wipe it off with a wet rag. It then sets until the next day. When I apply the 2nd color I do not wet the wood. I just apply the dye, wait a minute or so and wipe any excess. Then the bleeding begins.

Can someone tell me what I am doing wrong or perhaps not doing at all?

Thank you!

76 replies so far

View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#1 posted 06-02-2011 11:51 PM

Oops I just realized that those 2 are the same picture. Here is the other..

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 4391 days

#2 posted 06-03-2011 12:16 AM

Water based Dyes are water soluble, so when you put green dye over dried yellow dye it will wake it up.
It will bleed into water based finishes especially if brushed or wiped.

Best to apply it is to spray even coats.

View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#3 posted 06-03-2011 01:30 AM

Hi Steven!

Thanks for your reply! I’d really like to avoid spraying. I’m not setup for it. I’m using foam sponges now. Do you think a different applicator (other than spray) would work?

Or perhaps a different “vehicle”? I have plenty of powder left so mixing a new batch wouldn’t be a problem.

Thanks again!

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 3986 days

#4 posted 06-03-2011 01:35 AM


Like Steven indicated dyes are either water or alcohol soluble. When you apply a different color dye over another dye it will dissolve the first coat and bleed them together. Brushing, wiped or sprayed will all yield the same results. Other then using stains and seal between coats with shellac, I don’t know of any way to put one color of dye over another color of dye and not have color bleed.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#5 posted 06-03-2011 01:42 AM

Hi Don!

Thank you very much!! I was worried that this may be the case. Bummer.


View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5320 days

#6 posted 06-03-2011 01:46 AM

Maybe try mixing the color you want in advance? Then all it takes is one application.

You can sand most all of the top surface away leaving the color in the curl.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#7 posted 06-03-2011 01:59 AM

Hi Gary!

Thanks for the suggestion!! That’s something I haven’t thought of. I may just have to shift gears and start thinking along these lines.


View shipwright's profile


8780 posts in 4129 days

#8 posted 06-03-2011 02:28 AM

Not exactly on your topic but the results of my experiments with aniline dyes may be of interest to you. They are in my blog here:
I learned a few tricks and techniques along the way.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Camper's profile


232 posts in 4187 days

#9 posted 06-03-2011 02:33 AM

Been following this thread and looked up the blog you were referring to by Trifern which I believe is here.

I am surprised that he did not mention the step of sealing with shellac between color coats which leads me to believe that he did not. I wonder why his colors did not bleed but yours do…and if in fact he just forgot to mention it or that there is another reason why his turned out fine…

Thanks for posting, interesting experiment.

-- Tampa-FL

View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#10 posted 06-03-2011 02:58 AM

Hi Paul!

Thanks for the link! Wow, that’s incredible work there!! Beautifully done!

I like how you used the bleeding affect to your advantage. I’m not sure I want to do the same. If I let the black blend into the red it becomes a shade of red that I’m not too fond of. I’ve also gotten further on other tests. After I apply the 3rd color it really makes all three colors weak.

I’m sure I’m missing something. More than likely several things. Lol.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4490 days

#11 posted 06-03-2011 03:00 AM


Yes, it will definitely bleed through and blend with the underlaying color. But notice the way Trifern does it…he sands areas of the work aggressively between dye coats, going down to almost bare wood in some areas. This means that the new dye color will blend with color underneath but remain pure color in those areas that were sanded. He then says that the first applied coat of wipe-on poly does a lot to bring back out the black contrast areas.

If you don’t sand areas to bare like Trifern, the resulting coats will be just a solid blend of the dyes.

-- jay,

View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#12 posted 06-03-2011 03:03 AM

Hi Camper!

That is the blog I was referring to. I am wondering the same thing. I emailed Joe to see if he can offer his expertise. He mentions that he uses “sponge brushes and cheap paper towels”.

I wonder if I’m not sanding correctly.

I plan on going back at the test piece tomorrow.


View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#13 posted 06-03-2011 03:06 AM

Hi Jay!!

I just missed that as I replied to another suggestion. I think you are right!! It’s the sanding I am not doing so well with.

I’m excited to get back in the garage and test some more!!

Thank you!!


View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#14 posted 06-03-2011 11:38 PM

Good afternoon Gents!!

I had some time today to head back into the garage. I decided to try again adjusting my technique. First I sanded. I purposely sanded more aggressively in certain areas and not so much in others.

I also thought I would try applying the dye in very thin coats, wiping quickly. I was hoping to limit the amount of saturation. And to build the color slowly. I think it made a noticeable difference.

As you can see there is still bleeding, but I don’t think it’s as bad. Looking closely I feel that I can correct the issues I see now by sanding when it’s completely dry. Fingers crossed!!

I’ll report back once I move on.


View Ed's profile


65 posts in 3908 days

#15 posted 06-04-2011 11:53 PM

Good afternoon everyone!!

I had a chance to get some more work done on this piece. Unfortunately the results, again, were unflattering.

I sanded more and applied the yellow.

I also took a close-up pic of the real issue I’m having. These little black specs form after applying a new color. It’s re-dissolving the existing dye. Maybe I didn’t sand well enough. After sanding these weren’t there though.

Has anyone used multiple colors like this? Do you think the concentration of dyes is too weak? I was thinking of mixing a new batch, twice the concentration. I figure it can’t hurt.

Ultimately I may need to settle for one color and stop torturing myself. BUT before I concede I’m going to go at it at least one more time. :)


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