Fly Tying 1 min read

How to Dye Feathers Sunburst

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

December 22, 2010

Davie McPhail shows us how to dye strung hackle feathers Sunburst in this fly tying video tutorial. If you have not ventured into the world of dyeing your own fly tying material (yet), this video by Davie McPhail is a good introduction into the Art and Alchemy of dyeing fly tying material.

Dyeing Feathers

In a nut shell, here are the basic steps:

  1. Wash feathers in soapy water. Davie recommends Johnsons Baby Shampoo. This removes oils from the feathers and helps dye penetration.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 pints water to near boiling. For best results use distilled water.
  3. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dye, stir to dissolve.
  4. Add feathers, heat and stir for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add 4 to 5 tablespoons vinegar to set dye.
  6. Rinse feathers in cold water.
  7. Allow to dry (can blow dry).

What Dye To Use

Acid dyes are one of the best for dyeing natural fly tying material such as hackle feathers. Acid dyes sound scary but they are safe to use and are so named for the mild acid (such as vinegar or citric acid) used in the dyeing process.

Davie recommends Veniard’s dyes, which is an acid dye commonly used by fly tyers in Europe. Veniard dye is hard to come by in the states, and an excellent alternative is Jacquard acid dyes which are more readily available in the US.