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The Rit Studio: Stovetop Technique

How to Dye Feathers

Rit can turn natural white feathers into colorful design accents for holiday decorations, party favors, centerpieces, masks and fashion accessories. We’ve found feathers look best when dyed in pretty pastel or bright colors, just make sure they’re not synthetic. (Rit does not dye certain synthetics like polyester, see more here.) These same instructions can be used to dye deer hair, which is often used to make flies for fly-fishing.

Prep, dye and rinse time: 30 minutes

You’ll Need

  • White natural feather quills
  • Rit Dye, liquid or powder
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Plastic or glass container
  • Large metal spoon
  • Metal tongs
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic table cover

Step by Step

  1. Cover work surface with a plastic table cover.

  2. Feathers must be clean. Wash gently in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. If feathers were purchased in a craft store, this is not necessary.

  3. Wearing rubber gloves, shake dye bottles. Use ¼ cup liquid dye or ½ package (1 tablespoon) powder dye with 1 quart very hot water (140 F), not boiling. For dark colors, use more dye. Pour into dye container; stir well. Make sure container is large enough to hold feathers. Do not add salt or vinegar to dye bath.

  4. Immerse feathers in dye bath. Gently stir feathers until they are a shade darker than desired because the color appears darker when wet. Dyeing could take as little as 2-5 minutes. Use a longer dyeing time for dark colors.

  5. Remove feathers and rinse carefully in warm water. Spread feathers on paper towels to air dry. Do not attempt to dry with heat as this will cause them to become dry and brittle. To help keep the shape of feathers, avoid excessive handling.

  6. If feathers seem to have lost their shape, they can be fluffed up when they are completely dry.

Try our FAQs, or Ask The Dye Doctor

  • Michael Dante

    I’m trying to dye deer tails for fly fishing, you suggest not adding salt to the mix?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello Michael, Yes, we suggest not using any salt in the dye bath when dyeing deer hair or feathers. hope this helps.

  • Michael Dante

    Thanks for the reply, how long do you suggest for deer tails/hair? I plan on using aquamarine and lavender RIT, I was thinking at least an hour.

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Michael, We suggest about 30-60 minutes. You can remove it when it is a little darker than what you are looking for. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.ritdye.com Amber Jones

    Hi there!
    I have a quick question regarding pre-dyed feathers. I purchased a couple packages of pre-dyed feathers online, but they’re more taupe than I had expected. If I wanted to whiten the feathers to either an off-white or true white, would rit dye remover be my best bet for getting the job done? Or should I try a hydrogen peroxide solution?

    Attached below is a photo of one of the packages of feathers. They’re primarily turkey maribou and turkey flats.

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Amber, You could try the stove top technique for using Color Remover, but you would want to be extremely careful so the feathers do not become damaged. It would try to remove as much color as possible. If the feathers are synthetic such as polyester, the color remover would not be effective. If the feathers are real, the color remover may also not work since it may not be able to remove the natural color of the feather. Hope this helps!

      • http://www.ritdye.com Amber Jones

        Thanks for the speedy response! After two tries the stovetop method worked pretty well! The first time I wasn’t careful enough with the feathers, so I ended up ruining some. They were fairly cheap, so I don’t mind. But the second batch turned out pretty nicely. I also did a reverse dip-dye to some green pre-dyed feathers so they have a white to green ombre. The process took a lot of time, but it was well worth the results! The feathers used were real, but had already been bleached and dyed by a manufacturer.

        • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

          So glad to hear Amber! Thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.ritdye.com Carlos Zarate

    When dying deer tails, do I need to pre-treat them prior to the dye process?
    I followed the directions you have posted and my deer hair came out a light purple where my feathers came out closer to the wine color I’m looking to achieve.

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Carlos, We suggest washing with soap and water prior to dyeing to help the dye adhere better. Let us know if you have any other questions!

    • oldfella72

      Hi Carlos.
      I had the same problem and was tole to die with a hot orange first and then the black, it worked okay.

  • Tina michael

    I am considering buying a red feather boa online to compliment a costume but I am unsure if the Reds will match. With what can I dye the true red boa to get it moe of a deep cherry red?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Tina, What is the fabric content of the boa you wanting to dye?

      • Tina michael

        Chandelle and turkey feathers I think it said…..

        • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

          Hi Tina, We have a color called cherry red that you can try over dying the feathers with.

          • Tina Michael

            I will let you know how it turns out! Should I wash the item first ?

          • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

            Hello Tina, Its always best to start dye process with a clean item. Hope this helps.

  • http://www.ritdye.com Duanne Jahns

    I want to dye beige marabou feather boas jet black. Some people say to use salt and vinegar, other don’t. What is your opinion and why? Also when you dry the marabou should I use a blow dryer? If not, how do I get the boa fluffy again?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Duanne, Thank you for reaching out. Here are tips on dyeing feathers: https://www.ritdye.com/2013/09/18/dyed-feathers/ Salt is used for cotton, rayon, ramie, linen or blends. Vinegar is used for nylon, silk or wool. We do not suggest using both at the same time. You can use a blow dryer or air dry them. Hope this helps!

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Rinley, It would depend on what the feathers are made of. If they are faux feathers and polyester, you would only be able to reach a grey hue. If they are natural feathers, you would be able to achieve a black. Here are some tips on achieving black: https://www.ritdye.com/2014/03/28/keep-calm-rit-on-rebeccas-4-top-tips-for-dyeing-black-black/

  • oldfella72

    Hi Rinley.
    I have dyed natural feathers and hair for fly tying and black is one of the difficult dyes. The tip I learned and applied successfully was to die a hot orange first and then dye with the black. It worked okay.
    I have also bleached the feathers you mention overnight in hydrogen peroxide, the over the counter stuff, it lightens the red/brown to a tan which takes a darker dye better.
    Hope this helps

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Thank you for reaching out. We do not have any type of magazines that we can send out at this point in time, however, all of our colors are available for viewing online. Hope this helps.

    • Jeanne Edmonds

      Thank you… could you give me a tip on how he can get his white feathers and deer tails. Black… his last attempt came out to a greyish. Color…he wants black black….. he followed the packaged directions. Any help will be greatly appreciated… Thank You !!

      • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

        Hi Jeanne, We offer instructions for dyeing feathers at The Rit Studio: https://www.ritdye.com/techniques/materials/feathers/ Black can be a more difficult color to achieve. If possible, increase the water temperature to 160 degrees, double the amount of dye and leave the feathers in the dyebath a bit longer. Hope this helps!

  • Joan

    Hello, I am trying to dye craft white feathers and white ribbon to a teal color but having no luck in feathers and ribbon getting dyed. Do feathers need to be natural or what else can I do so everything will dye. Also the liquid sold in stores says teal blue but the color on bottle is what I want more of a teal green not blue, when mixed in water is very turquoise blue not what I want. How can I get a teal green color and get my items dyed?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello Joan, Thank you for reaching out. Make sure the water is very hot when mixing in dye, the temperature needs to be 140-160 for the color of the dye to activate and be true. We do have a recipe for Teal Green for 3 gallons of water liquid dye 3/4 cup Kelly Green and 1/4 cup Royal Blue, this is for one lb of dry weight, if more than one pound times the recipe by how many pounds the dry fabric weighs. You can also follow these step by step instructions for the feathers: https://www.ritdye.com/techniques/materials/feathers/ . Let us know if you have any more questions.

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Hi Yolanda, Thank you for reaching out. Rit does not offer a white dye or a fabric treatment that would take fabric, or feathers, to white. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  • Chris

    Does rit dye, dye real animal fur?
    If so what dye would you recommend?

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Hello Jessica,

    Our Rit Color Remover will not work well on keratin or bird feathers.

    Thank you,
    Rit Dye

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Hello Julie,

    You may use our All Purpose Dye, here are some tips to help you: https://www.ritdye.com/techniques/the-basics/how-to-dye-101/. We also reccomend to use our Color Fixative to help set the dye in your feathers. Hope this helps!

    Thank you,
    Rit Dye

  • Scottie

    I received a package of hot pink feathers in a kit, and I was wondering what dye colours would work to make them a bit less obnoxious? I’ve never dyed anything before, so I don’t know how strong the colours are, and what materials can even be dyed. Do you think black dye would make them black, or just a darker pink?
    Thank you

  • Christina Anthony

    I dyed some white feathers and allowed them to air dry. The feathers were in perfect condition prior to coloring but now look scraggly. Can this be fixed? I cannot get the feathers to look normal anymore.




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