how to dye a twsbi - ink between the teeth

Jul 23, 2018

how to dye a twsbi

I dyed my TWSBI. It was super easy and took almost no time at all. I'm here to share instructions for how to do it. Make sure you read this entire post!

Warning one. Dyeing pens is not foolproof. You are not guaranteed to get a perfectly dyed pen. You must be comfortable with the risks involved!

Warning two. I highly recommend dyeing either an inexpensive pen, or one that has a no-questions-asked warranty. The last thing you want is to melt your expensive pen because you forgot about it in a pot of boiling water. And dyeing your pen will absolutely not be covered by 99% of warranties. TWSBI is perhaps the best company for this, simply because they ask no questions and will replace any parts in exchange for shipping.

Warning three. These are approximate instructions. Why? When I dyed my pen, the barrel immediately turned a deep blue rather than the turquoise color of the grip and knob. I don't know why this happened: maybe I didn't stir the pot enough, maybe the barrel's plastic is thinner, maybe...

To compensate, I put in the instructions that you should add an extra cup of water to the pot to dilute the dye for the barrel. I don't know if this will actually work until I try it myself. If you jumped in your car and drifted to your local craft store for Rit dye, err on the side of caution and dilute the dye solution more. You can always go a deeper color, but not lighter.

If you're a bit more timid, wait like, a week and a half and I'll edit this post with updated instructions.

[edit 7/27/18] Did dilution work? Sort of, I think? It made it easier to control how deep the color was. This second round also made it clear that you do not need four cups of water: three would do fine, and you can reduce the dye formula by half to compensate. 

Also, from here on, any edits I made after the original post date will be in blue, to make your life easier!

To reiterate:
  • Use a pen you'd be okay messing up
  • Do not expect perfection: shoot for a C+, so when you get that A, you're stoked!
Okay, does that sound fair? Here we go.


  • A small, stainless steel pot; I used a 1 1/2 quart
  • Water
  • Teaspoon
  • Rit DyeMore dye(s); read the label carefully to ensure it's for synthetics. Use the Rit color formula site to mix colors, and select the option for jewelry, then divide the given formula by half (you don't need 4 cups of water to dye a pen, and you want to keep it proportional)
  • Large spoon, slotted or otherwise. I used a dark plastic, but anything would work
  • Plastic wrap to cover your counter
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Recommended: diluted bleach and paper towels for clean-up


1. Prepare everything you'll need before you start dyeing: the last thing you want is to cause a spill and leave it soaking while you run around. Rit dye will stain ceramics, but not metal, so keep that in mind. Everything you use for the dyeing process should not be used for food preparation afterwards, so use old pots/utensils. But hey, you can dye more pens later.

The little inset on the top of the cap is made of acrylic. If you want to keep the TWSBI logo red and clear, you're going to have to cover it up. A bit of hot glue should do the trick, since it should peel right off the plastic. YMMV.

2. Dye the grip, piston knob, and cap. Fill the pot with four three cups of water and bring to just under a boil. I eyeballed this, but if you have a thermometer you'll want something around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Shake the dye bottle vigorously then add the dye. Stir to combine. Then, drop the grip and piston knob in. Stir continuously. Keep checking the grip and knob at 10 second intervals—yes, that quickly and often—until it reaches the color you like. The knob will take longer than the grip. Remove the two pieces and rinse under cold water. Be careful with the cap; it's metal and you don't want a burn.

3. Dye the barrel. This step is optional: you can dye the barrel in the same step as the last one, just keep an eye on it. This is the step that requires the most caution. Remember, you can deepen the color, but not lighten. Add at least one cup of water to the pot and bring back to the correct temperature. Drop in the barrel. Stir continuously. The barrel will take approximately the same time as the other two pieces: make sure you check it every 10 seconds. Once it reaches the right tone, wash under cool water.

4. If any of the pieces are not dyed to your satisfaction after you run it under the cold water, you have a couple options. Let's say you wanted to dye your pen teal, a mix of blue and green:
  • If your pen isn't a deep enough color, keep dipping it in the same pot. As the plastic absorbs more dye it'll become a deeper color.
  • If your pen is too blue or green, for example, pour out the dye in the pot and refill with clean water. Bring to just-under-a-boil, and add 2 or 3 teaspoons of the other dye into the pot. Then, dip your pen into the solution. You're able to tweak the color of the plastic to some degree; that is, you can turn it greener or bluer. However, this process will never lighten the tone of the pen. 
5. You're done! If you didn't get the right color, curse me terribly. If you did, hooray! Assemble your pen, and love your beautiful custom TWSBI.
A post shared by conrad (@pharaonis) on

A little more info

For my pen, I used the instructions for Tahitian Tide but added more green.

Especially in darker solutions, small pieces will tend to clatter around in the bottom of the pot and practically disappear into the ether. Be particularly careful to hang on to the grip section; that thing goes missing quick and it takes dye very quickly. I've found that putting the grip and knob in my spoon, then submerging the spoon in the solution, was the easiest way to keep track of them.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Erik! I'll put up a picture of the first go-around right now. Seems so obvious to have a picture up, doesn't it? ;-)