altering-metal-using-swellegant-dye-oxides (800 x 444)

Tutorial of the Week: Altering Your Filigrees Using Swellegant Dye Oxides

Happy Thursday, everyone!  I have another tutorial for you this week 🙂  In the last two tutorials, I’ve introduced you to two different Swellegant products – metal coatings and patinas.  This week, I’ll be showing you how to incorporate Swellegant’s third and final product…dye oxides 🙂

So…what is a dye oxide?  In short, a dye oxide is a colored patina.  They do react with bare metal like the patinas, but contain a dye which results in added color to your piece.  Like the metal coatings and patinas, the dye oxides are non-toxic, non-hazardous and have low to no odor 🙂  In fact, none of the Swellegant products are any more acidic than vinegar, which makes them perfect for working in cramped craft areas like most of us have 😉

One difference with the dye oxides is that the dyes are permanent.  You do not want to get this stuff on your clothes…or your skin!  If you choose not to wear gloves and get some on your hands, you will have to wear the color off…and with 13 different colors, you could end up with some funky looking hands 😛

Let’s get to what you need and how you use this stuff…


The materials you’re going to need are as follows:

  • Swellegant Prep & Clear Sealant
  • Swellegant Metal Coatings, Patinas & Dye Oxides
  • something to alter (I used metal filigrees, of course)
  • protective non-stick work surface
  • steel wool, fine grit sandpaper or burnishing block
  • small pieces of sponge
  • paint brush
  • latex gloves
  • paper towel
  • baby wipes
  • plastic wrap
  • small glass of water
  • heat gun (if desired)


Since theses dye oxides are patinas, you need metal for them to react with.  For the best results, you’ll need either bare metal findings (copper, brass, etc), or need to start with two coats of a metal coating on the item you are altering.  As discussed in the tutorials for the patinas two weeks ago, you must prep your item and do the “basic application” of the metal coating as described in the tutorial that can be found HERE 🙂


Now, this week I did not get my own hands dirty…I know, I know.  BUT…I really couldn’t do a better job than the creator of the Swellegant line of products…Christi Friesen.  So…I’ll be sharing everything that she has to teach about dye oxides…plus 2 great videos she has created on the subject 🙂

Before we get too far though, I do recommend that you first read the tutorials on the other 2 Swellegant products first (if you haven’t already):

A little more about dye oxides…

The dye oxides contain very intense color; however, the color is translucent.  Half of the intensity of the color will also be lost while drying…they are meant to be built up in layers.  Heck…the whole line of products is made to be layered to achieve some really cool effects!

Before applying your dye oxides…

Always remember to shake the dye oxides before using them…they settle, and you’ll be disappointed in the results if you do not do this.  After shaken (and not stirred…lol), mix your dye oxide with some clear sealant before adding it to your piece.  This will help the dye to grab onto the surface better.  Christi suggests using a 50/50 ratio.

Ready, set…go!

Now that your dye is shaken and mixed, it’s time to apply it. The oxides can be applied to bare metal, metal coatings or the patinas.  You can add the oxide to a patina either while it is still wet or after it dries.  There really is no right or wrong way to apply this stuff.  You can spray it, sponge it or brush it for a little more control.  If you choose to spray it, make sure you tape off your work area…this stuff is permanent, remember?

If you’re looking for really, really intense color, you can even soak your piece in a small container of the dye overnight.  Here’s a look at how vibrant the yellow can be after soaking:


Below, Christi has chosen to add the purple dye oxide to a raw brass leaf using a paint brush.  You can see how the dye puddles in the depressions of her finding.  This gives the piece a mottled natural look when dry.


One of the reasons I love this line of products so much is because you really can’t make any mistakes!  …and if you do happen to end up with something you don’t like, just layer over it again!  I will warn you…when applying the dye oxides onto wet patina, it’s going to look pretty gross and muddy.  BUT…before you judge too quickly, you must allow those patinas and oxides to react with the metal and dry.  You may just be surprised in the results!

Here’s a look at a finished piece that Christi applied metal coatings, patinas and dye oxides to.  You can see how she controlled where her pink dye ended up…in the ears, on the wings and on the tuft of hair on this little guy’s head:



Baby Wipe Method

A fun way to create an even more mottled look is to add the dye oxide and blot with a baby wipe.  You can see here how it creates a beautiful marbling effect on this polymer clay piece:


Saran Wrap Method

Another really cool technique is to apply the dye oxides to your piece, immediately wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it dry.  Only remove the plastic after the dye oxides are dry.


Here’s what you end up with:


…pretty cool, eh?  Clearly, this technique works best on smooth surfaces.

Finishing Touches

Dry naturally

You should always allow the dye oxides to dry naturally.  You can use a heat gun to speed up the drying time, but you know what that does?  …it slows and ultimately stops the reaction of the oxides (and patinas) with the metal 🙁  So, if you want the coolest possible effects, you must be patient and allow this stuff to dry on its own 🙂

Make your design “pop”

Like with the patinas, you’re going to want to finish off your piece by adding a small amount of metal coating to the high spots.  This really brings out the design and makes your piece look more realistic.  Here’s a look at a small polymer clay fish after adding the dye oxides, and before and after adding a teeny bit of metal coating:

PicMonkey Collage

Protect your masterpiece

Although you added some of the clear sealant in with the oxides before applying them, you’re still going to want to add another coat of sealant over your finished piece…particularly if it is going to see a lot of wear (like jewelry).  Christi recommends putting some sealer into a spray bottle and spritzing it on.  BUT…before adding the sealant, allow a minimum of 6 hours of drying time.  If you have the time, it’s best to give it 24 hours before sealing your piece.

Do you remember how I said that these products are meant to be layered?  Well, you can even layer over the sealant!  That’s right…if you decide you want to change a piece that’s already been sealed, go right ahead!  Just make sure that you add another layer of sealant once you achieve the look you desire.

A quick reminder about the sealant…it is a matte finish.  Now, I think this is perfect when trying to make something look perfectly aged.  If you prefer a gloss finish, you’re going to have to use an alternative clear spray.


Well, that does it for the Swellegant products 🙂  They are definitely a lot of fun to play with!  It’s like going back to Chemistry class without the worry of causing an explosion.  It’s very cool to watch the patinas change and react with the metal as they dry…all without the harsh chemicals and stench!

I did promise to point you in the direction of a couple of good videos…if you’re looking for a quick refresher or are just plain short on time, I suggest you watch this 17 minute video created by Christi Friesen with Fire Mountain Gems:

Swellegant! on Jewelry Findings

If you have more time, Christi has a 44 minute video that walks you through all of the Swellegant products:


I hope you found this tutorial informative!  …and I hope you have loads of fun playing with these great products!  If you’re looking to pick some up for yourself, you can purchase them direct from Christi right HERE.  (No disclaimer required…I do not make any commissions on this…I just think it’s a great product!)  Thanks for popping by…I’ll chat at ya soon 🙂  Cheers!