LET’S TALK ABOUT RE-INKING
If you have spent any time at all collecting dice, you probably have considered re-inking one or more of your favorite sets. Some folks even do it as a side gig for extra money. I have read posts from numerous people interested in re-inking, and stating they never actually tried it because they didn’t want to risk messing up their dice. Here is a bit of wisdom you can bank on . . . dice are hard to mess up. So if you never attempted a re-ink for fear of destroying, screwing up, ruining or killing your dice, go back and re-read the bold words in the previous sentence. I used to paint a lot of miniatures for Warhammer or RPG gaming. Paint comes off! If you don’t like the way a re-ink project is moving along, you can always “de-ink” and start over. I will point out exceptions to “dice are hard to mess up” at various times throughout this tutorial. Because there are exceptions to every rule!
From the bulk of my dice posts on the Elder Dice by Infinite Black Facebook page, you probably already know how I feel about GOLD ink. Yes – I am fully aware ink color is a personal choice. Some people just LOVE gold ink. Me . . . not so much. But I also really enjoy the heck out of re-inking and giving my dice a snazzy new look. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with colors and figuring out which ink colors look good, transforming a standard set of factory dice into a personal art project. If you have zero interest in re-inking your dice, I have absolutely no idea what the heck is wrong with you. No, really . . . why wouldn’t you want to try this awesome re-inking thing? It’s like yoga for the artsy part of your brain. Very zen-chic. And very rewarding.
As a side note, I feel obligated to warn you here and now . . . re-inking dice can become quite addicting. I have re-inked practically every set of Elder Dice I own. And I own practically every set Infinite Black makes. But I can stop whenever I want to. Really I can. Definitely.
Also, as a second side note . . . although people generally use the term re-ink, there are several mediums you can utilize to change the colors of the numbers and symbols on your dice. We’ll talk about these in detail a little farther in.
There are all kinds of dice out there. Metal dice, hollow metal dice, gemstone or just stone dice, bone dice, animal poop dice (sadly, not a typo), resin dice, plastics and polymers of various types. Some dice are easier to ink than others. Metal dice are actually not so great for re-inks unless you use an enamel-based paint like Testors Model paints. However, inking (or painting) dice with oil or enamel based paint is not very much fun (for me, at least). I have found using enamel paint takes way more effort than it’s worth. And it smells bad. In the case of stone dice – it is possible to re-ink, but most good quality stone sets don’t have grooves like plastic or resin dice do. So when you are re-inking it is really optimal to stick to resin and plastic dice. Luckily for you, Elder Dice fall into this category and are absolutely optimal for re-inking. Most factory “mass produced” dice are fairly easy to work with as well. There are some plastic dice that are specially coated and not recommended for inking.
SO WHERE DO I START?
The very first step is to pick out a set you want to re-ink. In this tutorial we will be re-inking three different Elder Dice sets; Star of Azathoth (Supernova Edition), Yellow Sign of Hastur (Burnt Bone and Tattered Yellow), and Mark of the Necronomicon (Red and Inky Black).
The next step is to figure out whether or not the little dudes have to be de-inked. As a rule of thumb, if a set is opaque, you can almost always drop a new color right on top of the existing one. To change from a dark color ink to a much lighter one, you will likely have to commit to a couple coats before the darker ink is covered over completely. Or, if you prefer, take the extra time and de-ink the dark ink/paint off first. If you intend to re-ink a set like the Star of Azathoth (Supernova Edition), which is transparent, you want to remove the original ink first. If you don’t, the original color will remain boldly visible through the transparent dice and you will end up with major disappointment. My de-ink product of choice is LA’s Totally Awesome All Purpose Cleaner. In the US, this is readily available and quite inexpensive if you pick it up at your local Dollar General, Dollar Tree or the Dollar store. It is much more pricey to order online – especially if you purchase it from a place like Amazon. Simple Green also gives excellent results.
De-inking with LA Awesome is as simple as—
1) Drop the dice into a container (I use a glass jar or bowl).
2) Pour in enough La Awesome to cover the dice completely.
3) Cover the container to eliminate evaporation.
4) Walk away and check it again tomorrow.
I will readily admit here that I like to give the container a little swirl every once in a while to make sure the cleaner has ample time to work its mojo against all sides of the dice. I am not sure if it actually helps the process, but I do the same thing when cooking pasta and, so far, no one has complained about my spaghetti.
If the ink hasn’t fallen loose from the dice in a couple of days, the bristles of an old toothbrush or nail brush will be enough to adequately finish the job. Just brush the remaining stubborn ink with a little LA Awesome and it will usually come right off. If not, a toothpick or the pointy end of a file can help with removing those last few tenacious bits of unwanted color.
It’s probably important to note that neither of these products have ever damaged my dice without it being my own stupid fault. For example, if you are in a rush, de-inking will definitely happen quicker if you warm up the liquid, But never, under any circumstances, put your dice into a container full of La Awesome or Simple Green and pop that into the microwave. This is bad for your dice. Really bad. A good rule of thumb is never microwave dice. Some folks warm up their de-inking product of choice by placing the jar or bowl into a pot filled with shallow, near-boiling water and let the Second Law of Thermodynamics do the rest. Microwaving for 30 seconds at a time has worked pretty well for me. Again – WITHOUT the dice in the liquid!
Another word of caution: coated dice like Udixi’s Glitter Party series, which is how the really cool color-shifting sheen effect is produced, if soaked in LA Awesome will cause that coating to come right off and you will be left with a set of plain, unimpressive, monochromatic dice that have no sheen, no glitter and absolutely do not party. If you have any doubts at all about the dice you want to de-ink ask the veterans in a dependable FB dice group or send a message to the actual vendor. This is not an issue with Elder Dice. I have soaked many a set in LA Awesome and so far, so good. Except for that one set I microwaved. Live and learn.
Once your dice are de-inked, make sure to clean them with dish soap and water. I use a dab of Dawn Dishwashing liquid because it is gentle and effective enough to remove crude oil from ducklings, sea monkeys and baby turtles. And it cleans really well. You want to make sure every bit of the deinking solution has been washed from the crevices on every die face . . . so that old toothbrush comes in handy, yet again.
CHOOSING AN INK COLOR
When choosing a new ink color for your dice, use colors that appeal to you. These are your dice, after all. I mentioned that I don’t particularly like the look of gold ink on dice. But in a few of the sets I have re-inked in the past, gold ink ended up being the best choice for the overall aesthetic of the set. And in many cases, I have opted for antique gold or rose gold or brass or even copper, in lieu of the plain old standard gold that most factory dice are inked with.
There are several tricks that may more quickly and efficiently help you find the color that works for your set. The first is the good ol’ color wheel. Contrasting (or nearly contrasting) colors of ink are easy to read and are (usually) aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Violet ink on yellow dice. Red ink on green dice. Orange dice with blue ink. Violet dice and green ink. The numbers are easy to see and most brains appreciate the contrasting combination. Combining primary colors or secondary colors together often produces a nice combination as well. Yellow Sign Blood Edition is a good example of this. And it remains one of my favorite Elder Dice color combinations.
Personally, I tend to choose inks that already exist somewhere in the dice (or are situated close to that color on the color wheel). This could be glitter or specks of color mixed into the resin. Several of the newer IB sets have fantastic bits of color you can complement by inking with a similar color.
Yellow ink on green dice, or orange dice with red ink are good examples of combing colors that enhance each other. I also like to add a lighter version of a color with a darker colored die. Below are some sets I have re-inked that show how light green ink on darker green dice or yellow ink on orange-yellow dice can look bold, visually pleasing and are very easy to read.
Once you have decided on a color, the real fun begins. Let’s start with our de-inked Star of Azathoth. For this set I decided to go with Napa Red acrylic paint from Americana. In most cases, acrylic paints are your best bet for re-inking dice. The application is simple and the paint is water soluble. So clean up is easy. And there are no chemicals required in the process. A fine-tipped permanent marker, paint pen or even a crayon can be used modify the appearance of your dice set without a huge effort.
Then it’s just a matter of wiping the excess paint from the die. I usually use a flat surface with a napkin or paper towel so the remaining paint is flush with the surface of the die face. I place the painted side down and, applying pressure, I drag the die in a single direction until no more paint comes off the die. Then I let that dry and go on to the next die, rotating through the set one face at a time.
If you feel the one side at a time method is too slow and tedious, you could also slap the paint onto several sides of the same die at once. It is quicker and works pretty well as long as you are careful. It’s okay if some paint remains on the surface of the die because, in the final step, we will be cleaning these up and making sure the only paint remaining is in the numbers and symbols
Applying an excess of paint on more rounded dice, like d12s and d20s, definitely can speed up the task. Multiple sides can be just as easily wiped with a napkin or paper towel all at once. A flat surface typically works better when the dice have a larger face, as in the case of a d6 or standard d4. If you wipe too much paint off in the process, dab a bit more on and repeat as necessary.
As I previously mentioned, when re-inking the Yellow Sign of Hastur set, it isn’t necessary to de-ink first because the set is opaque. For this tutorial, I did not de-ink this set. However, opting to do so will ultimately provide a cleaner, neater starting point for the re-ink. Sometimes the symbols found on these dice are not engraved as deeply as the numbers and are more difficult to cover over. This is very much the case with this set. Next time I will probably opt for the LA Awesome bath first.
For this re-ink I decided to show a more complicated technique, using black and yellow to provide a really nice aesthetic on this truly splendid set of dice. The Yellow Sign of Hastur is one of my all-time favorites, so I decided to get a bit fancy on this one. The yellow paint I used is Folk Art Neon yellow. The black was just plain, regular old black. Also by Folk Art.
When inking with two colors, always start with the lighter color first. And always let the first color dry completely before applying the second color. Here's the step-by-step below.
Step 1. Apply the yellow paint using the same technique shown earlier for the Star of Azathoth.
Step 2. Let it dry.
Step 3. Apply the darker paint. In this case I am applying the black paint only where the die surface is yellow. This provides excellent contrast for reading the numbers across a game table. When you wipe off the excess paint, make certain you do it in a SINGLE direction, directly away from you lighter color . . . or sadly, there won’t be a lighter color left.
Sometimes I mix and match solid colored numbers throughout the set as well to deliver a less structured feel. This also looks better on die faces that have a concentrated mix of both colors. Here are a couple examples.
Notice those unsightly streaks of paint left behind from wiping the dice? Don’t worry about these until the set has been fully re-inked and is completely dry. The excess paint will be removed in the final cleanup and polish step. But before that takes place, you want to do a visual once-over on each die to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Make any corrections and let them dry before moving on to cleanup.
Once all the dice are dry, you can remove excess paint and provide a beautiful finish at the same time. I use Sprayway on most of my dice. I spritz a bit on a napkin or paper towel and basically use the same technique I apply when removing excess paint. I do this on every face of every die because the cleaner also makes them shine bright as a diamond.
And here are the newly re-inked sets! After the cleanup and polish step you’ll probably want to take some awesome pics of your fantastically re-inked dice and post them on the Elder Dice by Infinite Black Facebook page. If you do, tag me. I’d love to see what you come up with!
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