10 Aug 2012

In Love with Inkodye

Create vintage looking photos using Inkodye

Have you heard of Inkodye? I hadn't either until a few weeks ago.  I was catching up my blog reading and saw a post on How About Orange about this super cool dye that develops in the sunlight.  So I hopped on over to the Inkodye site and was pretty impressed with what this dye could do.  There were amazing pictures of printing old photos onto fabric.  I was sold.  I ordered 3 small bottles and waited (rather impatiently) for them to arrive.

The shipping was super fast and I had my bottles within a few weeks, even with having to cross customs.

I knew even before I ordered Inkodye what I wanted to do with it.  I love old photos and have been searching for a unique way of integrating them into our house.  This was the perfect way.

I asked my Mom to borrow a photo album that she had with some old photos of my Dad.  My Dad passed away 6 years ago and I like to have a few pictures around the house of him, but also try not tomake it look shrine like.  A few pictures scattered here and there that remind me of a special moment are important to me. When looking through the photo album, I found one photo in particular that I loved.

That expression is priceless.  This is my Dad as a baby with his grandparents - my great grandparents.  I love it for a couple of reasons.  First, is that it's on the farm.  My grandparents still live in the same house that my Dad lived in as a little boy, in the middle of the Alberta prairie.  Even though I live in the city now, I still love the prairie landscape  (especially in the summer with blooming canola!).  The second reason I love the photo is my Dad's hair.  That's quite the curl-hawk.  I love it because of this:

Fin has exactly the same one!  This photo of Fin is from a few months ago, long before I looked through that photo album.  People tell me all the time that Fin looks like her Dad, the curl-hawk picture from almost 70 years ago is proof that she has my genes in her too!

I scanned the old photo and opened it up in Pixlr.  Then I changed it to black and white and inverted it so that it looked like a negative. There is a tutorial on the Inkodye site if you are unfamiliar with Pixlr. 

I then printed out the image on my printer and took it into Staples, and asked them to copy it onto a transparency.  I also asked them to darken it when copying so that the black was as black as they could get it.  I hate how negatives look - they are really creepy to me.....

Anyhow, here's how the transparency looked.

Now, what to print it on? I tried the dye out on plywood, and it did dye it, but I just wasn't loving it.  The plywood I had was too grainy and didn't allow the detail to show through.  So I stood in the garage for a while and contemplated.  Then I saw this:

It's an old Ikea lamp that we've had for years and a few weeks ago it fell over and was crushed (actually a 12 month old little girl pushed it over and then crawled all over it).  We decided we didn't really need it any longer, so we moved it out to the garage, where it had been hanging out ever since.  That is, until I saw it.  I tore it apart and decided to use the linen part of it.  Pretty ingenious upcycling if I do say so myself.

I layed the linen out on an old cutting board and then got to work mixing the dye.  I used about a teaspoon of red and half a teaspoon of orange dye, and then diluted it with about a teaspoon of water.  I decided to mix in a bit of orange, as on my test strip the red was a little too pink for my liking.  Also, the Inkodye seems to be super concentrated, so adding a bit of water allowed it to stretch further and didn't seem to compromise the quality at all.  I used a foam brush to apply the dye to the linen.  Sorry, no pictures of this as I did it in a dark room and worked fairly quickly.  Because the dye starts changing colour as soon as it hits sunlight, you have to apply it in a dimly lit room.

I placed an old piece of glass on top of everything to keep the transparency from blowing away in the wind.

Then I just put the whole thing out on the deck to bask in the sun.  Here's how it looked after 2 minutes.

And after 5 minutes:

This stuff is pretty crazy to watch develop.  It's amazing to see it go from no colour to bright red in just a few minutes.  

I then took it inside and rinsed the whole thing off in the sink in an attempt to remove the dye from the white areas.  

Ok, here's my blogger confession.....

I tried this process about 5 times before I got it how I wanted it.  The first couple of times I don't think I washed the fabric enough, and the dye just kept developing, which resulted in a very red splotchy area with no faces.  The next time I left it in the sun too long and the light must have passed through the transparency because the contrast just wasn't there.  One time I decided to scrub the heck out of it after exposure to try and rid the linen of the excess dye, but in my scrubbing efforts I wrecked the fabric.  I was determined to make this stuff work.

I finally figured out that the perfect washing method was to bring the linen inside and immediately place it upside down in a sink full of very hot water and laundry detergent.  I let it sit like that for a few minutes, then rinsed it under the tap (no scrubbing), and then let it sit upside down for a few more minutes in hot water.  I think the soaking really helped get the extra dye out.  The Inkodye site recommends using the washing machine, but my lamp turned canvas had a fairly hard plastic backing, so the washing machine wasn't an option for me.

Here's how it looked after drying:

It is definitely not perfect.  Some of the detail has been lost, which I expected, and the top part did develop a little bit after I removed the transparency.  Still though, the curl-hawk was still visible and I love how vintage it looks, especially with the linen texture.  

The last thing it needed was a frame.  

The print was a little smaller than a 4X6 and wouldn't have fit into a standard frame.  And when something doesn't fit standard...well...you just DIY something that will fit.

We used an extra strip of window casing that we had.  Using the mitre saw we cut the 4 pieces at 45 degree angles, just sort of measuring it against the canvas as we went. 

Then I used wood glue on the edges and assembled the frame.  Using the staple gun, I stapled each of the seems - I probably went a little overboard on this step.  I have a slight obsession with the staple gun.

Then I flipped the whole thing over and filled in the cracks with wood filler.  After a couple hours of drying I used the palm sander to sand the filler down and even everything out.

Then the whole thing got a couple coats of white paint - BM White Dove that we had left over from the other million projects that required white paint this summer.  

I pulled out the handy staple gun again to staple the canvas onto the back of the frame. 

Ok, are you ready for the big reveal?  Well, I guess I sort of spoiled it with the photo at the top of this post....forget you saw that....

Create vintage looking photos using Inkodye

Create vintage looking photos using Inkodye

I'm in love with it. It feels very vintage, but with a modern twist....since there wasn't a lot of red photos on linen way back when.  And I laugh a little to myself every time I look at it, knowing that it's an old lamp.

I'm pretty excited to try out some more things with Inkodye.  I think a clothing project for Fin might be in the making.....


  1. Kelly, I am so glad you posted this. When you said something about ordering the Inkodye a while back, I never could get the link for it to load - so I wasnt sure what it was.

    What a neat project. I love that you have created something that links a part of your past to your present. What a sweet memory.

    I have been wanting to do something that included photos of my husbands paternal grandparents in a neat way like a shadow box with 2 particular items tucked into it for display.

    A few years ago, I inherited his grandmothers industrial sewing machine that she used when she worked in a garment factory, since I sew and none of the other grandchildren were interested.

    They know not what treasure they missed out [aside from the machine itself] on. We later found his grandmothers wedding set [probably an early one - I doubt it would have gone missing unnoticed if she had been wearing this when she passed] - a thin gold band and a small ring with a tiny solitaire on it in a zipper pouch in the machines tabletop drawer - on Christmas Eve no less!

    I will blog about it someday - I have every intention of sharing that story!

    -Erica F

    1. What a great story! Love the shadow box idea. I also really like framing black and white old photos in modern bright frames. Send me a picture of your sewing machine - Id love to see it. I have an old Singer - the kind that folds underneath. I also have it on my list of things to write about but havent made it that far down the list yet! Do you have a blog?

  2. Thanks, I absolutely will. I had to go take one this morning just to be able to do that. Ill send you an email shortly.

    -Erica F

  3. What a great idea! Love it. Thank you for sharing. Visiting from DIY Showoff. Would love it if you would share this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House which goes live at 8am CST. http://thededicatedhouse.blogspot.com Hope to see you at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  4. Ive never heard of inkodye. What a cool process! Love the family curl hawk!


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