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DIY: How to Color Synthetic Dreadlocks (Ombre Effect)

Coloring Synthetic Dreadlocks: Ombre Effect:

Learn how to ombre dye your synthetic dreads.

Items Needed:
Alcohol Ink (We used Tim Holtz brand available at craft stores in the stamping section)
Synthetic Dreads
Isopropyl Alcohol
Spray Bottle
Garbage Bags (or something to cover your work space to protect from stains)

1. Cover work space with garbage bags and put on gloves.
2. Place a small amount of Isopropyl alcohol into spray bottle (just enough to work with). Add drops of alcohol ink until desired color is reached (about 20 or 30). Spray on white paper to test the color strength.
3. Position the dreads on your work space in a single layer.
4. Spray color on dreads. For an ombre or balayage effect, saturate ends and create a lighter mist as you work towards the roots of the dreads.
5. Work color into dread making sure the exterior of the dread is well covered.
6. Flip the dreads over and repeat to coat the underside.
7. Allow to dry completely.

These are now permanently colored and should not rub off with wear.

The Amazing Items Used for this Tutorial

16 thoughts on “DIY: How to Color Synthetic Dreadlocks (Ombre Effect)”

  • janie howell
    March 16, 2016 at 11:18 am

    I have heard saturating the dread in warm water and using water instead of alcohol works better. so should I use water or alcohol?

    • Nirvana Drew
      March 18, 2016 at 5:04 am

      I can't comment on that as I have never tried warm water. My first impression would be to say no, as water generally does not dissolve these inks - but its always worth a shot to find out. It does seem like the water would be harder to control as it wouldn't dry as easily, but that's just my first thought.

  • Tori
    July 18, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Question... I am debating wether to dye the ends of my first set of dreads blue (I am familiar with your method,) or should I try the transitional wrap technique? I just fear the ink needing touch ups as I undoubtedly re-seal the dreads in the future. Any advice? I've made a total of one lock so far lol

    • Nirvana Drew
      July 19, 2016 at 5:28 am

      I think its going to be a matter of preference. The color is easy to do so even if you did seal them and they faded, it would be very easy to refresh. Go ahead and do lock #2. ;)

  • Taylor
    January 9, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    I read that the dye is permanent and shouldn't rub off with wear, but what about with occasional washing? I'm new to synthetic dreads and like the idea of dying them this way.

    • Doc
      January 11, 2018 at 4:33 am

      Truly, even permanent dyes and inks aren't really permanent. It shouldn't come off noticeably with wear, but washing you may notice a gradual fading. My last synth set was in for about 6 months with a colored ombre fade. It held remarkably well. I used a liquitex ink (which is now my favorite) and it held strong with only a slight fade. If I were going to put them back in, I would just refresh the color in the same way. It works great. :)

  • Katia
    January 22, 2018 at 8:47 am

    I've got a question about the dyeing process.

    I have synthetic dreads crocheted into my real ones (i put them in about three months ago and they're still in great shape) but I've just gotten a job for which I absolutely need to change the color. They're a dark blue to lavender ombre, so I can understand why. My question is, can I pull of this dyeing process with the dreads already in my hair? I don't have much money, so I'm all about DIY (i ordered the kanekalon hair, made the dreads, then installed them by myself) and I have enough hair left over to make a new set and dye those if I have no other choice. My concern is time. Since I'm doing this without help, the set of dreads I have in right now took about a week to complete (four loooong days of back-combing, then another four-ish loooooong days of installation) and I'm supposed to start my new job in just a couple of days. Also, the dreads I have in are loc'ed pretty well to my actual hair, so starting over completely will be quite a pain. Is it really all that danergous to get this stuff on your skin i.e. would it possibly be okay for me to just dye the dreads I already have in?

    Thanks for your time, I really appreciate any advice.

    • Doc
      January 23, 2018 at 3:44 am

      The only color that will really cover a dark blue and is a natural color is black. So as long as you are okay spraying the bajeebus out of them with black, you should be fine. I would recommend Liquitex inks - they seem to have the best holding power. Plan on doing several light coats of ink/alcohol sprays, and blow drying well in between. You may have to freshen the color over time as it will lighten, but it will buy you quite a bit of time to make some new ones if you find that you need to.

  • Holly Davies
    May 29, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Ive recently used this method to dye my synthetic dreadlocks pink. However immediately the ink started to transfer, and comes out drastically when washing them. Any idea how to stop this?

    • Doc
      May 30, 2018 at 5:03 am

      A lot of it will depend on the type of ink that was used. I really like Liquitex as it seems to have a pretty rock solid hold compared to others. I had mixed results with Tim Holtz colors. Some were strong, others faded slowly. When washing, use a gentle non-striping shampoo for best results. You can always add extra stain while they are installed (just try to keep the ink off of your skin). :)

  • Melissa A Homer
    August 6, 2018 at 4:40 am

    Do you know if you can "bleach" synthetic extensions to get a lighter shade of their current color?

    • Doc
      August 7, 2018 at 3:33 am

      Since synthetics aren't porous and don't have the same properties of human hair, the bleach won't affect them. The color is part of the fiber, so it can't be changed. You can stain over it to get deeper, darker shades in some cases, but nothing will lighten it I'm afraid.

  • Hannah key
    October 12, 2018 at 10:12 am

    I just dyed mine they are drying. Looks great. Was super simple. I hope it lasts through washes haha. But, I'm curious how do you fade the alcohol scent?? Or cover it?

    • Doc
      October 15, 2018 at 6:53 am

      The scent dissipates pretty quickly. Just air them out well - even blowdrying on low will help. If you want to cover it, you can always mist some perfume over them. :)

  • Kathleen
    May 19, 2019 at 2:22 am

    So when you wash your hair will this "dye" come out?

    • Doc
      May 20, 2019 at 4:06 am

      They will fade over time. Just reapply the ink :)

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