Candle Making FAQ
Dyes, Pigments, And Coloring For Candle Makers
Commonly asked questions about candle coloring using dyes, pigments and other techniques.
Q.How to color a candle using food coloring?
A. You don't. Food color is water based and candles are oil based - they are incompatible and won't mix.
Q. Can I color candles with crayons?
A. Generally this is a poor choice. Quality crayons are made with pigments that will clog the wick. Cheap low quality crayons are made with dye and won't clog the wick, but will provide very little color.
Q. How much dye do you put to 1 lb of paraffin wax?
A. There is no single correct answer. The more dye you add the darker the color will be so a pastel color will require much less and deep colors will require more. Typically, our dye blocks color 16 - 20 pounds of wax to a medium shade, and our flake dyes color the same amount with 1/4 ounce.
Q. Why are my candles turning white?
A. They are fading. Many candle dyes are moderately unstable. Minimal amounts of UV light (such as reflected light from a window or some fluorescent bulbs) will often fade candles quickly. If your candles are losing color check the bottom. If the bottom has not lost color then this is a fading problem. The use of UV Inhibitor will slow fading down tremendously.
Q. Why are my candles changing color?
A. If the entire candle is changing color (not just one side for example), then this is most likely an oxidation problem. This is a chemical reaction caused by an incompatibility between 2 or more ingredients in your wax. I have seen this occur most commonly with pine scent oils and green dyes. There is no cure for this aside from not using that color / scent combination.
Q. Why can I see a line around my votives?
A. When you reheat wax for the second pour the color shifts a bit. There is no way to prevent this, but if you place the votives in a tray and make both pours overflow, the seam will be on the corner and virtually invisible.
Q. How do I use dye blocks?
A. Just shave some of the dye block off with a knife and add to your wax. Start with a small amount as it is very concentrated. Test the color, and add more as needed.
Q. Why does my wax color get so much lighter when it cools?
A. Wax is very transparent when liquid so the color reflects from deep in your melting pot. Once cooled, wax is more opaque and only reflects light from near the surface.
Q. How do I test wax color?
A. Put a small amount of wax in a floater mold and place in a freezer for 5 minutes. The results will be the color of the candle. This wax can be added back to your melting pot.
Q. Why does my recycled wax come out brown?
A. If you mix different colors of wax, the result is often brown or reddish brown. This is because mixing the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) makes brown. The secondary colors (green, orange, and purple) are mixtures of two primary colors, so often adding just two colors together will make brown. For example: orange contains red and yellow, so mixing orange with blue gives similar results to mixing red, yellow, and blue.
Q. Can I prevent my recycled wax from turning brown?
A. Yes, just sort it into color groups before using.
Q. Why can't I use dye blocks or flakes to color gel wax?
A. Actually you can, but there is a good chance they will cloud the gel. Dye Blocks and flakes contain paraffin wax which is not as transparent as the gel. This can potentially cloud the gel - especially when large quantities of dye are used.
Q. I am trying to make white candles, I am having trouble finding white dye, can you help me?
A. Technically there is no such thing as a white dye. To get white candles we use pure paraffin with 1 level teaspoon of Vybar added. This gives a nice white appearance. Some people add Titanium Dioxide to the wax, but this is actually a pigment that may clog the wick so we don't recommend this except for over dipping.
Q. How can I get the color bands in layered candles to blend slightly rather than having a hard line between colors?
A. This is a bit tricky to do and difficult to describe as well. It will take some practice to develop a sense of the correct timing. Allow the previous layer to cool until fairly firm, but not fully hardened. Pour the next layer hot (about 195 - 200 degrees F.). Repeat for each layer.
Q. How do I make candles with colored flames?
A. There used to be some rumors promoting soaking the wick in various salts such as cupric sulfate, epsom salts, etc... to cause colored flames. We find these don't really work, and have some doubts as to how safe it is to burn some of these compounds. We know of no way to effectively get colored candle flames.
Q. I'm looking for some black light reactive dyes, but am confused as to which ones are... neon, pigment, flakes?
A. There are no black light reactive dyes so it is necessary to use Neon Color Pigments. Since pigments can clog the wick, use the absolute minimum amount needed to obtain the desired result. Note also that the UV brightener in our whitener dye flake is also black light reactive, and provides the purplish color commonly seen on white objects under a black light.
Q. Do different color candles have different burning rates? If so what color candle burns fastest.
A. Candle color on its own will not change the burning properties of a candle under normal conditions. High concentrations of candle dyes may cause some wick clogging causing the candles to burn at different rate, however this is the exception, not the rule. If you are planning this for a science fair project please note that in order to get a proper comparison you must use candles all from a single manufacturer of the same type and size.
Q. I made some beautiful over dipped candles, but the outside layer came off the candle, or it made large air bubbles under it. Do you have any idea what can be the problem?
A. The most common cause of this is the wax of the core candle or previous dip being too cool. Wax sticks best to warm wax, so dipping needs to start by holding the candle in the dip wax for 30 seconds to warm it up. After that, the candle should be dipped in and out of the wax, then in and out of the water bath, then immediately back in and out of the wax (repeat as needed). The air bubbles you describe typically result from the poor adhesion described so they are not actually a separate problem.
Q. How many ounces of pigment dye must I use per pound of wax?
A. I prefer to use this at 5% to 10% (approximately 3/4 of an ounce to 1 1/2 ounces of pigment per pound of wax). This provides good color with the fewest dippings. These can be used at as little as 2% (a little more than 1/4 ounce per pound), however it will require more dips to attain the same depth of color.
Q. What is the secret to making black candles?
A. Actually there is no secret really, just use a good black dye such as our dye flakes. Lower quality dyes will never dye to a true black. Note that a jet black can be obtained with our black flakes, however using them in high concentrations may cause some wick clogging problems so a bit of experimentation may be needed.
Q. Will a colored candle will burn faster than a plain white candle?
A. There is no single correct answer for this. Generally it depends on how the candles were made and what ingredients were used (there are an almost infinite number of possibilities here). Some companies use dyes that contain pigment and others don't and pigment will affect burning as it clogs the wick. Theoretically, properly made candles identical in all but color should burn a about the same. In reality many candle dyes (especially white and dark colors) have a minor component of pigment which will affect burning. Note that not all white candles are dyed though so not all white candles will have pigment in them and not all forms of candle dye contain pigments.
Q. Can I use acrylic paint or water colors for the carved candles?
A. No. No form of acrylic paint, food coloring, or water based paints are compatible as a wax ingredient and will just create a big mess.
Q. What is the color charting for dyeing candles with using only the basic 5 colors.
A. Basically the same color wheel as for paint mixing except you cannot add white to make it lighter or black to darken it.
Q. Over time the colors in my multi color candles are bleeding together. How can I keep this from happening?
A. There is little that can be done for color bleeding. Our flake dyes bleed a bit less than other dye types, but still bleed.
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Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge and common candle making practices as of the time of this writing. These FAQ's are common questions asked our tech support department starting in 1997 and updated and rewritten in April 2012. The author and the publisher accept no liability for the use or misuse of any of the information presented these pages - they are presented for informational purposes and is used at your own risk.
Author: Bob Sherman
Publisher: Bobby's Craft Boutique Inc.
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