Why do a lot of us love the sparkle and glitz of any-color rhinestones?
Well, the brilliance of those synthetic gemstones has heavily influenced many aspects of culture. One composer dressed his performance of his requiem with a choreographed ballet to it with crystal-studded crosses hanging over the stage. Myriad hip-hop artists and rappers adorn themselves with gaudy crystal jewelry and other crystal-encrusted accessories. Some country music artists refer to those sparkly gems a lot, most notably in a song about a cowboy.
No dress-up sets for little girls are complete without rhinestones, right? Accessories and jewelry range from diamond white gem-studded bridal gowns to jeweled princess tiaras. But the beauty of them doesn’t just stop there. Clothing ranging from gymnastics leotards to prom-night gowns also include them for all ages, not just little princess wannabes. For crafters, they are ideal for dressing up anything from photo frames to scrapbook pages with some rubber stamping involved.
The Pains of Custom Color Rhinestones
Let's face it - bling bling culture dents our wallets. At many retail stores, there's practically a limited option of colors to choose from, and we often can't find which ones complement our projects or clothing.
But the real expenses are some of the ones that are dyed or come in colors besides diamond clear. Sometimes, the ruby red and emerald green ones are more costly than normal clear ones. Even more trying is buying multiple colors of them, which can add up to the cost. What a pain!
But there's an easier and cheaper way to create colored bling, and with some easy tools, you can make your gems the colors you want.
Materials You Need for the Techniques
Anything with colorless clear rhinestones can do the trick. For papercrafters, they may prefer the adhesive flat back rhinestones, which cost very cheaply at a big-box store or dollar store. For those wanting to custom-dye their crystal jewelry, they can also get cheap necklaces of synthetic gems from discount stores.
If you already have colored rhinestones but think their colors are too garish for your liking, you can use the same methods to tone them down a bit.
Any permanent marker can color your gems. Here, it's Copic.
Method 1: Using Markers
This is a simple, cheap method of coloring your own gems. Simply color them one at a time.
The most important thing is that the markers have to be permanent. Any set of permanent markers is fine (You can dye your crystals black if your project calls for them, including jewelry, accessories, and clothing fit for your loved one's funeral.), and some of them come in assorted colors. Test it on a piece of clear acetate to see if they shine through. I suggest the Sharpie brand because the markers allow them to shine beautifully.
If you have a fatter wallet, you can even color them with Copic markers. They are alcohol-based, permanent coloring implements worthy of a good investment.
If coloring them with one color is not enough, try layering them while the ink is wet. They can teach you color mixing in the process.
To lighten colors, you can dab a bit of rubbing alcohol (90% or more works effectively) on a cotton swab (such as that of the Q-Tips brand) and lightly dab it on the gem. You can also use an alcohol blending solution to do the trick. Both solutions remove the color, so be careful.
Those inks are TOPS for coloring your bling!
Method 2: Using Alcohol Inks
Believe me, I experimented with using alcohol inks to color my rhinestones and they worked wonders on me! They come in a variety of colors and they have allowed me to actually mix colors before coloring them.
Although cheaper, you can make your own with liquid dye and 90% or more rubbing alcohol. But the colors are not that brilliant when applied to a non-porous surface like a stick-on gem. Homemade inks are ideal for making light pastel or muted-color gems.
The best inks of the kind are either the Copic Various Inks (again, they are alcohol-based and permanent) or the much cheaper Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Inks. Both allow you to blend your colors and maintain their vibrancy on a gem.
The way you color your gems is completely up to you. For mass-produced gems, you can use a blending tool (Ranger has one) - simply apply the inks on it and dab it all over the sheet of gems.
If you are coloring certain parts of your clear jewelry or if you want perfect rows of assorted colors, then a cotton swab or sponge applicator would be your choice. Apply the ink directly on the end or drip it on a palette and soak it. Dab the end for a brilliant color or swipe it for a more muted look. You can control how much ink you put on your gem, which is why I prefer permanent inks to permanent markers. You can also drip rubbing alcohol on the ink or on the inked applicator to mute it a bit.
If you are coloring certain parts of your clear jewelry or if you want perfect rows of assorted colors, then a cotton swab or sponge applicator would be your choice. Apply the ink directly on the end or drip it on a palette and soak it. Dab the end for a brilliant color or swipe it for a more muted look.
Do you have flatback, nonadhesive rhinestones? Feel free to pour the rubbing alcohol/alcohol blender and ink into a small bowl and dump some of them in. Make sure you stir with a stick to ensure uniform coverage.
You can control how much ink you put on your gem, which is why I prefer permanent inks to permanent markers. You can also drip rubbing alcohol on the ink or on the inked applicator to mute it a bit or remove it if you dislike the color.
Uses For Your Colored Rhinstones!
Once you have colored your own rhinestones, you will face a lot of possibilities for them!
If you want to dress up your cell phone case, you can glue them on in a pattern (I suggest sketching the design first before doing this). You can also glue custom-dyed stick-on gems for extra security.
For scrapbooking, make sure all your material is acid-free so you can apply to a desired portion of a page as a nifty, photo-safe embellishment. You don't have to worry about that for non-photo cardmaking!
If you want those gems to stand out on a shirt, you can iron a sheet of iron-on gems already dyed by you on them, glue them, or sew them. You may want to glue stick-on gems on your shirt or dress for extra security.
Tips: if you want to preserve the color of the gems you've already colored, brush on a coat or two of a water-based sealer (acid-free if scrapbooking with them), and then spray with acrylic spray. If using hotfix crystals to dye, I suggest that you use the dyed and heat-set ones only for papercrafts as they are messy to seal once fixed to fabric.
Even if many rhinestones come in a variety of colors, you can custom color your own without the hassle and (sometimes) cost of finding the perfect ones. Doing so can add personality and sparkle to your projects, from purses to scrapbooks of someone's wedding. They can doll up a homemade or secondhand gown for a formal or charity ball well because you designed them to complement them!
So why not pick up a few sheets or bags of plastic or glass gems, grab your markers or inks, and start making your own rubies or topazes?
Tammy from North Carolina on June 24, 2012:
I use a ton of rhinestones and it never occurred to me that I could color them myself. I had a great lightbulb moment while reading this hub. I some times have a hard time finding these in vintage colors. Great advice. Voting up and sharing!