by Tina Manneborn

We previously posted an introductory blog post on reinking dice, giving you an overview of the different techniques and materials needed. We would now like to delve a little deeper and give you more detailed instructions and guidance on how to reink dice, using several different methods.

Deinking Dice

Dice can be deinked in several different ways, and in fact it may not always be necessary to deink dice before you reink them. For translucent or semi-translucent dice, it is generally recommended to remove the original ink because you will be able to see the underside of the number grooves through the dice and see the color of the original ink shine through.

However, if your dice are opaque or not generally see-through, you can in most cases just ink over the original paint without much of an issue, which saves you the hassle of having to remove old paint. Caveat here is that, if your new ink color is very different from the original ink, sometimes you can see the original ink peeking out at the edges (e.g. reinking bright red numbers to silver).

These are the materials you’ll need for deinking:

  • LA Awesome or similar degreasing/paint removing agent and glass jar
  • Alternatively: high-alcohol content agents, such as isopropanol (91%) or non-acetone nail polish remover
  • Toothpick or toothbrush
  • Optional: Tissue paper (e.g. paper towel) or Q-tips
  • Optional: Polishing paste, microfiber cloth or Dremel

Many people use cleaning or paint removing agents such as LA Awesome to remove the original ink from dice. LA Awesome can often be purchased cheaply in dollar stores in large bottles, and there are similar agents in other countries as well, such as Simple Green (UK) or St. Marc’s Express (Netherlands).

To deink dice, you can put them in undiluted LA Awesome and leave them in there for extended periods of time (several hours to several weeks, depending on how stubborn the original ink is). Once they have soaked in there for a good while, you can try to remove the original paint with a toothpick and/or an old toothbrush. Shaking or swirling the container from time to time and gently heating up the LA Awesome can help speed up the process.

If you don’t like the soaking method or need a quicker process, dice can also be deinked with high-alcohol content agents, such as isopropanol (91%) or non-acetone nail polish remover. We generally caution against using acetone on dice, as it has been known to destroy some materials used in dice and ruin them in the process.

To deink with this method, it works best to dab a Q-tip in the alcohol and soak your number groove with it for a minute or two, and then use a toothbrush to take out the original ink. You may have to repeat this process if the original ink is very thick or stubborn. The more potent your alcohol agent is, the likelier it is to also damage your die material. It can happen even with acetone-free nail polish removers that the surface of your dice dull a little in the process. If this happens, you can normally restore your dice to their original state by polishing them with car polish or Flitz, or polishing paste and a Dremel.

Whatever method you use, you should end up with dice that are nicely deinked and naked, ready to be given a makeover.

Reinking with Gel Pens

This is one of the easiest and best reversible methods how to reink dice, with the caveat that you’re limited to the colors that are offered as gel pens and can’t mix your own colors that easily.

One of the questions frequently asked about gel pen reinking is which gel pens are recommended. This varies widely, and not all gel pen brands are available in every country. Popular brands used for reinking are Sakura Gelly Roll, Posca gel pens, Uni-ball Signo gel pens, or Edding gel-roller. There may be other brands that work just as well, and you’re encouraged to try out yourself which brand works best for you. You should also check how well your gel pen covers darker colors, not all of them create opaque color layers (metallic ones usually cover well).

These are the materials you’ll need for gel pen reinking:

  • Gel pen(s)
  • Optional: Tissue paper (e.g. paper towel) or Q-tips
  • Optional: Toothpick
  • Optional: Alcohol agent (e.g. isopropanol, acetone-free nail polish remover, brush cleaner, disinfectant spray)

The process of reinking with gel pens really isn’t difficult. It may sound like a no-brainer, because you basically take your dice and paint the number grooves of your dice with the tip of the gel pen.

It can get tricky if the gel pen tip is either too small (doesn’t roll well in the number groove so that no ink comes out) or too broad (inks over the edges of the number groove). Number grooves in the different dice types are also variable, so you’ll never find the perfect gel pen that fits all dice to a tee. You may have to experiment with holding the pen at different angles, or rolling the pen over the same area repeatedly, or use a sharp object like a toothpick to distribute the ink to where it needs to go. Don’t be afraid to create a nice little puddle of gel ink in the grooves and corners. It’ll become flat when it dries and will fill out the corners better that way.

If you happen to slip and accidentally ink onto the die face or if you use a broad pen and there’s a bit of overflow of ink at the edges, you can easily wipe this off with a damp tissue while the gel pen hasn’t dried yet, or with an agent that contains alcohol after the gel pen ink has dried. However, this can wipe away ink at the edges of the numbers, which may cause your original ink to shine through if you haven’t deinked your dice before.

How quickly your gel pen ink dries varies from brand to brand, sometimes from ink type to ink type. Some can be dry within 10 minutes, some can take a few hours to fully dry.

Reinking with Sharpies or Paint Markers

The Sharpie or paint marker reinking method is basically the same as reinking with a gel pen, with the exception that Sharpies create a thinner layer of ink and are not water soluble. Paint markers such as Molotow Liquid Chrome are also not water soluble and will not wash off with water after they dry.

If you want to wipe excess Sharpie or paint marker ink off your die, you will have to use an agent that contains alcohol.

These are the materials you’ll need for Sharpie or paint marker reinking:

  • Sharpie or paint marker(s)
  • Optional: Tissue paper (e.g. paper towel) or Q-tips
  • Optional: Alcohol agent (e.g. isopropanol, acetone-free nail polish remover, brush cleaner, disinfectant spray)

For the process of how to reink dice with this method, please refer to the gel pen instructions above. We also have a blog entry on how to use paint markers on Gamescience dice which you can take a look at.

Reinking with Crayon

The crayon method seems to be used most for inking or reinking Gamescience dice, for which we already have an existing tutorial blog entry that covers explanation of this method and the technique.

Reinking with Acrylic Paints

This is probably the most involved of all inking methods, but gives you the most flexibility in terms of color variation, blending, and special materials.

These are the materials you’ll need for acrylic paint reinking:

  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush or very fine paint dispensing tip
  • Tissue paper (e.g. paper towel)
  • Alcohol agent (e.g. isopropanol, acetone-free nail polish remover, brush cleaner, disinfectant spray)
  • Paint palette or similar for paint dispensing/mixing (plastic plate, old jar lid)
  • Optional: Q-tips

You also don’t need to be very picky with paint brushes and certain sizes, unless you want to get very intricate effects, in which case you probably need a very thin brush (5/0 or thinner). Anything between sizes 0 and 4 should work to apply the paint to the dice.

To get you started, you should have a paper towel or tissue handy, as well as your dice, a paint brush, something to put the wet paint on, and your acrylic paint. Shake the paint well (if it’s the kind you can shake) and then put some wet paint onto your palette or other surface you’d like to use for dispensing or mixing.

Dab the brush in the paint and more or less lavishly apply the paint to the number groove. It’s not necessary to be careful or intricate. Just fill the whole groove with paint—it doesn’t matter if some spill over to the dice face. You can be messy here.

Next, wipe the still wet excess paint off the die surface. You can either do this by wiping a paper towel across the die face, but you can also put the towel flat on your table or desk, and then wipe the die across the towel. Repeat this if you feel you haven’t wiped off enough of the paint, but be careful not to wipe away the paint in the groove. The die face doesn’t have to be 100% clean during this step as you can do the fine-tuned cleaning after the paint has dried.

Paint loses volume when it dries, so don’t worry if it looks like the paint is too thick after wiping off the dice face. It will shrink when it dries.

Once you’ve done all the faces of the die or dice, put them aside and let them dry. Drying time will vary from paint to paint. Some can be dry within as little as 10 minutes, some can take an hour or more. You should try it out with your individual paint and see what works best for you.

Once the paint is fully dried, dab or spray a paper towel with a liquid agent with a higher alcohol content (such as brush cleaner or disinfectant spray) and wipe away any dried excess paint off the die face without removing the paint in the number grooves.

Sealant Yes or No?

The short version is: It’s a matter of preference if you think using a sealant will better protect your reinked dice, but we don’t see it as a mandatory step. 

There are people who like to put some kind of sealant over the new ink, but it shouldn’t be necessary, unless you’ve painted the actual die faces or your reinked surface is larger than just the number grooves and will be touched or handled frequently.

Some gel pens can be easily washed off and may be more susceptible to wear and tear if the dice are being used a lot, especially if handled with damp or greasy hands. In that case sealant may make sense. Acrylic paint is pretty durable, and sealant is not needed.

If you want to use sealant, any water based finish should work (can be matte, semi-gloss or glossy), and if you want something stronger, you can try oil based finish as well, but be aware that it may react with either your ink or the material of your die, so better do a test run before you start applying it. (Oil based finish is likely to smear Sharpie ink, for instance.) Please note that oil based finish cannot be cleaned with water, you’d need a solvent or cleaner that is suited for the purpose (e.g. turpentine).

The TL;DR Version

Deinking
  • Not necessarily required for non-translucent dice
  • Tools and Materials:
    • LA Awesome or similar degreasing/paint removing agent and glass jar
    • Alternatively: high-alcohol content agents, such as isopropanol (91%) or non-acetone nail polish remover
    • Toothpick or toothbrush
    • Optional: Tissue paper (e.g. paper towel) or Q-tips, polishing paste, microfiber cloth or Dremel
  • Technique 1: Soak in undiluted LA Awesome or similar degreaser/paint remover for several hours, then scrape out ink with a toothpick or brush out with a toothbrush , warm LA Awesome up if ink is stubborn
  • Technique 2: Pool high-alcohol content liquid (e.g. isopropyl alcohol) in the number groove and then scrape out ink with a toothpick or brush out with a toothbrush
  • Please note: Avoid anything with acetone, and try other agents on small parts of one die before you use them freely to avoid damage to your dice
  • If necessary, polish roughed up surface with polishing paste or a Dremel
Reinking with Pens
  • Most gel pen brands will work for reinking, as well as paint markers or Sharpies
  • Tools and Materials:
    • Gel, paint or Sharpie pen(s)
    • Optional: Tissue paper (e.g. paper towel) or Q-tips, toothpick, alcohol agent
  • Technique: Paint the number grooves of your dice with the pen until groove is fully filled
  • Drying time can range from ten minutes to several hours, depending on pen type
  • If any paint got where it shouldn’t, wipe it with a damp tissue after paint has dried (water or alcohol agent, depending on pen type)
Reinking with Acrylic Paint
  • Most acrylic paints will work for reinking, more solid paints are preferred over runny ones
  • Tools and Materials:
    • Acrylic paint
    • Paint brush or very fine paint dispensing tip
    • Tissue paper (e.g. paper towel)
    • Alcohol agent (e.g. isopropanol, acetone-free nail polish remover, brush cleaner, disinfectant spray)
    • Paint palette or similar for paint dispensing/mixing (plastic plate, old jar lid)
    • Optional: Q-tips
  • Technique:
    • Dab a brush in the paint and fill the whole number groove with paint
    • Wipe the still wet excess paint off the die surface, repeat this if you haven’t wiped off enough of the paint
    • Let the dice dry, the paint will shrink when it dries – drying time will vary from paint to paint
    • Once the paint is dried, wipe dried excess paint off the die face with a tissue dabbed in alcohol agent without removing the paint in the number grooves

Show off your pretties

Dice enthusiasts love seeing creative ways of making old dice look new again. If you’ve reinked your dice and love how they turned out, or completely changed the look and feel of a dice set for you, share them with us in our Dice Maniac’s Club Facebook group. We also have a gallery for reinked dice, and are happy to add your photos if you like.

Further Resources