Tyvek Tinting

Tyvek is so versatile. I’ve been trying to find the right cover material for a set of miniature books (more on them later). I decided Tyvek might be the way to go.

My favorite way of decorating Tyvek is to use a foam cosmetic sponge dipped in acrylic ink. I evenly smooth the color over the Tyvek, rubbing it in with the foam sponge.

It’s best to work on top of some scrap paper and to wear vinyl or rubber gloves (I like the close-fitting kind, not the dishwashing kind).

Rubbing an even layer of the ink into the Tyvek brings out the patterns of its non-woven fibers. And one of the nicest things about acrylic ink is that it doesn’t leave any discernible texture or tackiness–perfect for book pages. It just soaks into the Tyvek.

Once the Tyvek is decorated, it can be used for all sorts of things. Cut into strips, it can be used as decorative tapes to sew signatures onto. Keith Smith, in Non-adhesive Binding Books Without Paste or Glue, says of it: “Archival, flexible and strong, Tyvek seems perfect for pages in a book. It can be sewn…and since it is strong, it can be a substitute for book cloth. PVA must be used for the adhesive…”

I’ve used it for accordion pages and small book covers. Most of what I’ve read claims it’s archival, although I think nobody will know for certain until it has been used for more decades. Keith Smith cautions that some binders are skeptical, warning that the plasticizer in it may eventually dry out and shatter. That said, the stuff is used to wrap houses and it’s a popular art material. I just use it and enjoy.

This shows a little gift book I made a while ago. The cover material and the pages are paste-painted Tyvek. I wish the photo could convey its tactile quality — very sturdy, yet people seem to like to pet the covers and pages.

25 thoughts on “Tyvek Tinting”

  1. Oh, that looks beautiful. The tone of the blue is just perfect! I am envious that you can simply find it on the insides of envelopes. I don't think I have seen it before, and I don't think it can be found here this easily.

    Mhm, I'll have to check the mail I received from the US, maybe I am closer to the material than I though I was.

  2. Let me know–I'd be happy to post a sample of a Tyvek envelope to you, if it would help you out. Perhaps it will turn out that it's something more readily available than you think, but maybe having a sample to compare is what's needed. I'm not sure if it goes by another name in Europe or not?. It is a great material to have on hand to try things with.

  3. Matcon Webmaster,

    Yes, you may use a photo and mention me on your blog, with credit and a link back. Please note that many makers of handmade books use Tyvek. I'm not claiming an original idea here, just showing my personal take on it.

    I read some of the info from your site, and noticed that "natural-product adhesives based on starch, dextrin, casein or animal by-products are preferred to synthetic-based adhesives" for adhering Tyvek. This is exactly the opposite of what Keith Smith (the well-known bookbinding expert mentioned above) recommends. Interesting. My own experience is that both starch-based pastes and PVA do work with it, as does a mixture of PVA and methylcellulose (a standard adhesive mixture that many bookbinders use). Tyvek can also be used as a substrate for paste painting, as I've mentioned before.

  4. Love this! Where does one get tyvek paper and envelopes in cool colors in the US? I could only find ones in UK and at Jam paper (which has a limited selection of colors. thanks

  5. Hi Crazy Filmmaker. I've found the best way to get colored Tyvek is to color it yourself. The easiest way is to use acrylic inks, which won't leave any noticeable texture and are resistant to rubbing off (the kind I use is FW brand–there's a bottle shown in the picture above-but there are others as well). A lot of people also paint on Tyvek with acrylics. Painting on it with a paste/acrylic paint mixture works great too. It probably depends upon what you want to use it for. What I show here is my method for coloring the Tyvek. I'm sure other people have other ways as well.

  6. Hi Sang-Mi–I usually just get a box of Tyvek envelopes from a stationery supply place and cut the edges off. If I want a bigger piece, I sometimes get a few sheets from a bookbinding supply place–it's the same kind of Tyvek envelopes are made out of, but bigger. But usually the envelopes are more than adequate.

    • Hi Barbara! Thanks so much. I deeply appreciate it. I went over to your site and had a look at your quilts and tutorials etc. Great stuff! Btw, have you ever used the Tyvek that is softer and more like fabric? I have no experience with it and have never even seen a sample, but it seems like something that might be up your alley.

  7. If the colored Tyvek paper gets soaked in water, will the color wash out? Please. I really need an answer to this. Thank you! :)

    • Sophia, just as with regular paper, what matters is the medium you’re using to color them. If it would run on paper, it’ll run on Tyvek and vice versa. I often do paste painting with Tyvek (a mix of watercolor and rice starch paste), that requires dunking previously painted sheets in water, and it works fine. Whatever you use, I don’t think I’d go so far as to soak it for a long time or run it through a washing cycle in the machine, however.

      The best thing, as always, is to make a sample piece and test that before wetting something you’re more fond of. I hope that helps.

      • Oh. Thank you so much! This would help me a lot. In case you’re wodering, I’m actually planning to make a pair of shoes out of Tyvek. It’s for my thesis, college requirement. Anyway, thank you very much. You’re very kind. Stay cool! Hope I could ask you again sometime, just in case. :)

  8. Hi! Thanks for sharing your experience. I bought some Tyvek model 1443R to make a pair of trousers. I want to dye them and know if the Acrylic ink you have used is specific for cloth or not. I also need to know if the acrylic ink in the Tyvek is durable or not. Thanks.

    • Hi–Sorry for the delay in getting back to you; I’ve been away from the computer.

      I haven’t used the more cloth-like type of Tyvek. The acrylic ink I use is meant mostly for paper. I have found, for my purposes, that the acrylic ink is quite durable. It does not flake off or fade (or at least it hasn’t yet). However, it is not fabric dye and might not work for something like trousers. I would think that a dye more suitable for fabric would work better, but I have no experience with this.

  9. Hi,

    Thanks for the great post. I have been wanting to dye tyvek paper but do you know if the acryllic ink will fade off if the paper gets into contact with water?


    • Hi John,

      It might depend on what kind of ink you use. Cheap, non-permanent inks might not give good results. But the acrylic ink I used here is Daler-Rowney FW, which is explicitly described as “water-resistant.” I have dunked some of these colored pieces in a tub of water and then paste-painted (using a combination of cornstarch paste and watercolors) over them with none of the ink washing off. (I should add, the paste-painted parts haven’t come off either.) If you are using an ink or paint that is meant to be permanent on paper, it will likely be permanent on the Tyvek once it is dry, in my experience. I have used some of these dyed and painted Tyvek “papers” as pages in some of my handmade sketchbooks, and none of the color has rubbed off on the other papers, even after quite a bit of use.

      That said, my oldest dyed Tyvek pieces are only a few years old. I don’t know how the Tyvek itself will hold up in another 20 years or more. The general opinion is that Tyvek, for the most part, is archival. It is used quite a bit in bookbinding. However, there was a discussion on the Book Arts Listserv a while back in which it was reported that not all Tyvek is the same and some forms of it might be prone to becoming brittle with age. If this is something that might worry you, the link to the archived thread is here. (Update: link didn’t work. See below.)

      Even so, if all you want to do is play around with Tyvek and paint some pieces, I honestly wouldn’t stress too much about that. It’s only a concern if you’re worried about the possible structural integrity of an archival bookbinding or artwork decades from now. Otherwise, have fun! It’s great stuff to play around with.

      I hope that helps!

      • Oops– Just checked the link in my reply to you, and it does not take you to the thread archive, only a general archive. If you are interested in this topic, you can go to http://www.philobiblon.com and click on the link in the left sidebar for the most recent Book_Arts-L archive. Then search on “Tyvek deterioration.” The thread was from March 2014. Sorry about that! I don’t know how to link to it directly.

  10. Hi,

    This is really amazing! I just bought my first piece of tyvek and I am happy to explore it. You used acrylic inks right? Is it waterproof?

    Thanks for the wonderful tutorial


  11. Hi, I’ve been experimenting with different foldable materials that can resist frequent use. I make origami “wallets” with them and use each one for a couple of months to see how they end up. Tyvek worked great but the lacquer paint coats I used started to peel. This is a photo of how it ended up looking.

    Do you think that would happen as well with your coloring technique?

    Also, is acrylic ink different from acrylic paint? I have acrylic paint but I hadn’t heard of acrylic ink.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Gerardo,

      Sorry it took me a few days to get to your comment. I think that acrylic ink rubbed into the Tyvek might hold up better than lacquer paint. However, you’d eventually still get some worn-away color on the sides of something like a wallet that would get so much use. But that’s just my best guess.

      I’ve seen examples of zhen xian bao (folded origami-type organizers that are also sometimes referred to as “folded Chinese thread books” or something similar) made from painted Tyvek that looked very sturdy, but even if these get folded and unfolded a lot, they still wouldn’t get the daily wear that a wallet would.

      I don’t know if this would be appropriate for you, but since you have been experimenting with all kinds of materials I thought I’d mention another possibility as well. I have made sewn pouches with zippers — strong enough to be sewn on a sewing machine and used like cloth — from newspaper that had been laminated with an iron-on vinyl from the sewing store. The vinyl is meant for cloth, but works well with paper too. It would be a little stiff, but still foldable. (One word of caution–I would NOT use an iron-on product with Tyvek! The heat from the iron would melt it. I’m thinking more of regular, thin paper.) It’s just a thought.

      To answer your last question — yes, acrylic ink is different from acrylic paint. It has a far more liquid consistency (even more than “liquid acryilics”). When it is dry it doesn’t stick to things the way that acrylic paint can. I like Daler Rowney FW brand. There’s a fairly good description of them here.

      I hope that helps!

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