How to Make Colored Candle Oil

by Susan Tysonby

Clear glass oil candles are a pretty, elegant addition to any tabletop, and adding colored lamp oil just makes them more spectacular. Unfortunately, oil that comes pre-colored is considerably more pricey than clear paraffin oil, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find the exact color you want.

Colored Lamp Oil

Just a Drop: 8 oz of oil with and without dye - I told you this stuff is potent!

Also, if you want to use a different color for every occasion (Halloween, St. Patty’s Day, Christmas or Hanukkah), you’ll end up with a lot of half-used bottles of very pricey oil. You can always mix them together and have a lot of brown (for…Groundhog Day?)

Well, friends, save your money and launch your career as a lamp oil color mixologist. All you’ll need is pure paraffin oil and some liquid candle dye (don’t try water-based food coloring. It mixes with paraffin oil like, well water-based food coloring. Not at all.).

Oil Lamp Oil

Just gorgeous! (tell everyone you made it yourself)

You’ll only need to buy the smallest amount of the candle dye, because this stuff is potent. Start by adding just one drop to the clear oil, and stir or shake until it’s evenly distributed. You can always add more if you desire a deeper color. If you’re planning on creating a variety of different colors, I’d invest in a set of primary color dyes (red, blue and yellow), so you can mix up a rainbow of oils.

For maximum visual effect, you’ll probably want to pick up some replacement wicks, so your wick will match the oil color du jour.

So get creative, save some cash, and send us pics of your prettiest oil creations!

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Susan Tyson

VP Marketing at Firefly Fuel, Inc.
VP of Marketing at Firefly Fuel, Inc - An innovative, eco-friendly company supplying refillable oil candles and green fuel to homeowners, restaurants and resorts.

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  • Donna

    You’ve refered to “liquid candle”, where did you find this? Also, I want to use the dye to accent my regular Oil Lamps, with a globe, not just a liquid candle, will this dye work for my oil lamps. I’ve looked at the container for my lamp oil and it says nothing about Paraffin, it says: petroluem hydrocarbons. Please help me connect with a website that offers dyes that would be compatible with my needs.
    Thanks

    • karen

      Hi Donna -
      I used a liquid candle dye from Bitter Creek Candle Supply at http://cart.candlesupply.com/Liquid-c-403.html. It worked really well to color the paraffin lamp oil, but it sounds like you’re using kerosene lamp oil. Paraffin oil and kerosene are both petroleum-based products, so liquid candle dye SHOULD work in your lamp oil as well, but I’d test a small amount first. Don’t bother with liquid food coloring or any other water-based dyes, because they simply won’t mix with oil. Please let us know how it worked for you – thanks!

  • Handy Andy

    I recently purchased an oil-lamp I’ve been wanting for ages, and it is just begging to have different colored fuels for it (a way-cool Firelight “Shadow-Dancer” design). Not having a need or desire to color lamp-oils in the past, I went in search for info online. I find that EVERYONE is suggesting to get the oil-based candle-making dyes.

    I sez to myself, I sez,”Wow, pricey stuff! You must be joking! That’s almost as much of a rip-off as inkjet inks! (Those are water-based, so don’t anyone bother trying those.) Surely I could find something better, more inexpensive, and readily available!?!” I had some old cake-maker’s icing dyes in the back of a kitchen cupboard. Thinking that frosting and icing are mostly fats and sugars, perhaps those are oil-based dyes. Nope, don’t bother. A quick experiment showed them to be water-based.

    So then I started brain-storming, thinking through all my hoarded supplies for fixing, repairing, inventing things … what oh what else has oil-based inks/dyes in them? Ahah! I thought, old ballpoint-ink pens that skipped or never worked. I could cut the tubes out of those and dunk them in bottles of lamp-oil …

    But on my way to find that drawer full of dead pens, I spied something else I hadn’t seen in a long time (I love telling a long story because it took longer than this to get to the point on my own :-) ).

    In the back of a drawer I spotted four 4-oz. bottles of inks that I used to use to re-ink the cyan, magenta, yellow, & black stripes on 4-color ribbons for my old old old dot-matrix color printer. I, being frugal and inventive, never bothered to buy inks made specifically for dot-matrix printer ribbons. Not after I found out that stamp-pad inks were the very same thing. So I had 4 almost-full bottles of the primary colors needed for ANY color-mixing I wanted.

    I quickly put a drop of the blue stamp-pad ink into a light-yellow bottle of lamp-oil I had sitting around, and the color dispersed immediately. Coloring the whole 1/2 gallon of light-yellow oil a nice foresty/piney-green with just one drop.

    Hunt around for old stamp-pads, cut them up into little squares, drop a bit into a bottle of oil. Or soak the whole thing in a small bottle of oil and use that oil as your colorant. OR … get bulk stamp-pad inks — fer way cheaper than oil-based candle coloring dyes!

    Now spread the word. A great way to use up all those old multi-colored stamp-pads from kids’ toy-sets or found in the back of your dusty old desk drawers that you can’t seem to find a reason to throw them out yet.

    Tell your frugal candle-making friends too. Stamp-pad inks should work just as well for that.

    Now aren’t you glad that I couldn’t log into ehow.com website today? Or I would have never found this place to share this great tip.

    p.s. Cutting up a bit of old ballpoint ink tubes of various colors and dunked in a bottle of lamp-oil should work too, in case you don’t have stamp-pads or their inks laying around. Though I never did test that option. The stamp-pad inks worked so well I stopped my searches and tests. :-) Though, ballpoint inks are not out of the question here yet. I have some old dried-out fluorescent-ink ballpoint ink pens that are useless, but I never threw out … might make some interesting lamp oil colors! Some novelty ballpoint pens even come with scented inks. Kill two birds with one stone. If anyone tests ballpoint inks, please share your test results in case I’m wrong about them being useful for this purpose. (Note: these must be ball-point pens with the little clear (or metal) ink-filled tube inside, not the water-based inks of felt-tip pen varieties. If recycling metal-tubed ballpoint inks, push a toothpick or fine wire down inside to drag out a few drops of ink.)

    • Stormy

      Does anyone know if crayons would be okay, after melting them? I don’t understand science too well, and I think I have some ink, but, afraid to try it and blow something up. They are old inks from computer printer cartridge. Will they work?
      Thanks
      Stormy

      • Handy Andy

        In my Mr. Wizard adventures, I did find that paraffin (wax) does eventually dissolve in kerosene but leaves the kerosene cloudy, like the paraffin has dissolved in suspension. Though wax/paraffin dissolves in naphtha even better. (Naphtha = cigarette lighter fluid, sold as naphtha by the quart in hardware stores. Great for removing gummed labels and other non-drying adhesives.) I often make my own wax-polish by just rubbing on some paraffin on the item and adding a few drops of naphtha so it dissolves into liquid-wax to buff out after it dries.

        So I think you could use dissolved crayons … BUT most all of them are opaque pigments. Crayon pigments are finely ground-up solid compounds suspended in a wax-base. They are not dyes, dyes are individual molecules suspended in solution. If pigments this means they will eventually settle out of whatever liquid they end up in, imparting no color of their own to the liquid. And leaving the liquid cloudy while still in suspension. IF, however, you have some crayons that are transparent colors (hold them up to a bright point-source of light to see if the light shines through), then they could possibly be used. I have noticed some bargain-basement dime-store crayons in the past that had this transparent property, but it is by no means the norm. They impart so little color when used for drawing. Like trying to use a colored candle for a crayon. And due to the small dye content, probably wouldn’t color anything that they were dissolved in very well either.

        As far as the printer inks go … that’s a solid NO. Both the pigment and dye based printer inks for inkjet printers are water-based. They will not mix with carbon-based (kerosene, liquid paraffin, oils, naphtha, etc.) solvents. After years and years of the two sitting in the same bottle, SOME of the dye pigment will leach out of the water-base into the oil-base liquid, but not enough to matter, and not in the time-frame you are hoping for. :-) The dye in the water is happy to remain attached to the water molecules.

        Try the ink in some old ink tubes from old ballpoint pens of different colors. I’ve yet to test that theory. :-) Tell us how it works. Since it is such a concentrated OIL-BASED dye to impart so much color on such a fine line and shallow layer, it might be the most cost-effective solution of all. And who doesn’t have a drawer-full of old pens that they keep hoping will stop skipping one day? :-)

        p.s. I don’t think that the “erasable” ballpoint pens would work, as that’s more on the order of a latex/rubber based compound and will probably lead to disappointment. Try plain ‘ol ballpoint pen ink, like in an ordinary ballpoint BIC pen.

        • Handy Andy

          p.s. Since the viscosity (thickness) of the ballpoint pen ink is so high, you might have to “get it started” by putting some on a little slip of glass or something, then using a toothpick to rub a drop or two of lamp-oil into it to thin it out before it will mix well with the rest of the lamp oil. Or just wait a few days to see if it will eventually disperse into the much thinner lamp-oil, shaking the bottle on occasion to help it along.

          Just a guess, but an educated one from past experience of working with many kinds of materials of varying properties.

          This would be not unlike trying to mix water into a can of condensed soup. It help to add only part of a can of water first, to thin out the concentrate a little, then adding the rest. Otherwise you just end up with lumps of concentrated soup in a watered-down base. :-)

      • Firefly

        p.s. Since the viscosity (thickness) of the ballpoint pen ink is so high, you might have to “get it started” by putting some on a little slip of glass or something, then using a toothpick to rub a drop or two of lamp-oil into it to thin it out before it will mix well with the rest of the lamp oil. Or just wait a few days to see if it will eventually disperse into the much thinner lamp-oil, shaking the bottle on occasion to help it along.

        Just a guess, but an educated one from past experience of working with many kinds of materials of varying properties.

        This would be not unlike trying to mix water into a can of condensed soup. It help to add only part of a can of water first, to thin out the concentrate a little, then adding the rest. Otherwise you just end up with lumps of concentrated soup in a watered-down base.

  • Handy Andy

    p.p.s. I eventually plan on experimenting by making various densities of lamp-oils by using different percentages of the lighter (less dense) refined lamp-oils and good kerosene, in different colors, then carefully floating them on top of each other in the lamp for multi-colored layered oils. A cue taken from my old bartender days of making layered liquid drinks. Should be a fun experiment!

  • Handy Andy

    p.p.p.s. Another decorative effect idea that some of you might like … one time there was a power-outage for quite a few days and I was running low on lamp-oil (read: kerosene). I had one tall lamp that could never draw up all the oil from the bottom. So, in order to get that lamp to burn, I dumped in a bunch of those decorative glass globs they sell to fill planters and things, to raise the level of oil high enough so the lamp could keep working. (Actually, I had none of those, but had a “Go-Moku” board-game that had bags of those for players’ pieces and used those.) Mix some of those colored glass-globs with some lighter colored oils? … Especially if you are low on oil. :-)

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