Coloring Cement

lesdvs9November 26, 2007

I know there are cement dyes to buy to add and color the cement. They are expensive and I don't like the colors. This is probably a very dumb question, but why can't you simply put a couple of drops of food coloring dye in? It's permanent. I have stained tile before with it.

I appreciate any info before I ruin a stone trying this out.

TIA, Leslie

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fredw10(z8 AL)

I like the powder concrete dye better than the liquid which must be added to the water, but you should try the food coloring. Also, do some experimenting. Mix up a batch of tufa mix. Put varying amounts of several dyes in small parts of the batch. Mold up the same small piece in all trial mixes, and observe the results. If you can find some white cement, try it as well as gray. I don't think the powder dyes are very expensive because I have achieved the desired color using only a few tablespoons full for one trough. Results are so subjective that no one here can guarantee what will look good to you. Run some tests, the results might surprise you.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 3:16PM
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Thanks for the ideas. I haven't tried any tufa yet, I've been using only mortar or vinyl cement. I tried some mauve powder today in grandgirl's stepping stone she made, think I put too much in. She's 6, she likes it though:)I haven't been able to find any pure white cement, what I've been using cures to such a white grey that it's not bad.

I did find out that my one problem right now is using water that's too cool inside. Stones are 'lacing' on the sides and bottom with the vinyl. Think I'll put that away until it gets warmer again, it's too expensive to be imperfect with. Though I've reinforced the stones I think the imperfections would weaken them.

Thanks again, I appreciate the answer.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 9:17PM
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I used food color with little success. The gray cement gobbles-up the color in the mix. Better results by painting the food color on just before "set".

my 2 cents

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 10:29PM
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I like 2 cents, always saves me a penny:) Thank you for letting me know you already tried that. I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 12:45PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

The main problem with food colors is that they are so susceptible to fading in sunlight.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 2:43PM
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Sue, thanks for explaining why they don't work well. I've tried a powder now and a gel, I believe the powder works best. I need to qualify that statement though, the stones haven't fully cured and dried to see what color they end up being either. They may change again in another 7 days and lighten further.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 12:19PM
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jannoel_gw(z5b IL)

Didn't someone on this forum use left over latex wall paint to color their projects a couple of years ago? I seem to remember it worked, plus it was a way to recycle paint they no longer wanted.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 5:43PM
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I've used the latex paint. Cheap at rummage sales too.
It works, I used 50/50 water and paint. It lightened up the cement well, but I did it last summer, and the piece is out in the wisconsin snow right now....It hasn't faded, just don't know yet if it will hold up. I did seal with a clear cement sealer.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2007 at 9:13PM
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Thank you, I'll have to try this out with the paint. I appreciate the tip.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 1:47PM
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wannadanc(z8 WA)

I have leaves and pavers that have been outside for 3 years - no fading - winter/summer - and I colored them AFTER they were done setting up by painting w/ exterior acrylic latex and wiping off - then highlighting w/ craft paints etc - and sealing w/ grout sealer. So easy, so much fun, and if you don't like the way it turned out, paint it again.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 3:29PM
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daisy_ny6(z6 NY)

Marcia, did you mix the paint into the cement or paint it afterwards?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 2:35PM
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Wannadanc, thanks, I have some other molds this would be ideal to work with that I'm not putting anything into. They have a raised design instead.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 4:04PM
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I "stained" several mushrooms last July with a fence (wood) stain, not a latex. It was applied after the piece had set for a few weeks in the sun. The tan color is stll very visible even after several snow falls and below freezing temps. I did not seal the mushrooms.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 2:41AM
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chris2u(Z-7, W.TN)

Hi Robert, I have a mushroom curing and was unsure on how I might get a more "natural?" look for it. I've got lots of stain. I think I'll go that route. Thanks.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 10:32PM
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i have never tryed any of the cement stuff yet plan on starting this summer but i was wondering if the permenent fabric dye would work on this im really curious.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 12:27AM
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IMO ---- Cement gobbles-up almost every color additive I have tried to use. Just think of your cement piece as a blank canvas. I have experiment with paints, stains, and dyes: everything from water-colors to house paint. I use sealants including, clear acrylic sprays, marine spar varnish, shellac, - even waxes. As I said, imo, exterior color will work better for decorative purposes. If you want to see what I have done with color take a look at some of my work on my face book page. Oh yeah, don't be afraid to link to it. :) The "Mad Hatter" Planter has been in the weather for several years now and has maintained the color. The mushrooms are compound sculptures created because I had made too many pots for succulents. I also wanted to experiment with color and these pieces were sitting around. They're at the bottom of the page.

Here is a link that might be useful: My sculptures

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 3:30PM
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mark_fleming(Marine WA)

Adding color to the cement is a waste of material because you have to color all of the cement, even the inner material that doesn't show. It takes huge amounts of color to turn a bag of grey cement into another color, and even then, it will have a grey tinge. A much quicker and cheaper way is to use acid stain on the finished surface.

Search Ebay for a color sample kit from one of the vendors. You can get a kit of 6-8 colors that can do a variety of projects. For pictures of this technique, check out my blog at

Click on the last picture on that page (click several times to enlarge). The door surround (by the blue buckets) is stucco textured to look like rocks. I then used the stain sample kit to make them look realistic. I daubed the stain on individual "rocks" with a sponge and used only a few ounces from each 8 oz. bottle, so the stain goes a long way. You can keep layering the colors and even the greens and blues have their uses in making fake stone. At a certain point, you've reacted with all of the lime and no further coloring is possible. I actually added additional lime to this stucco so that it would take a lot of color. Lime from the garden store will work, you don't need builder's lime. A cup or two per bag of cement makes a big difference. Read up on how to use lime and be careful.

Several of the rocks, like the white rock on the right side, couldn't be stained white. For that rock, I rubbed in very course rock salt mixed with white earth pigment (from a pottery shop). After curing for 48 hours, the rock salt dissolved out when sprayed with water and the white pigment had bonded to the moist stucco. The result was a whitish swiss-cheese surface, not unlike travertine.

This project is about three years old and shows no signs of fading.

I'm now at the GardenWeb hypertufa site because I'm starting the landscaping. I'm thinking of a nice big hypertufa faux stump for the yard. Something that will grow moss but not termites!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 12:04PM
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I have read so many ideas on how to paint a bird bath, but every time I read the directions on diff products, They either say don't use on concrete or not on a horizontal canvas. Which tells me it won't hold up to water sitting in it. My first bird bath completely faded white where the water was sitting. Some people say to seal the birdbath first with a penetrating sealer then to paint it with craft paints then spray it with a top coat. Then theirs other that say to seal, prime, paint, then apply a clear protective coating.
I just don't want to disappoint anyone with inferior work that won't hold up.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 11:39PM
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My rule of thumb when coloring cement is to use the oil based colors for the finish coat, and to use the water-based stains when I want a little color, as for my casted leaves.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 9:56PM
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Mike Larkin

valolson1 - can you provide names of products that you use. That would be very helpful

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 11:42AM
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