Science Technology
Make: Projects – Permanently stain PVC pipe any color you want


I love PVC pipe: It’s weatherproof, cheap, commonly available, easy to work, and easy to join temporarily or permanently. Apart from a slightly icky environmental footprint, the only serious drawback of PVC pipe for non-plumbing projects is that it’s ugly, owing largely to the fact that it’s usually available only in white, off-white, gray, or (sometimes) black. PVC can be painted, sure, but getting a good finish requires careful surface preparation, and even then the paint tends to flake or wear off with time, weather, and/or handling.

But, as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to remove a purple primer stain, it is possible to indelibly colorize PVC pipe. I got curious about what was in purple primer, and a bit of digging revealed that it’s just clear primer plus purple dye. I reasoned, then, that I ought to be able to make my own “purple primer” in whatever color I wanted by adding solvent dye to clear primer. Long story short: It works, and it works great. Details are here.



I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan