Learn the Basics of Hydro Dipping Hydrographics, commonly called hydro dipping, is a method for applying a pre-printed design on a three-dimensional surface. The printing process works on plastic, hardwood, metal, and a variety of other materials. Although you can perform hydro dipping on almost every surface, it’s worth considering that the process is very wet. You may, for instance, damage electronics if you use this process. Despite this essential warning, almost any hard surface is a candidate for placing a unique design on it. Is Hydro Dipping Permanent? Hydro dipping is a durable finish similar to the paint on a car. That makes it a viable solution for work that you want to last for a long time. No matter what surface you’re working on, this method will not only be a tough finish but beautiful when completed. Prep Things the Right Way Prep work is the first step towards completing your hydro dipping project. It’s crucial to keep the surface clean and free of debris or any material that causes an interruption. If you plan on hydro dipping objects, you need to use the right materials. Start with an automotive primer, then apply 1-3 coats of automotive base paint and then when that is dry, you can now dip the part. Fill up any plastic container about 75% of the way with water. When it’s time to lay the film onto the water, you must put the proper side of the film facedown. The simplest way to do that is to use a wet thumb and finger to grab one of the film’s corners. after a few seconds let go, and you’ll find that it sticks to one of them. The side that’s holding is the one that you put facedown on the water. After you lay the film on the water, let it sit for 1 min. and then spray the activator on the film. Look Out for Air Bubbles At this stage, pay careful attention to see if there are any air bubbles. Any bubble that is under the film’s surface will distort the final design. If you do find one, blow on it gently to get it to move out of the way. You may have to poke or press one if it resists. It’s smart to be a bit patient and thorough as you go through the process. That way, you’ll ensure less overall blemishes in the final product. The last few stages involve spraying activator, dipping, and rinsing. Slowly Dip Until Things Look Fantastic You will want to dip your object in and out of the water slowly. The design ends up on the item with ink from a PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) film. The water-soluble film absorbs moisture. As that happens, the ink and film both soften and the design becomes more pliable. Depending on how things look, some people also decide to add a candy to spruce up the display. It might take trying something a few times to achieve your perfect look. Nobody is an expert the first time they try hydro dipping. With enough practice, it’s possible to make out of this world designs that get attention!
Learn How to Do Water Transfer Printing at Home Water transfer printing is a fantastic process that’s gaining in popularity. Fortunately, it’s a technique that is doable at home for people. There’s no reason to leave it to others, provided you have the right tools and a bit of knowledge. Select the Film The first step is to choose the film you want for the application. The key is picking a print that will have a dramatic visual appeal. Once you have the one you plan on using, you can move on to the other steps. Apply the Base Coat The base coat is critical for the project’s success. The one you select will depend on the base surface. For example, if using wood grain, a tan or beige base coat is the best one to pick. If you’re using a carbon fiber print, you will use gray or silver instead. Pick a paint with a specialized formulation for Hydrographic printing. Patterns look very different depending on the base coat so don’t neglect the importance of this step. Prepare the Film Transfer Place the hydrographic film on the surface of the water in the dipping tank. The film partially dissolves because it’s water-soluble, which leaves the pattern floating lightly on the top of the PVA film. The surface tension of the water allows the design to curve around all surfaces easily. Activate The image that floats on top of the water needs an activator added. This liquefies all of the design’s colors but leaves the appearance and overall structure intact. Transfer Immerse the part into the water slowly and carefully at an angle. The water’s pressure causes the design to wrap around the object evenly. The final result is that whatever film you used to apply the pattern will have it on all sides of your part. Wash and Dry Remove all of the excess film and leftover residue from the water. Once that’s done, rinse the part until all the PVA is removed from the part. Let it sit and air dry to be fully dry to the touch. How long it takes to dry out thoroughly will depend, but it’s worth being patient. Apply a Clear Coat Clear coating is the last step in the process. It adds a protective layer and also makes the final design a bit shinier or more flat depending on the clear used. The result of all these stages is that you end up with a beautifully printed object. Ultimately, hydro dipping is relatively easy to perform. Like most things, a bit of practice will make the process more efficient and the results a bit more predictable.The exciting thing about the process is that almost every dip turns out slightly different than other ones. A hydrographic finish is durable and most of the coating lasts for years, however, they’re no different from a car’s finish. Scratches and other abuse will shorten the coatings lifespan and cause the part to look much worse. Bad enough scratches can ruin the whole thing. Keep that in mind when you decide which coating to do and what surfaces to paint. With proper selection and care, this form of printing has many advantages, chief among them is how great it looks. You’ll be very proud of your completed work and people will be impressed!
Decorate an Abundance of Items With Hydrographic Printing You can decorate any object that can be safely dipped in water when using this method of printing. Parts for vehicles or ATVs as well as matching helmets can look vibrant and beautiful. What Is the Hydrographics Water Printing Method? Hydrographics involves a film that sits on the water; the film is printed with graphics or a pattern. Pre-printed patterns are available, or they can be custom designed. The pattern sits on the surface of the water until the object is dipped. This type of printing is suitable for a variety of 3D objects. Often designs can be used in any direction, giving them a more universal appeal. What Surfaces Can Support Water Transfer Printing? There are numerous places where this printing can be used. Surfaces include: Glass Plastic Metal Fiberglass Ceramics Wood Liven Up Your Vehicle A variety of patterns can be used to decorate a dashboard or wheel covers. Depending on the size of an immersion tank, ATV parts can be decorated. Automotive trim can also be dipped if the part can be immersed in water. If you have a motorcycle and wear a helmet, your helmet can match certain parts of your bike. A base coat is put on first and can range from solid colors to glitter to metallics, neon, glow paints, and more. This gives the object a unique depth below the surface of the pattern. Add a Touch of Whimsy to Other Items Your favorite Yeti cup as well as your dog’s favorite bowl can be made brighter and more cheerful. Match the outside of the dog bowl to your cup, sharing the love of your furry friend. Ceramic cups and bowls can be printed on the outside area. Basically any object that can be painted on with traditional paints is a candidate for hydrographic printing. What Pre-Printed Patterns Are Available? You can find patterns that range from camouflage to carbon fiber to geometric shapes and much more. Textures are available as well as abstract patterns. From skulls to American flags, you’ll find a variety of pre-printed patterns. Animal prints, stone and marble, wood grain, metal, and royalty designs are some of the choices. Outdoor enthusiasts and campers will find many designs to blend in with the surroundings or their favorite environments. Softer designs include florals, paisleys, flowers, shells, lace, swirls, and cartoons. Add a paint splatter to a cup or a black and white checkerboard to a tray, giving those objects further interest other than carrying drinks. There are many items that can be hydrographically printed. As long as the objects can be immersed in water, they are ready to be uniquely decorated.
How Scratch-Resistant Will My Hydro-Dipped Item Be? Hydro dipping has a number of names: water transfer printing, hydro imaging, hydrographic printing, immersion printing and more. Just like the number of names, this process will produce items with a variety of resistance to scratches. How they are finished in the final step can determine how scratch resistant they are. Resistance will depend on the type of paint as well as clear coatings; these will influence the durability of the graphics. Clear coats can be matte, semi-gloss or glossy. Whichever you choose, you’ll want your graphics to remain as beautiful as time wears on. Vehicles You’ll want to use automotive grade products to decorate rims and auto parts. An automotive-grade clear coat applied to the finished product protects it. U.V. inhibitors are part of the coating and protect the finish from fading. Like an automobile, normal use will not affect it, but if the printed area is scratched or abused, it will show. A scratch on the clear coat can affect the painted surface. Liquid Concepts utilizes these products to make sure you get the best coating for your automotive parts Bows, Cups and Other Objects Cerakote is sometimes used as a final finish. It is ceramic-based and can be applied to plastics, metals, wood and polymers. It is known to provide resistance to abrasion and wear. It also inhibits corrosion, while providing the hardness to resist scratches. It can be used on parts of your motorcycle as well. Nautical Objects If you have items from your boat that are being hydro dipped, you’ll want to be sure that the surface will hold up with saltwater as well. Clear coats used in marine applications are usually similar to those used in the automotive industry but with more UV and saltwater resistance. If Your Hydro Dipping Is DIY You’ll want to be sure to finish the objects with a clear coat. Kits are available that include a clear coat that promises scratch resistance under normal circumstances. Take into consideration the surface on which it will be applied and buy the right kit for your usage. Cure Time When an item is hydro dipped, it might take 30-90 days for it to be fully cured, as durability increases. Contact with solvents or other chemicals can damage it during this time of curing. To ensure scratch resistance and durability, use a professional who knows the hydrographics printing process. If you choose DIY for hydro dipping, do your homework to be sure of a final finish that will enhance the inspired graphics and leave your objects unique and beautiful for a long time.
How Activators Factor Into the Hydro Dipping Process Hydro dipping is a fun way to customize a three-dimensional object. Whether you want to put a cool film on a trinket box, shelf, hub cap, pistol or something else, it is necessary to follow all the steps of the hydro dipping process. An activator is a required part of the hydro dipping method, and here is what you need to know about activators before you start your project. What the Activator Is The activator is a chemical that liquefies the ink on the hydro dip film. After you have primed the object and painted it, the item is ready for the film. Hydrographic films are made from polyvinyl alcohol. The film is carefully placed on the water surface of a dipping tank. Once the film is hydrated, you add the activator. This liquefies the ink on the surface of the water. You dip the item, and the water’s surface tension allows the pattern to wrap around your three-dimensional item. The ink will not liquefy if you do not add an activator. What Happens If You Use the Activator Incorrectly Your hydro dipping project will not have the desired look if you do not properly apply the activator. Too little activator will not fully liquefy the film, and it will not stick to the item. Too much activator may cause the ink to disperse and not properly adhere to the prepared surface of your item. Types and Styles of Hydro Dip Activators Hydro dip activators are available in aerosol and liquid forms. The aerosol form looks like a can of spray paint. It is ideal for a small project. You just spray a light mist of the activator over the film. The liquid activator is for large products. There are two types of activators. One is designed for rapid use, and it is better for experienced hydro dip artists. The other type gives you more time to do the dipping. It is good for a beginner to use. Although each manufacturer has its own blend, the common ingredients in activators are xylene, isobutanol, butyl, methyl acetate and methyl ethyl ketone. The fast-acting activators swap methyl ethyl ketone for ethyl isobutyl ketone. Some activators may include isophorone, texanol, 2-butoxyethanol or cyclohexanone. Safety Tips for Hydro Dip Activators If you decide to try hydro dipping at home or as a project in a classroom or community center, it is important to be safe when using the activator. The aerosol activators should be used in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors. No matter which type of activator you use, wear eye protection, gloves, a rubber apron and long sleeves. The activator’s droplets or splashes could damage your eyes, nose, mouth, throat or skin if they make contact with you. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on safe use of the activator, including how to store any of the activator that you did not need for your project.
How to Hydro Dip at Home: Hydro Dipping for Beginners Hydro dipping is a technique that is used for transferring camo, wood grain, and other complex patterns to three-dimensional objects. Through a chemical interaction, the design becomes part of the object. Hydro dipping produces vivid colors, and every part of the object is covered with the pattern. Hydrographic designs require no special printing equipment, and you can use any material that can withstand being submerged in water, such as ceramics, plastics, metal, and fiberglass. You can also hydro dip wood, but you should exercise caution because the process may warp the wood if you do not use a sealer primer. What Is Hydro Dipping? Hydro dipping is a way to transfer graphics to objects without expensive printing equipment or paint. The process works by placing a special film on the surface of the water. A chemical solution is sprayed onto the film, which causes the film to dissolve into the water. The pattern adheres to any object that you submerge in the water. DIY hydrographic dipping has several advantages over other techniques: Hydrographic kits include all the items you need Complete coverage with the pattern, including small openings and crevices Customizable designs or patterns Works on most materials Objects can be small or large How Do You Hydro Dip? When you have a complete hydro dipping kit, the process is easy and fun. You can use the patterns that come with the kit or have a custom pattern applied to the film. You fill a container with water and lay the film on the surface. When you spray the film with the chemical solution that comes with the kit, the film/pattern dissolve into the water. After this, you immerse the object in the water and remove it is completely covered with the pattern from the film. Step-By-Step Guide to Hydro Dipping Items that you will need for your DIY hydrographic printing projects: Large, deep plastic container (the container will have paint on the inside after the hydro dipping is complete) DIY complete hydrographic printing kit Object to be dipped Sandpaper to smooth the surface Rags Bucket of mild cleaning solution and water Vinyl, rubber, or latex gloves Primer Coat Base coat Top Coat – Clear Coat Once you gather all the items, you will first prep the surface of the object. This involves removing any finish, cleaning the surface, and applying a primer and a base coat. When it comes to primer and base coats, you may be wondering what type of paint is best, such as water-soluble or oil-based options. You need to use the right type of primer and base coat to ensure that the hydrographic process works properly, so it is best that you use primer and paints that are specifically designed for the hydrographic printing process. When you are choosing a color, the recommendation is to use a neutral, such as beige, tan, white, brown, or black. The base coat will show through some of the design, so it needs to accentuate the overall look. Steps for prepping your object: Use the sandpaper to remove any finish on the object. Wipe away any dust or dirt from the surface using the rags, mild cleaning solution, and water, and then rinse thoroughly. Dry the surface of the object completely with clean rags. Spray the primer and base coat on the object in a thin, even layer. Let the base coat dry completely in a dust-free environment. After your base coat is dry, you are ready to apply the hydrographic design: Fill the plastic container with warm water to a level that is high enough to submerge your object without water spilling over the sides. Lay the patterned, water-soluble film on the surface of the water, being sure to put the film in the water with the sticky side down. (test this by touch the film which a damp finger to determine which side your finger sticks to) Check for any bubbles under the film, and gently blow them to the side of the film to remove them. Allow the film to hydrate completely for the time specified in your kit. Spray the chemical activator onto the film in a thin, light layer, being careful not to add too much activator. Once the film looks liquefied- or has a glassy finish in the water then it is your object is ready to be dipped. Put on the gloves, and slowly dip the object into the water at an angle until it is completely submerged; do not let go of the object. Rinse off the slimy residue that is left on the object after dipping using a garden hose (this should be done outside because the activator has a strong smell). Gently wipe off any remaining residue, but don’t scrub or vigorously rub the surface. Once the object is dry you are ready to add a protective top coat. Where to Find DIY Kits for Your Hydro Dipping Projects Liquid Concepts has the DIY hydro dipping kits that you need. Our kit includes a dip container, activator, film, aerosol spray gun, and two of our speed shapes. We also have base coats that are designed specifically for hydrographic printing.
Over the years of business we have encountered this time and time again and felt that it is a necessary topic to cover for all of you hobbyist and businesses alike. Knowing the limits of your coatings is crucial in your business. It is never bad to tell someone that the coating you offer is not the best for their application versus telling them it is and not living up to their expectation. Firearms for instance is something we coat daily in our shop and we see several other companies coating them frequently. Over the years we have come to educate our customers on what coating is the best for their needs. Though hydrographics is a big part of our business, we for instance, do not recommend that our customers hydro dip a pistol. You ask why? Simply because the Hydro dip is a thicker coating and is not ideal for low tolerance areas. So yes, you can coat the entire pistol, the frame and the slide. But what you will encounter is when you or a gunsmith go to reassemble the pistol or even the customer, they will either have to spend a lot of time masking off areas so that the gun will fit together properly or you spend a lot of time removing the coating you just applied to get the firearm to have proper fitment and functionality. Then at this point the coating has the risk of chipping and peeling. Reassembling a gun that has been fully dipped takes quite a bit longer simply due to fitment issues that you will encounter. Even if you were to tape off all of the areas prior to prepping and dipping you would still have a lot of time invested in masking those areas off. If you did not charge accordingly, the job might not have been as profitable as you once thought. It basically breaks down to knowing what is going to be the best coating to give the customer the best results for their application. Customers think they always know what they want until you explain the options and educate them on the process and durability so they can decide what fits their needs the best. As a business we have made the decision to not offer any pistols to be hydro dipped because of this simple reason. In return we offer our customers with another coating that is ideal for this situation and offers them great durability, protection, and does not encounter all of the fitment issues associated with the hydrographics. Sometimes you might not always have another coating option to offer your customer but in our experience, by giving them a coating on an item that is not going to be able to offer them the durability, longevity and non-fitment issues they need could be more detrimental to your business in the long run. Your name in your business is the one thing that you will always have as long as you are good at what you do, honest to your customers and treat them right. Customers prefer to be told the correct answer and honesty versus what they want to hear. For your business in the custom coatings world, it is no different. Customers may know what they want but not what they need. Make sure to educate each and every customer that comes in your door to make sure you pick the correct coating to fit all their needs, even if you may have to turn down the job all together.
At Liquid Concepts we get asked all the time what is your most popular carbon fiber combination that gives the most realistic looking carbon fiber. Well in this post we want to share with you guys just that -the most realistic carbon fiber for the hydrographics films. First you want to start off with the correct foundation to make sure your coating will last and be very durable. We always recommend using around 80-100 grit media to blast the part. Depending on the type of part you have, you may blast it at 20-60 PSI depending on the type of blast cabinet you have. After its blasted and the entire surface has been etched, you will want to blow it off with a high pressure air nozzle and properly hang or place the piece that is getting coated. After its blasted then you want to spray a direct to metal epoxy primer for the best adhesion. We recommend using the P-250 DTM Epoxy Primer as it sticks to almost any surface as well as direct to metal. Once you have let the primer flash off for the proper amount of time, you will want to pick out your base color that your going to use on the part. For this step we will be using the Charcoal Grey Metallic. This is an awesome color by itself and when you use it for the base under a carbon fiber, it makes the carbon really “POP”! After you have the base coat sprayed, make sure the part is dry to the touch (Usually around 5-10 min.) Once it is dry to the touch then we are ready to make the magic happen and make that part look like a custom carbon fiber piece! For the carbon fiber, the go to film is the CF-282. This is a black and clear film that is as close to carbon fiber as you can get. When you place the carbon over the Charcoal Grey Metallic then you get a color combination that looks very realistic and close to real carbon fiber. There is a few things to remember about this film and we will go ahead and share them with you here – Make sure the sticky side of the film is down on the water. When cutting your film for carbon fiber, make sure to give plenty of room for error so as to not stretch or warp the carbon as much as possible. This carbon takes the standard soak time of 1 minute on the water at 80-90 degrees. After the carbon has been sitting on the water for 60 seconds, spray the Liquid Concepts Activator and make sure the film “Glasses Out”. When it turns to glass you are good to dip you object in the film. After you dip the part in the realistic carbon fiber, make sure to rinse it thoroughly to remove any and all PVA from the part. Afterwards you can let it air dry or blow dry it off. Once the part is fully dry it can now be hung or placed back up to have it ready to be clear coated. To make sure your customer gets the best durability and longevity out the hydro dipping, we recommend spraying the C-500 High Solids Glamour Clear. This clear coat is made to give a long lasting shine and excellent UV resistance when out in the sun! After everything is sprayed with a high quality clear, your part is now finished and will look amazing! Using this paint color and hydrographic film combination with high quality products from Liquid Concepts will have your customers wanting to come back for more all the time!
In the world of hydrographics its all about who has the certain film that somebody is looking for. The designs and genre is growing by the day but there has always been a market to fill for somebody that is wanting a one off custom design. Up until here recently the only way to get a custom made hydrographic film was to pay thousands of dollars in development fees and order huge quantities of film which made it impossible to be cost effective for the average person. Fast forward to now and you will see how Liquid Concepts has helped pioneer a new wave of custom film that is not only cost effective but allows you the flexibility of offering nearly any design to your customer. Used to when a customer wanted a “Custom Film” most shops had to turn the customer away because either they didn’t have a good airbrush artist on staff or the work that the customer was wanting done was beyond the scope of what the shop could do. But wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to get a film that already had all the designs on it and you just dipped it like a normal film? Well now is the time that you can finally have that happen! After spending years in research and development Liquid Concepts has brought to the market a one of a kind printing that gives the most photo-realistic prints as well as the most vibrant colors on the market! Along with a turn around time of 24 hours or less (in most cases) from ordering to shipping, a shop can be dipping their custom film the very next day if needed. After speaking to multiple hydro dip shop owners who use the custom film on a weekly, monthly or even daily basis, they all had the same consensus that since they started offering our custom film they have seen an increase in jobs allowing them to capture revenue that they would not have been able to capture otherwise. Custom hydrographics has opened up other numerous avenues of business for our customers and it is only continuing to grow. Imagine being able to take your customers logo and apply it to nearly any item they desire! Forget the vinyl stickers and water slides by allowing us to make you a one of a kind hydro-dipping film to fit your needs. Not only does this create a custom look but it also saves you on time as well by being able to knockout a project in a single dip. At Liquid Concepts we have a full design team ready to work with you to get you a design that is made specific to your needs. We can help you in designing, making the image seamless or even fixing some areas of the image to make it that one of a kind custom look you want! As with any design company, there will be a small design fee to help facilitate your idea into a custom printed water transfer printing film which vary depending upon the amount of work involved. Most of the time this will range from $25 to $75. If you have been thinking about trying the custom film just give us a call and we can get you setup and going with your design in no time! Don’t have a design in mind? We also offer thousands of pre-made designs that have no design fee and can be purchased instantly directly from our website! Give us a call today and see how we can help you increase your revenue and customer base with Custom Printed Hydrographic Film from Liquid Concepts!
When starting a job that you want to do a color fill on you must first follow a few steps and make a plan before getting started on the job. The first thing you want to do is figure out what color will be “filled” and what color or hydrographic pattern will be on the part. The second part is knowing how to start a job like this. For this write up we will tell you all the in’s and out’s of how to properly color fill a hydro dipped item. First you want to start with properly prepping the item to be color filled. This usually involves sandblasting the item with around 80-100 grit media or scuffing the item with a red scotch brite. You can also use 220-320 grit sandpaper as well with most items. Once you have all your part prepped and cleaned, then it’s time to use a primer or sealer to properly adhere to the part. Normally we use the Liquid Concepts P-250 and P-251 Epoxy Primer. This can be used as a primer to fill and sand out any imperfections or you can add reducer to the mixture and turn it into a sealer. This primer is already Direct To Metal (DTM) so you can apply it to almost any bare surface including metal. After you spray your primer, you can now apply your top color that is going to be the base for the water transfer printing on the part. This will NOT be the color that you fill into the part but the overall color used as the base. In this example we will use a carbon fiber engine cover with a red color fill. The carbon fiber is the top pattern and the red is the color fill or the “Filled” color. You will want to apply your base for the carbon fiber (in this example, it will be our Dark Charcoal Grey Metallic) and then go ahead and dip the engine cover. Once you have it dipped and rinsed off, go ahead and get the engine cover dry and do any touch-ups that are needed and get it ready for clear coat. You will now clear coat the whole part. When doing a color fill we normally like to use a quick dry clear so it’s fast to cure out and we can sand it within a few hours or sometimes even 30 minutes depending on what clear coat you use. Most standard clears we normally leave overnight to get a proper cure before we start to sand the part. When the clear coat on the part is dry and cured out, you can take a red or grey scotch brite pad or 800-1000 grit sandpaper and sand the entire part. This part is critical because it gives your clear coat something to stick to when you re-clear the part for the final time. Also this helps in getting the “filled” color to stick to the freshly cleared part. After scuffing, you can spray your filled color on the part and let it fully flash and dry. You don’t want to apply this heavy, but you do want to make sure it’s applied enough for the proper color to be shown. Now that the fill color is on the part, you can now take a clean rag and a cleaner and start to gently wipe off the paint. Normally we like to use isopropyl alcohol or acetone. You can use lacquer thinner but it’s a very strong chemical and could possibly damage the clear coat when wiping the surface. As you are wiping the surface you do not want to apply excessive force, but only enough to gently move across the part to start wiping away the paint. As you start to see paint coming off the part and on the rag make sure to keep switching over to a new spot each and every time. This helps in preventing excess paint to be smeared across the part and keeps the paint you are wiping away on the rag. As you wipe the part make sure to glide over the top and not press down hard. Since we have already clear coated the part, the clear protects the top hydrographic pattern and allows the fill color to stay in the recessed areas of the part to give you a perfect color fill as you gently wipe away the excess paint from the part. When you finish the part and the color fill looks great, make sure to use a high quality clear coat to keep it looking its best for years to come! We normally use our C-500 High Solids Glamour Clear for any and all our jobs to make sure the parts look their best and stay glossy for years down the road. Because we already sanded the part before we applied the filled color, the clear will have plenty of adhesion to the parts and now your customer will have a fully one off part that looks amazing and should only take minutes to do when properly prepped out correctly! If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you and as always, at Liquid Concepts, we are making hydrographics great again!