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How to Hydro Dip a Shotgun Barrel

How to Hydro Dip a Shotgun Barrel

How to Hydro Dip a Shotgun Barrel

The hydro dip is also known as water transfer printing, water transfer imaging, or water marbling. In the hydro dip, printed designs are applied to three-dimensional surfaces. Nowadays, hydro dip is extensively used for decorating all manner of items, guns included.

To upgrade your shotgun’s appearance through the hydro dip, you need to follow a few easy steps. A mistake or non-conformity in any step may compromise the overall quality of print on your shotgun barrel. The following are procedures that can give your shotgun barrel a brand new look.

Remove the Old Paint

Strip the barrel of its old paint. Apply a thick coat of paint remover on the barrel. Leave the remover undisturbed for about 20 minutes until the paint starts to bubble up. Use a plastic scraper to remove the peeling old paint.

Clean and Dry

When you have completely removed the old paint, clean the barrel using 91% isopropyl alcohol. Wear gloves while handling the barrel to avoid re-contamination.

Prep the Barrel

After the barrel has been wiped down with Isopropyl alcohol make sure to either sand blast or scuff the barrel with either a red Scotch-Brite pad or 220-320 sand paper. If you scuff it with a pad or sand paper you will need to re-wipe it with isopropyl alcohol again. If you sandblast the part, you can go straight to the next step.


You need to choose the right primer for the material that your coating. Apply the primer evenly on the surface of the barrel. The primer promotes adhesion to the surface. Allow up to two hours to dry in some cases before proceeding to the next stage. Consult your tech sheet to find out more.

Apply Base Coat

Your standard base coat is usually white. Most films are compatible with a white base coat. Evenly apply the coat on the barrel. It may take 2-3 coats to get full coverage.

Film Placement on the Water

Place your film on the surface of the water. Ensure the water you are using has a temperature of 80-90 degrees. Take caution that no air is trapped between the water surface and the film.

Film Hydration

Placing the film on the water allows it 50-60 seconds to absorb water. Films are usually temperature-sensitive, hence the need to keep the water at the right temperature.


In case there are sections on the barrel you want to mask off, you can use any kind of painting tape. Taping will aid you in getting clean lines.

Activate the Film

With the spray gun approximately 6-10 inches from the water surface, spray the activator in an overlapping manner. The amount of activator deposited depends on the speed of spraying.

The Dip

Wait for three to five seconds after spraying the activator. Dip the shotgun barrel through the surface at a 30-45 degree angle.


Remove any residual film on the shotgun barrel. You can use a light spray, shower or tap water. If you decide to use tap water, ensure that the water pressure is not too much. The tap water pressure can compromise your print in some cases.

Dry the Shotgun Barrel

You can choose to dry the shotgun barrel by either convection heating or air dry. Make sure after the barrel is rinse off that the water is removed as soon as possible to help prevent any rusting on the inside of the barrel.

Application of Clear Coat

We recommend applying clear coat on all hydrographically decorated items. Application of clear coat will seal in the inks and allow for a smooth, custom barrel. Ensure that the barrel is dry before applying the clear coat. You can apply matte, semi-gloss, or high-gloss clear top coating. If you need a finer finish on the shotgun barrel, you may opt to apply multiple coats as needed.