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When to Activate Hydrographic Film

When to Activate Hydrographic Film

When to Activate Hydrographic Film

Hydrographics refers to a process in which you apply graphics to 3D objects and dip them in water without any damage. With this process, you can customize various surfaces, including hunting equipment, dashboards, automotive parts, and camouflage items. Below are the steps to a successful hydrographic film dipping. Remember to wear the right PPE for the hydrographic process and ensure that you spray in a well-ventilated space.

Preparation Work

After choosing the item you want to dip and the design you want, prepare your selection for dipping. Clean the object to remove any grease or old coating. Properly primer and paint the part to be dipped. Measure the object to identify the amount of film you need. Cut the hydrographic film to the appropriate size and (if needed) tape both the longest sides using masking tape. Fill a water-tight container with water. Ensure the water temperature ranges 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit.


Use the sticky side-down test to identify the side of the film that you should place onto the water. Place the hydrographic film on the water gently, ensuring that you put the sticky side down and avoid trapping any air bubbles. Wait for 60 seconds for the film to become soft, and gently smooth out any creases that might form during this stage. Remember that some films can develop wrinkles, but the wrinkles should disappear after about 30 seconds.

Use a 1.3 tip and adjust your spray gun pressure between 10 and 15 psi. You will want the fan entirely out and the trigger set for the proper speed you will be spraying. You will also want to spray the activator around 6-8” above the film. With a pass of about 8-12 inches per second, apply the activator and ensure that you depress the trigger fully and that the water ripples gently. Wait for about 20-40 seconds so that the film gets fully activated before dipping. If you initiate it before the film is ready, it creates lines or creases that damage your film. You may require an extra pass if you have denser ink films. Do the second pass in the opposite direction of the initial pass to keep the pattern from deforming.


After you have painted the object, ensure that it is dry and ready to be dipped. Dip the object in a steady, downward motion. Dip it at an angle of approximately 30-40 degrees to avoid trapping the air. You will determine this angle depending on the item you are decorating and the surface you have to cover.


After dipping, remove the object from the container and rinse it with lukewarm water until it stops feeling slippery when touched. Ensure you touch the object gently to prevent possibly smearing the hydrographic film. Rinsing may take 3-5 minutes, depending on the water temperatures. After rinsing thoroughly, allow it to dry with compressed air or sitting on a rack. Avoid drying with a towel or cloth. If you spot any shiny spots after it dries, rinse until the slimy residue is off.

Top Coat

After you have dipped and cleaned your item, now it’s time to apply the topcoat. The clear coat helps safeguard the finish and gives your item a shiny appearance. We recommend two or three coats. One light coat and one or two medium coats ensures that the item gets fully covered and achieves the desired coating thickness.