So about a year ago I uploaded a “How to Swirl Paint” video on to YouTube. I received a really good response from that video and it was really cool to see all of your DIY projects using the swirl paint method.
Well since that video, a new ‘painting’ technique as been gaining in popularity. That technique is known as ‘hydro dipping‘.
Similar to swirl painting, hydro dip uses water to transfer an image onto your object. But unlike swirl painting where a random paint pattern is transferred, hydro dipping allows you to transfer a very high quality graphic on to your object.
There are a ton of different patterns and designs to choose from. I can’t even begin to name them all but in this video I have 3 examples to show you. I will be using a sticker bomb design, and wood grain film, and a carbon fiber pattern.
I’ve been having a lot of fun messing around with hydro dip. Of course as always, I will show you how to do it.
I did decided to purchase a complete DIY Hydro Dip Kit for my first attempts at hydro dipping. However if you are looking to get these supplies individually, I will list all the necessary supplies below.
- Etching Primer
- Color Base Coat
- Clear Coat
- Graphic Transfer Film
- Water Container
- Tank Heater
- Scrub Pad
- Painter’s Tape
- Nitrile Gloves
The first thing that you will need to do is prep your object for the primer and base coat. You will need to wash and degrease your object before spraying.
Its also a good idea to rough of the surface as well for better adhesion. What I used was just a scrub pad and some dish soap.
Give your object a good scrubbing and lay it out to air dry.
Oh and if there are any areas that you do not want to hydro dip, its a good time to start masking these areas off with painter’s tape.
Spraying Primer and Base Coat:
When spraying the primer and base coat, you will want to go over your object with light even coats. Avoid heavy sprays because this will cause runs in the paint which will eventually show through in your final finish.
Start with the primer and mist it onto your object. Do this multiple times with a few minutes in between coats until you are satisfied with the coverage.
You will want to repeat these steps with the color base coat as well.
In this video, I used both black (that came with the kit) and white base coat. I have found that good quality automotive base coat provides great results.
The color of base coat you choose will affect the final outcome of your hydro dip. Some films are transparent and you can achieve several different looks just by switch base coat colors.
Films that are not transparent can also be customized with different base coat colors. Depending on the film and base coat you choose, your end result may end up with different shades of colors and darkness of graphics.
Experiment with different base coat colors and find a look that you are after.
Since hydro dipping requires water to transfer the image onto your object, you will need to prepare a container that is large enough to submerge your object.
I just used a basic storage container that I had lying around as my dip container.
You will want to fill this container up with water while leaving about an inch or so of room from the top. This is to avoid spilling water over the edges as you dunk your object under water.
A recommended item to have is a fish tank heater. This is used to heat up your water to the ideal temperature for hydro dipping. Follow the heaters manufacturer’s instructions to set your temperature but the best temperature for hydro dip is to be between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once your dip container is filled and heated to the ideal temperature, we can finally start working with the hydro dip film.
Working with the Film:
When cutting the film, you want to make sure that the piece you cut is largest enough to cover the entire surface area of your object.
You also want to make sure that the film has the ability to expand about an inch on each side. So if you happen have too large of a container, you can always make a border inside the container with some painter’s tape.
Creating this border will prevent the film from expanding too much. The image quality of the film can be distorted if it is allowed to expand too much.
It’s also a really good idea to create a border around the film with painter’s tape. Creating this border will make the film more rigid and easier to handle. Just make sure that you cut slits in the tape on all the sides and corners so that the film still has the ability to spread out.
Alright its almost time to hydro dip! Grab your activator and start shaking it up!
Start Hydro Dipping:
Laying the Film
Start by holding your hydro dip film by it’s corners. Then slowly lay it on top of the water. You want to slowly lay it down starting from the middle and moving outwards.
Doing it this way will reduce the odds of creating bubbles underneath the film as well as prevent water from getting on top of the film.
VERY IMPORTANT: Depending on the type of film you use, typically the shiny side of the film goes down into the water.
I do have a simple trick if you are having a difficult time figuring out which side is which.
You can spray some activator onto a paper towel and wipe it on the film. If the film DOESN’T wipe off, that side goes down into the water. If the film DOES wipe off, then that is the side that stays on top.
Remember its very important to place your film correctly in the water.
Once the film is properly placed in the water, you will want to leave it there and let it soak and hydrate for about 60 seconds. You should start to see the film retain water. Any wrinkles in the film should start to disappear.
You can then move onto spraying the activator after about 60 seconds of hydration.
Spray the activator with light even strokes. Its recommended to spray it in a hatch pattern. This should ensure even coverage of the activator.
Do not over spray the activator, light even strokes is key!
The activator will instantly liquidfy your film and should start expanding. After about 15 to 20 seconds, the film should appear very shiny.
Keep this angle constant as the object is submerged under water. This will reduce distortion in your image.
Once the object is fully in the water, swirl it around to push away the excess film.
Quickly lift your object out of the water and stare at the beauty you created with hydro dip.
Rinse Away Residue
You are not done just yet!
The activator will leave behind a sticky residue from the adhesive. This residue will need to be rinsed off immediately after dipping.
Take your object and run it through hot or warm water. Using hot or warm water is best, but if you have to you can use cold water.
If no residue is left over, your hydro dipped object should appear very dull. Any shiny areas means there is residue left and will need to be washed off.
Protecting Your Hydro Dip:
There is one final step after letting your object fully dry and that step is to protect the image.
You do this by spraying clear coat over your object. The clear coat that came with my kit has a high gloss finish but I’ve also had really good results with automotive clear coat.
Take your time spraying the clear coat. You will want to spray light even coats just like you did with the primer and base coat.
That’s it! You’re done!
Hydro dipping is a great option for those of you who like to customize your projects. Best part is that you can basically hydro dip anything, as long as it can be submerged under water.
Personally, I have many projects that comes to mind that can be customized with hydro dip.
Hopefully this tutorial has helped and I am excited to see all of your hydro dipping projects!