Hydrographics 101

Hydro dipping .. looks so good, and youtube would have you believe it’s so easy.


I can only think the guys who post the videos (mostly pro shops) don’t mention certain things, like rinsing after, so you buy the stuff from them, have a go, fuck it up, then pay them to do it for you.

Or is that overly cynical…

Ok so here’s what I’ve learned through trial and error.

Try to use an acrylic based spray paint and let it harden for a couple of hours before you start – some oil based paints react with the activator if there not fully hardened and the paint softens/melts.

If you’re dipping straight onto plastic, use a primer – I use a car bumper/abs primer, but there are all sorts – and they really help the film bond properly.

Make sure it’s clean and grease free before you start, a quick wipe with meths and a lint free cloth never hurt!

The dip tank water needs to be warm, not hot or cold but about 25-30^C

The film has two sides, lick your finger and press the corner between your index finger and thumb, the side that feels sticky goes water side down.

If you have small pieces of film, it’ll likley curl in the direction it was rolled in, you can fix this by placing a strips of masking tape along the edges (before you put it in the water).

Once you’ve put the film in (correct side down) get the air bubbles out as best you can, then let it sit for a min to ‘hydrate’ – first it’ll go wrinky, then it’ll start smoothing out, now its rdy for the activator.

Spray outside, or in a well-ventilated area – your significant other won’t be impressed by the smell (that lingers for days) and you might end up sleeping in the garden (with all your stuff) if you do it in the bathroom.

Spray the developer in a good smooth even coat, wait for a few seconds for it to melt, now you should be good to go.

Once sprayed you have ~ 1min to start the dip before the film starts to degrade, leave it too long and it’ll look like crap.

Try to dip in a single calm smooth motion, also try and avoid going in flat to the water, keep the surfaces angled, as that’ll help tweak the last few air bubbles out, and be carefull of sharp angles, as they can break the film.

Once you’ve dipped (congrats btw) swirl it about under water, to break off the excess film. Remove it, and let it sit for 2-3mins for the print to bond to the surface.

Rince it gently with warm water (hotter works faster, but might also remove the print, cold takes longer) for about 5 mins (use a shower head) – You see that glassy slimy stuff on the surface, that’s the PVA the film was made from. It’ll run, drip, take days to harden and make the piece look like crap if you don’t wash it off.

Once your rinsed, let it sit and air dry

Once it’s properly dry, apply a very VERY light dusting of clear coat, let it flash dry for 15mins, then apply a very slightly heavier one. let it harden. Then go again, like you normally would until you’re happy you have the right number of layers and thickness to protect your parts.



Dont they look pretty =)


If it all gone horribly wrong, first dont panic, second as soon as you can while its still wet and slimy take a kitchen ‘soft’ sponge scourer to it and clean the film off as soon as you can before it hardens. This will save you having to redo all the prep from the very beginning (you still might have to do a bit).

Hope it helps, have fun, buy some disposable gloves, and dont dip anything irreplacable until your confident..

practise makes perfect! 😉