Hydrographics - Technological Advances in Printing

Hydrographics – Advanced Printing

Nowadays there are many companies providing Hydrographic Supplies. Hydrographics or HydroGraphics, also known as immersion printing, water transfer printing, hydro dipping or cubic printing, is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional surfaces. This method is most commonly used in automotive parts, however it is also used in many other things. There is a wide variety of materials this process can be applied to such as: metal, plastic, glass, hard woods, and various other materials.


The hydrographic process is commonly used to decorate various items like: entire all-terrain vehicles, gunstocks, Xbox controllers and many more items. This shows that the hydrographic process can be applied to all sorts of materials. If the item can be dipped in water and can be painted using traditional it is most likely that the hydrographic printing process will succeed.


HydroGraphics apparatus was first patented in the US on July 26th, 1982 by Motoyasu Nakanishi of Kabushiki Kaisha Cubic Engineering. There is not much known of the exact origin of HydroGraphics.

How it all works


Although it is called a printing process it is much more like painting. If you are familiar with painting, you know you need a primer and base coat treatment in order to achieve the best possible results.


To begin you need a ‘hydrographic film’. Hydrographic film is a thin layer of a polyvinyl alcohol-based compound that has been specially printed upon via cylinder engraving. Though straightforward in concept, the production process of the film itself is the one main aspect that prevents hydro-dipping from being a 100% do-it-yourself operation, due to it needing special equipment. These films can be purchased all across the internet.


Once you have the film it is gently applied face down atop a tub, bowl, vat, swimming pool of warm water as to avoid wrinkles or air bubbles. The film is then rested between 30 and 90 seconds to soften the ink in preparation for object transfer.


After the hydrographic film is applied to the water for a short period, an activating chemical compound is then sprayed evenly across the film. The purpose of the activator is to transform the film from solid to liquid. It is the last step before dipping the object.


The primed object is pressed directly into the activated film and submerged into the water, permanently bonding the film with the object’s surface. It is necessary only to dip the object as far into the water as aesthetics require, e.g., tire rims are often dipped just halfway. The film-coated object is then pulled from the water, given a water spray bath to ensure removal of all activator fluid, and air dried. The process is complete.

Where do I get supplies for this?


Films can be purchased widely across the internet, there are a sufficient number of vendors around the web offering pre-designed films for approximately $2 per square foot. You can find DIY kits and even complete in-house trainings.


Here is what you need:

-1 square meter of film
-4 oz Aerosol can of activator
-4 oz Aerosol can of primer
-4 oz Aerosol can of base coat paint
-4 oz Aerosol can of low gloss clear top coat
-One pair of latex gloves
-3″ x 4″ Scuff pad


This is a standard MyDipKit. If you are already familiar with this, you can order these products separately.


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