Have you ever wondered how they get those detailed graphics painted onto bicycle helmets, car and ATV trim, and dashboards? The process is known as hydrographic printing, or more simply, water transfer printing. It’s the process used by most manufacturers to decorate their products. It’s easy to learn and the results can be astounding. However, there are only a couple bay area companies that offer water transfer printing services.
The process can be done on any object that can be submerged in water and which can hold a base coat. If an item meets these two requirements, the process can be used to print geometric designs, wood grain, camouflage, or any other design of your choosing onto the object. It’s able to be done with all types of substrates, which include fiberglass, wood, plastic, metal, and ceramics.
A water-soluble film that contains the printed patterns is dissolved into the water, and the ink bonds to the object that you are printing. In a typical application, the item that is to be printed is first coated with a primer base, or at other times an adhesion promoter. After the primer has dried, manufacturers often apply a coat of paint to control the hues of the chosen pattern. For example, if you’ve elected to use a camouflage pattern, paint neutral base color onto your object. After the item has been printed, it is then washed and painted with a clear topcoat.
Water transfer printing is nothing new, but it is seeing a surge in popularity due to the prevalence of YouTube videos and other social media sharing. It is becoming particularly popular with outdoor enthusiasts who are able to design, create, and apply their own camouflage graphics to everything from hunting and fishing equipment to firearms.
There are a number of suppliers of home dip kits that make it possible for hobbyists to do the process for themselves from the comfort of their own workshop or garage. Those suppliers provide complete details, breaking down the process of hydro dipping into step-by-step instructions to make it simple for the hobbyist to get great results the first time out.
When shopping for a home dip kit, take the time to compare them to make sure that you’re getting the most for your money. While some kits will include everything that you’ll need to do your first project at home, such as primer, base paint, clear-coat paint, gloves, sandpaper, and other necessities, others only provide the supplies that you’ll need that are specific to the hydro dipping process, like hydrographic film and film activator.
You can find a wide variety of hydrographic films with predesigned patterns already made. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Imagine printing an image of skulls or camouflage to your son’s skateboard, or horse images onto your daughter’s school lunchbox. There are so many different patterns and styles that you’ll find some that are suitable for either gender at affordable prices.
While the process is extensive, and there is a bit of a learning curve, it is definitely something that you can learn to do on your own and get quite good at. As your skills develop, you can earn some extra spending cash by printing objects for your family and friends. The results will amaze them!