Hydrographics Overview

What is hydrographics?

Maybe you've heard of hydrographics (also known as hydro dipping), but you're asking yourself, “What exactly is it?” or “How does hydro dipping hold up?” Simply put, hydrographics is a decorative addition to traditional paint for many types of nonporous materials. Chances are, you've seen hydrographics on firearms, hunting gear, motorcycles, tumblers, wheels, cell phone covers, beauty tools, or even interior trim pieces in vehicles.

How does it work?

Printed film is placed on the surface of water in a large tank and then allowed to soak for 1 minute.  The film is then sprayed with a chemical known as hydrographics activator that transforms the film into a liquid state.  The product receiving the pattern is then dipped into the liquid and rinsed off. Check out our video below for an example of exactly how this is done.

Is it really that simple?

To put it bluntly, the answer is no.  There are steps to be taken prior to and after the hydrographics process that many beginners are unaware of.  Let's examine the necessary pieces of the hydrographics puzzle:

  1. Part preparation is required when direct to substrate paint, such as our DTP paint line, is not used.  Prep work may include sanding, scuffing, and/or priming.  If a direct to substrate paint is used, no prep work is required for most substrates including polypropylene, polyethylene, ABS, lexan, steel, aluminum, brass, copper, bone, glass, fiberglass, and wood. It is recommended that the part being painted is wiped with denatured alcohol to remove any dust or debris.
  2. Basecoat painting is a MUST for all substrates other than ABS plastic.  Ink from the hydrographic film must adhere to the part being dipped, and this is only possible with compatible paint.  This adhesion occurs via a chemical bond between the ink that is activated in the film and the paint. 
  3. Clearcoat is just as necessary on a hydrographics project as it is on a paint project.  Why? Because a project with hydrographics IS a paint project.  Most 2K clearcoats work well to provide a durable and protective glossy, flat, or soft touch finish.  A variety of different clearcoats can be found in our Paint section.


Have more questions? We're here to help! Contact us anytime from 9:00 - 6:00 at 1-888-873-0648 or shoot us an email at orders@kansashydrographics.com