Hydro dipping is essentially just a fast-track way of printing onto a 3D surface.
The process was first developed by engineers in Japan during the early 1980s as a way of taking two-dimensional images from pieces of film and spreading them evenly across objects.
Hydro dipping is a great way to customize pretty much anything- from wheel trims to new sneakers, and even firearms.
The technique involves mixing paint with water, hence the name, to create a film of paint on the surface. Your chosen item can then be dipped into the water.
And if done correctly, the results can be incredible, often resembling colorful marble. Pretty cool, right?
In recent years, videos of DIY hydro dipping projects posted online spread like wildfire, which led to everyone and their uncle giving it a go.
Even YouTube star Jenna Marbles notoriously loves hydro dipping and has made a ton of videos trying it out. As soon as people realized that you can hydro dip pretty much anything- as long as it’s waterproof, they’ve never looked back.
So, what kind of spray paint should you use when hydro dipping?
To achieve the notorious marbled effect, users should only use acrylic spray paint when hydro dipping.
Spray paint is the recommended medium as they’re easy to control and create a thin and even layer of paint that floats on the surface of the body of water.
As long as you ensure that the surface texture of your object can absorb the color and pattern that you’ve chosen, then you should be able to create a whole host of psychedelic designs.
If you don’t think that your object’s surface is grippy enough for hydro dipping, we recommend lightly sanding it down with a sanding block or paper before you begin dipping.
Complex shapes can be a little more tricky to prepare, so you may find it useful to sandblast them.
Can you hydro dip without spray paint?
There may be several reasons why you’d prefer not to use spray paint. For example, aerosolizing paint can disperse fine chemical particles with force which requires the user to wear a full respirator mask to protect their lungs.
Additionally, going outdoors to spray paint isn’t always an option for everyone, particularly those who live in high-rise apartments or inner-city buildings with no garden space.
If these apply to you, fortunately, there are other ways of hydro dipping your items.
While not all hydro dipping methods are suitable for every kind of material, it’s likely that you’ll be able to find an alternative that works for you.
Acrylic marbling is a great option that works best on untreated wood or paper. When hydro dipping pottery and ceramics, nail polish works great!
However, it is important to note that each method will achieve a different final result but the effects should be fairly similar to that of the spray paint method.
The main differences you may notice are that the paint may not adhere as well and the overall color vibrancy may be a little muted.
Some methods will even require a primer or base coat while others will not. Follow each method’s procedures carefully and accordingly, and you’ll have no issues.
How do you hydro dip with spray paint?
Prepare your surface
Just like any paint job, you’ll need to prepare your work before hydro dipping.
Depending on the material, you may need to sand away any previous coatings and clean off any dust and grease with a cloth and some sugar soap spray.
Any large and deep container will work for your hydro dipping project. As you’re going to be working with paint, any container you use is going to get painted, too.
So, be sure to use something old that you don’t mind ruining. Big plastic rectangular or bucket containers work great and can be picked up from your local hardware store.
They’re fairly inexpensive, too. You’ll need to fill the container with enough water to completely submerge the item that you want to dip.
Once you’ve put on the appropriate PPE and ventilated your area accordingly, it’s time to begin spraying.
Spray a generous amount of one color directly onto the water. You can choose to either do one big spray in the middle of the container or a few smaller sprays peppered across the surface.
It all depends on what look you desire. But try not to overthink it, the pattern tends to alter a lot with each successive spray.
As the paint floats on the surface of the water, go crazy and layer your colors over and over again- watch how the psychedelic patterns unfold.
Time to dip
The paint will stick to whatever it comes in contact with.
If you push your work into the water and through the paint, it will stick to the first surface, you’ll notice that sometimes the paint can even wrap around the piece and stick to the top side of the piece as well.
Push your work into the water until it’s completely submerged. You’ll notice that you can create different results depending on the angle on which you submerge your work, as well as the speed.
When pulling your piece back up out of the water, disturb the surface to create an area of non-painted water, so that your design doesn’t get ruined.
After dipping, your piece is going to feel very wet to the touch. So, you’ll need to allow your work to dry completely before handling it.
This will take a few hours, but leaving it in direct sunlight can help to speed up the process.
Also, to prevent the spray from peeling away or chipping, you should consider protecting your work with a polyurethane spray.
Apply the spray like with any other project, spraying about a foot away in even strides across the entire piece. Allow drying for around an hour before applying additional coats.