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A Complete Guide to Use Water Transfer Printing Film in Hydro Dipping


Hydro dipping, also known as hydrographic printing or, more commonly, water transfer printing (terms we'll use interchangeably in this guide), allows patterns and designs to be applied to any object.


Essentially, if an object can hold a base coat and be submerged in water without damaging it, it can be dipped.

In fact, hydro dipping is often used to give plastic parts a metallic finish or hardwood appearance when used in architecture and home design. It can also be used on dashboards, to give hunting equipment and gear a camouflage coating, and in a multitude of other functions.

What is Hydro Dipping?

Hydro dipping is a technology that can be used to transfer intricate designs and artwork onto three-dimensional objects.

The process is made possible through water transfer printing film. The film, which is made out of a water-soluble material called PVA (polyvinyl alcohol), is integral to the process.


When applied to the water's surface, the film will begin to soften and become very pliable.


Once the film is lying on the water, the tecnichian or operator sprays it with an activator to liquefy its inks and get it ready to stick to the object. The operator slowly passes the object through the film after activating it.

During this process, the inks flow up, contouring around the item in a seamless pattern transfer.


Next, the technician rinses off any residual PVA before setting the item aside to dry.


The technician coats the item with an automotive-grade clear finish when it has completely dried. The clear coat guarantees a long-lasting, robust surface and offers UV protection, scratch resistance, and other protective qualities.

What Items Can You Hydro Dip?

Most materials can be hydro dipped. Firearms, vehicles, military equipment, hunting gear (like compound bows), aviation, electronic equipment, and other items are all commonly hydro-dipped.


In fact, water transfer printing is used in the manufacture of numerous items. It can also be used by smaller manufacturers and businesses for custom jobs or by larger companies on a complex production line.

Step-by-step Guide to Using Water transfer printing film in Hydro Dipping 

This step-by-step guide details how to correctly use water transfer printing film in your small or medium-sized operation.

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

Begin by preparing your tools and materials. To Create eye-catching pieces, water transfer printing means you'll need to be precise.

You will need sandpaper, sanding pads, tack cloths, degreasers, and an all-in-one cleaner.

Safety Equipment

Safety is just as important. Set out a high-quality respirator, latex or nitrile gloves, and paint sleeves. Wear your respirator when spraying the activator, paint, and clear coat.

Water transfer printing water soluble PVA film

Using high-quality water transfer printing film is paramount to ensure better adhesion of your inks. POLYVA's developed a film that guarantees your inks won't fade when they're exposed to the sun.


Buying the proper activator is essential to getting good results. Look for an activator that is compatible with the films you are using.

Step 2: Prepare Your Area

Prepping the item/s, you're going to hydro dip is an integral step in the process. To provide the best possible adherence between your primer or base coat paint — depending on what you're using, clean the part — you must clean, scuff, sand, and flame treat it. Steps for preparation will vary depending on the substrate.

Step 3: Prime or Paint Your Surface

When water transfer printing, use a compatible paint and automotive-grade base coat if the item is exposed to sunlight.

Step 4: Cut the Water Soluble PVA Film

Ensure there is sufficient padding around your part to avoid stretching the inks. You can add a little more water transfer printing film around the item before dipping it; this is a cost-effective solution that will have the desired result.

A larger piece of film guarantees you're using a perfectly activated and flawless section of the film.

Step 5: Place Film on the Water

Before laying the film, clear any debris from the water's surface. Then, gently lower the film onto the water in a smooth and consistent motion to prevent any air from being trapped between the film and the water's surface.

Step 6: Spray Activator

For optimal results, it is recommended to use an HVLP spray gun to apply the activator onto the item. Aerosol activators may not atomize the particles effectively, which can cause a degradation in the quality of the decoration. Therefore, ensure your activator is compatible with POLYVA's water transfer printing film.

Step 7: Dip the Item

Immerse your object steadily and consistently. You should dip your component at a slight slant to avoid trapping air. Focus on mastering your technique to guarantee you produce your preferred results.

Alternatively, you could automate the process and minimize human error.

Step 8: Rinse off Residue

Because POLYVA's water transfer printing film dissolves in cold water, you can rinse off any residual film in cold water. Rinse off the item until it does not feel slimy to the touch, which should be less than one minute.

Step 9: Dry the Item

After hydro dipping, we recommend allowing them to air dry on racks or utilizing an air blower, air knife, or other drying technique for faster results.

Step 10: Apply a Clear Coat

Use an HVLP spray gun to apply an automotive-grade clear finish.

When applying the finish, a clean booth is crucial as it prevents getting debris in the coat. This is especially true when spraying high gloss finishes for automotive, marine, and aviation applications.


We cannot stress enough how important a quality water soluble PVA film is to the overall outcome of the product. POLYVA has spent years researching and developing a superior water transfer printing film with better adhesion than products already on the market and won't fade over time. 

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