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Hydro Dipping - An Idiot's Guide

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Hydro Dipping - An Idiot's Guide
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Game Organiser

Joined: 24 Jan 2016
Posts: 350
Fav. Blaster: Pump Action Retaliator aka 'The Kraken'
Location: Newport

Post Hydro Dipping - An Idiot's Guide  Reply with quote
Mods - please shift into relevant forum if it shouldn't be in Modifications.

Ok.  So I've been wanting to have a bash at hydro dipping for a little while as my skills with a paint brush are less than average.  During the recent Discord chat I mentioned that I was going to be doing some hydro dipping, and it was stated by someone (maybe Boff, maybe OldNoob) that we needed more people to try hydro dipping.  It might not be for everyone, but you got to experiment, right?

Anywho, I'd done a bunch of reading, looked at a whole bunch of videos... OldNoob's being some of the best (tbh I didn't expect anything less):

FDS - Hydro Dipping - Part 1
FDS - Hydro Dipping - Part 2

I'd also gone to the trouble of writing down and typing up all of the equipment needed and steps to follow.  If, like me, you want something to reference for your first few attempts, a video isn't going to help you as the dip is time sensitive in certain parts of the process.

After searching the forum, I couldn't see anything like this, and thought I would share my first results on some test pieces I used to practice the process (I was a little over excited and should have waited longer for my base coat to dry, you can see the fingerprint marks on two of the pieces).

Rather than waste primer and base coat, I did scrimp on these and did a single coat of each - I wanted to test the dipping process, not my spray painting ability.  Also, I picked the fingerprintless one and put a single coat of gloss on it... you know, for science.

I'm quite happy with the results.  However, the only part of the process I was not expecting was how smelly the activator was, and how it stings the eyes - need goggles and a well ventilated area.

So... here is my cobbled together list of procedures for hydro dipping.  I'd welcome any feedback on these so I can refine them and they can be used as reference material if you think they are good enough.

Stuff you will need:
Item that you be hydro dipping
Your chosen hydro dip film
Your chosen hydro dip activator
Suitable primer paint
Suitable base paint
Suitable clear lacquer (gloss or matt)
A large tub
Floating thermometer
Access to running water
Painter's tape (cheapo stuff and frog tape)
Disposable gloves
Mask to stop you inhaling chemical fumes

Optional extras:
Cocktail stick
Cotton bud
White spirit

1. Sand your item (this process assumes it is something plastic).  Start with a low grit, 100 or 200, then work your way up to 400 grit.  This is a boring and tedious process, but utterly essential... do not skip on effort required for this.

2. Once sanded, wash and dry the item – thoroughly, no debris from sanding should be in sight.  It is worth noting that you could wash and dry the item between the different grits of sandpaper.

3. Now, this step won't always be necessary, it depends on your final design.  If you need to, mask off the areas that you don't want painted or to display the hydro dip film with painters tape (frog tape is excellent for this).

4. Cut your hydro dip film to the shape needed for your item – leave a about 2 or 3 inches around the edge to allow for curling and shrinkage later.

5. Up until this point, the clock had not started ticking.  From this step on, EVERYTHING IS TIME SENSITIVE.  Once you are happy with the masking (if you did any), move onto applying the primer layer (I won't cover how to apply paint, etc. This is about the prep needed for hydro dipping).  Apply 2 or 3 thin layers of primer until item is covered – wait until the item is touch dry before moving on (no longer than 2 hours after applying).

6. Apply 2 or 3 thin layers of your chosen base coat.  When the base coat is touch dry (no longer than 2 hours after applying), move onto the next step (in fact you can prep the next few steps whilst the base coat is drying – if you have already prepped you can speed things along by flashing off the base coat gently with a hair dryer).

7. Fill your tub up with water.  Use the floating thermometer to get the water to a temperature between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius (check your hydro film for the best temperature).


9. Use some cheap painters tape (don't waste your frog tape if you used it earlier) to make a frame in the tub.  The tape should be resting on the water, using surface tension to not sink.  The frame will stop the film from moving about.

10. Put the hydro dip film in the tub, some films go in SHINY SIDE DOWN others don't* (be gentle, hold both edges and place middle in first, then lower one side, then the other – gentle blow any air bubbles out), start the stopwatch – things will happen quickly for a few minutes. Use the cheap masking tape to put more strips either side of the film to stop it moving around – do this straight away.  The film should start curling and tightening.  Alternatively, you can put tape around the edges of your film and put some cuts in it (too much effort...).

*Note not all films are shiny side down. Ask the film vendor or lick your finger, press it to the film, if it sticks put that side DOWN.

11. Once the stopwatch hits the 60 second mark (NO LATER), spray your hydro dip activator onto the film.  The surface should start to become shiny and oily.

12. Once 20 seconds has passed, dip your item slowly and at an angle.  Be confident, once you start dipping YOU CAN NOT BACK OUT!

13. If everything has gone to plan the film will almost be falling apart.  While holding the item in the tub, twist it a little to remove excess film, and use your spare hand to move any excess film out of the way before removing the item from the tub.

14. Wait for one or two minutes before gently rinsing the item to remove the slimy, gluey surface of the film – this will take longer than you think, and you do need to be gentle and patient or the film will wash off.  The film should look a bit dull now.  If it isn't right you have 2 choices: sand it off and start again, or throw it away, buy another item and start again.

15. Leave the film for an hour, this is the point to remove any masking you might have put in place earlier.  Gently use the cocktail stick to remove the tape, and tidy up any leakage.  If needed use the cotton bud and white spirit to clean up any big leaks.

16. Now leave the item to dry overnight before applying 2 or 3 layers of clear lacquer (gloss or matt – it's up to you).  Leave the lacquer to dry / cure, depending on the type you used, for the appropriate amount of time.

17. Job done.

NN113 'The Technician'

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Last edited by NewportNerfer113 on Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:38 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Foam Data Collector

Joined: 07 May 2013
Posts: 4886
Fav. Blaster: Xtreme 180 Rapidstrike
Location: In the Boonies

Post Reply with quote
Very useful and complete guide. Thanks for putting that together. Note not all films are shiny side down. Ask the film vendor or lick your finger, press it to the film, if it sticks put that side DOWN.

Big_Poppa_Nerf wrote:

Boff whats the damage? I have spent over 3 times my Nerf budget this month already. Part of me is trying to be a responsible parent/husband/house owner. The other half is just says 'Ahhhh, Screw it!'.
Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:16 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Game Organiser

Joined: 20 May 2016
Posts: 247
Fav. Blaster: Tri-Hellcat Rapidstrike
Location: Newport, S.Wales

Post Reply with quote
Very good, enjoyed reading that. The result is very good aswell. Looking forward to seeing more dips.

Bristol Blast Games Master
Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:46 pm View user's profile Send private message
UK Foam
Regular Member

Joined: 27 Sep 2015
Posts: 245
Fav. Blaster: Stryfe / Apollo
Location: Bristol / Bath

Post Reply with quote
Look forward to seeing a whole one =]

I have a YouTube Channel

The Bristol Blast Facebook Page
Sat Dec 03, 2016 10:11 am View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
The Dealer

Joined: 08 Dec 2012
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Location: Bristol, UK

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If you have questions or comments you'd like to ask about this thread then please PM the OP. I'm sure they'd be happy to help. Smile

Boff: Managing Director, Blastersmiths UK & BUZAN Founder (formerly)
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Sat Dec 03, 2016 12:52 pm View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
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