Hydro dipping looks easy and straightforward but if you don't do it correctly you can end up with a bad and blotchy paint job that doesn't look nearly as good as you would like.
There are some common hydro dipping mistakes that people that lead to a poor outcome. By avoiding these mistakes you increase your chances of getting an excellent transfer of the paint or graphic onto your product.
1. Not Taping Your Product Properly
When hydro dipping it's really important to put tape over any part of your product that you don't want to get painted.
Failure to tape properly means sections of your product that you don't want to get painted will get paint on them.
This can be a nightmare to remove afterwards so tape well before you start dipping.
2. Not Preparing Your Product First
Before you hydro dip anything you want it to be completely clean and completely dry.
Dirt, grime, grease and water all stop the paint from adhering to your object properly and can lead to a bad outcome.
So make sure you give your product a good wash to begin with, dry it well and even try using some isopropyl alcohol to make it completely clean and ready to be dipped.
3. Not Applying a White Base Coat
This doesn't go for all products as sometimes (especially when hydro dipping graphics) you want to not put a base coat on so you can see the original finish under the graphic.
However, if you're planning on completely covering your object with paint – like people do when they hydro dip tumblers using spray paint – then undercoating your product with a white primer will help the paint stick better and will also make the colors stand out more.
3. Not Lowering On an Angle
When hydro dipping air bubbles are your enemy and if they get between your product and the paint you'll be left with a blotchy paint job.
Putting your item flat into the paint allows air bubbles to form.
To avoid this you want to lower your item on an angle so no air bubbles are able to be created and the paint sticks cleanly.
4. Lowering Too Fast (or Too Slow)
Lowering your item too quickly through the paint can cause the paint to break apart rather than pull towards your product. This will lead to a bad end product.
Lowering too slowly can also be bad and can allow paint to clump together.
So you want to take a goldilocks approach – not to fast, not too slow but just right.
5. Not Clearing The Paint Away Before Removing Item
Once you've completed your dip there will still be paint left on the surface of the water, but it'll all be broken up.
If you pull your item out through this paint it too will stick to your item and you likely don't want this.
So with your hands push the paint away from the center towards the size of your bucket so you'll pulling your product out through clean water and no extra paint will get on it.
6. Not Letting It Dry Before Dipping
If you've cleaned your product but it still has water on the outside DON'T DIP IT UNTIL IT'S DRY.
Hydro dipping products with water on them means the water is going to get between the product and the paint.
Because hydro dipped paint is hydrophobic (oil-like) it doesn't mix or dissolve in water but rather sits on the top. So water on your product will lead to a blotchy paint job.
7. Holding The Spray Can Too Close To The Water (or Too Far)
Holding the spray can too close to the surface of the water will do 2 bad things.
Firstly the force of the spray can will push the majority of the paint to the sides of the bucket where it will stick. If it's on the sides of the bucket it can't attach to your product so this is a complete waste.
Secondly when you're too close the spray can can splash water up onto the top of the paint and this leads to a bad result.
Too far away and the spray paint won't form a thick covering over the water so you want to be not too close and not too far, this comes down to practice.
8. Water On Top Of Your Paint
If you're hydro dipping using a graphic and water somehow gets on top of the graphic then don't proceed.
You don't want any water to be on top of the paint for the reasons mentioned above.
It gets in the way of the paint adhering to your product and leads to a blotchy paint job. More general art tips can be found here.
9. Not Applying a Finisher After It's Painted
After hydro dipping your product and leaving it to dry you'll want to apply some sort of clear protective finish to your product.
This may be in the form of an epoxy or clear gloss spray or you can use something like this 2 part clear resin.
If you don't add a protective layer over your paint then it'll be prone to scratching much easier.
Plus the clear coat can really make the colors stand out even more and make your hydro dipped product look even better.
10. Double Dipping When The Item Is Still Wet
Sometimes you're not happy with your initial hydro dip so you want to give it another coat to cover up the old paint. Or maybe you want to dip more than once to merge multiple graphics and create cool effects.
If you're going to do this make sure your product is dry before dipping again.
You see people dipping once, not likely the results and instantly going again when the first coat of paint isn't dry yet or when there are water droplets still on the product. Don't make this mistake.
11. When Using Graphic Prints Print Needs To Be Right Side Up
Hydro graphics come like a roll of paper and on one side they have a layer that is water soluble as dissolves in the water. Often something like polyvinyl alcohol or PVA is used. The other side is just the paint.
It is very important that you put the water soluble side DOWN into the water.
Because the paint is hydrophobic and doesn't dissolve if you do it the wrong way around the layer of PVA won't dissolve and will still be there when you try to dip.
It going to ruin your hydro dipping completely.
12. Don't Practice
Hydro dipping is a skill and like all skills you get better at it over time.
So many people see a YouTube tutorial, realise how easy it is and then their first ever dip is on the single product they want to paint.
Your first hydro dip will never be your best and you're bound to make a lot of the mistakes listed in this article.
Instead, practice first with throwaway items. Use plastic or paper cups or anything that you don't actually need and are happy to throw away.
Then you can improve your technique so when it comes time to dip that expensive pair of shoes or your expensive tumbler cup you don't ruin it.
13. Not Wearing Gloves
As you lower your item through the paint and into the water your hands are going to naturally go with you. You don't want to be dropping the product in.
If you're not wearing gloves then you're going to get the paint all over your skin and this can be difficult to get off.
14. Not Wearing a Mask
Whether you're using spray paint or using a graphic with an activator spray there are chemicals in both of those things that your do NOT want to be inhaling. It can lead to all sorts of health problems.
So make sure you wear a mask and do your hydro dipping outside if you're doing it from home or in a well ventilated space if you're a professional.
15. Doing It Inside
Again the fumes from the spray paint or activator can be toxic to humans and it isn't something you want to be breathing in.
Doing your hydro dipping inside will allow those fumes to accumulate in the air and you'll be breathing in way too much.
Doing it outside allows the fumes to dissipate and blow away, making it safer for you.
16. Water Is Too Cold
A lot of people simply fill up a bucket with cold water and then try to hydro dip. While this still works the results won't be as good because the water is too cold and makes the paint stiffer.
Ideally you want the temperature of your water to be between 75-90ºF (23-33ºC). Basically a lukewarm temperature.
To achieve this some people use hot water from a tap or boiling water from the jug. Still others in warmer climates just leave their bucket out in the sun for an hour or so until the temperature of the water warms up a bit.
17. Not Cycling Out The Water
If you're Hydro dipping multiple items in one bucket then failing to cycle out the water can lead to their being little bits of paint from previous jobs still in there when you start the next job.
These old paints have likely dried up too much to stick properly and can lead to a bad result.
While you don't have to cycle out the water for every single dip, keep and eye on the water to make sure it doesn't have little floating bits of paint. If it does empty out the water and refill it.
18. Not Removing Air Bubbles
If you find there are air bubbles that have formed in the paint as you spray it on you'll want to make sure you remove those air bubbles before hydro dipping.
Air bubbles are your enemy and will lead to a blotchy and patchy job.
19. Not Using Gloss Paint
Matte paint is good for the primer but some people have found that using a matte spray paint for hydro dipping doesn't work very well.
The matte paint dries too quickly so when you dip your product it doesn't end up looking as good.
Gloss paint seems to be preferred.
20. Not Using an Activator (or using too much)
If you're using hydro graphics in order to hydro dip it's important to note that you need to spray on some activator in order to thin out the paint and make it ready for dipping.
I explained why you need an activator more in my article on how does hydro dipping work but basically is soften and thins out the paint making it ready to stick to your item with ease.
Too little activator and it won't stick properly and become clumpy, too much activator and it can become too thin and not stick properly either.
So just a single coat of activator from about a foot or so away seems to work fine. But again, practice practice PRACTICE!
Depending on what graphic you're using and what activator different amounts may be needed. So test it out first on something small that you can throw away before dipping your expensive it.
Did I Miss Any Common Hydro Dipping Mistakes?
While I covered a lot of common hydro dipping mistakes in this article there are so many mistakes people make that leads to a paint job that is far from ideal.
Is there anything glaringly obvious that missed?
Let us know in the comments section down below.