What is Water Transfer Printing?

Water transfer printing or hydrographics is a beautiful way to add any design in your imagination to an item. The method is also referred to as water marbling, immersion printing, hydro dipping, cubic printing, and water transfer imaging. As the names suggest, the graphic is transferred by the use of water and the process is surprisingly easy and quick to complete.

You can use water transfer printing to change the design of an automobile or motorcycle parts such as rims, interior pieces, and engine parts. A number of different materials can be hydro dipped including; wood, glass, plastics, and metals. As long as the object is predominantly non-porous, the process will work. It’s not exactly clear where the process began but it is widely used and appreciated.

A patent for the first device used for this type of printing was registered on July 26, 1982, by Motoyasu Nakanishi. You can consider water transfer printing as a type of decorative art that allows you to apply designs to three-dimensional objects. From bike helmets to all-terrain vehicles, people have used water transfer printing to achieve outstanding and unique designs. Does water transfer printing have benefits? Absolutely. The finish can be likened to a professional car finish. The method allows a high degree of customization at an excellent price point.

What is water transfer printing?

Water transfer printing consists of dipping an item into a large vat of water. It’s necessary to have transfer film displaying the design you want to transfer. You’ll also need activation spray which releases the design as a film into the water. At this point, the item is ready to be carefully placed into the filmy water.

It’s important to dip slowly and evenly. You want to be mindful of the angle you place the item into the water-usually flat or at a 45-degree angle. For example, a bike helmet can be dipped flatly into the water. A rim should be dipped at an angle with the very edge placed in first.

Unlike powder coating, water transfer printing allows you to do more than paint your object a single solid color. The number of colors you use is entirely up to you. Plus, it’s faster than dying and the process won’t take up hours of time. It also doesn’t involve a host of chemicals to make it work. The result of water transfer printing is always gorgeous.

How does it work

The object you’re printing needs to be cleaned, buffed, and completely dry. Add a primer and/or a base coat to the object you’ll be dipping. Once it’s dried, you’ll need to cover any parts that you don’t want to be affected using painter’s tape.

Choose from hundreds of water printing films with complex patterns and select the one that suits you best. The film is water soluble and is laid on top of the water. After the film is added to the water, an activator is added causing the ink to float in a suspended state in the water. The film becomes very oil-like in nature after the spray is added.

Once the item is dipped in the water, it begins to adhere to the object from the pressure of dipping. When it’s fully immersed, the object should be shaken a bit from side to side to remove excess film. The object will need to be rinsed with warm water to clear away any unnecessary film that’s left behind. After this portion is complete, you’ll want to dry the object and add a layer of clear coat. The end result is as durable as any professional car paint.

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