Frequently Asked Questions | Dip Tips
ALWAYS SHAKE YOUR ACTIVATOR BEFORE YOU POUR IT INTO YOUR SPRAY GUN
1. What type of paint should I be using?
When hydro dipping you want to use automotive grade base coat and clear coats. You can also use automotive grade regular and sandable primers. It can be solvent-based or water-based. You should be able to purchase these type of paints from your local automotive paint supplier.
*Note: Please check local regulations on paints before use, as certain types may be prohibited in your area.
2. What side of the film goes into the water?
Normally the film will be sent so the side you roll out onto your cutting board will be the side that should be face down. In some cases the film could be rolled the opposite way. To determinewhich side should go in the water there is a quick trick. Wet your thumb and index finger then pinch down on a corner of the film. Hold for 15-20 seconds pressing your fingers together. Once you pull your fingers apart the film will stick to one of your fingers. That is the sticky side and the sticky side goes face down in the water. If you spray the activator and the film does not turn liquid or tears apart when you dip those are signs you have the wrong side face down in the water.
3. Is a filter and heating system needed?
There are a lot of videos and forums stating tanks can be made out of anything. That is correct to a certain extent. The issue you will run into is not having consistency. When you water temperature is not constant and your soak time is off it can cause inconsistencies in your dip. This is why you need a reliable efficient heater to provide consistency. After you dip you will need a filtration system to clear the water and get it ready for the next dip. The filter is needed to remove debris and excess film from the surface of the water. You always want to clear the water after every dip and running it through the filter means better tank operation. You want the surface of your water to be free of debris before each dip.
4. Do I need to add a top coat?
Yes, this is a common mistake dippers make is not protecting the awesome dip they just did. Using our activator will give you a nice sheen after you dip and rinse an item. But….until you apply a top coat your print is vulnerable to rubbing off and scratches. You should be careful handling the item until you apply a top coat and let it cure out. Your top coat finish will be the same as any automotive paint job. You can also add candy or smoke out the clear like you would with any other paint job. There are other top coats recommended for outdoor sports items called duracoat and cerakote. Not only will you protect your dip, but you will bring your work to life if you finish with a high gloss clear coat. Main thing to remember is keep your piece clean until you add a top coat.
5. Why do I have spotting?
The most common issue with spotting is because you did not apply enough activator. When your gun atomizes the air in the spray gun can miss certain areas of your film. Those little dots are all spots that did not get properly activated. If you see this you need to open up your gun a little more or make one more pass when you spray your activator. You should see the film turn completely into a liquid before you dip your item. If it is not due to under activation it can also be due to air bubbles sitting between the surface of the water and film. Ragged or torn edges indicate a dry or under-activated film. Round, smooth holes indicate air bubbles or contaminants in the film. You can either gently press the bubbles to the edge of the surface or blow them to the edge as well.
6. My hydrographic print falls off in the rinse?
There are two major possibilities that can cause this to happen: The first is due to over activation. If you over activate your hydrographic film you will notice it start to wash away in the rinse. Eventually your pattern will either melt off or be overly faded. This is because there is so much activator it continues to eat away at our item even during the rinse cycle. Try dialing your gun down or make a quicker pass. The other reason could be because the paint and the film are incompatible. This can happen sometimes if you mix an acrylic or enamel based paint with a urethane paint. In the latter case, the paint is rejecting the adhesion. Make sure to investigate what paints will work with hydro dipping. Also never mix acrylic and urethane.
7. Why do I need to rinse after dipping?
Whether you purchase one of our dip and rinse tank combos or you construct your own the rinse process is required. After you dip there will still be a jelly like substance on your item. That substance is the remaining PVA (poly vinyl alcohol). You must rinse the part in order to remove the PVA gel from the product. If you don’t remove it, the activator may eat away at the film pattern. There are some videos and forums showing no rinse process, but we recommend rinsing clean and drying with an air chuck for best results.
8. Can I dip straight to my item if it’s already the color I want?
You can dip straight to an item and the dip may actually stick. The issue you will have is later when it starts to peel up or chip. These issues can happen because the bond between the item and the film is not good. We recommend scuffing any item before you apply a primer or base coat. For the most durable finish you want to follow a 4 step process. After you scuff the item taking the factory finish or shine off of the item. Then you want to apply a primer. After that you can apply your base coat color. Once it dries you can now dip your item. After you dip your last step is applying a top coat. Following these steps will ensure the durability of your work. You will have a secure bonded coating that will last!
9. Should I border the film before I spray the activator?
Yes, you always need to border the film. Most commonly dippers use tape or film dividers to border all 4 sides. When you spray the activator your pattern will want to separate so bordering will keep your pattern in tact. This allows for a smooth dip with minimal stretching. Some films may require you to let them stretch 1″-2″ on all sides depending how the film activates.
10. How do I fix a bad dip?
As you learn like anything else there will be dips that have issues. Whether there is spotting or you just ran out of film and missed a spot things can happen. Not to worry. If you have a bad dip you simply wipe down your item with isopropyl alcohol 91-99%. This will wipe off the pattern so you can apply a new base coat. If you don’t get it all off not to worry as you will lay another light base coat on top. You do not need to scuff it back down to the base of the item. Once the base coat dries you are ready to dip again!