Hydrographics How To

Wondering how to apply your new hydrographics films and other materials? Read on for a quick guide:

The Steps To Take

Below is a basic overview of the Hydroprinting process. These are the main steps to take when working on your items:


To begin with you must prepare your items surface for the process. This is generally the bulk of the work given that items such as car wheels, motorcycle swing arms etc can be quite corroded and oily and need to be taken right back in order to get them ready for painting. This step involves using abrasives such as sandpaper to remove any old coatings and provide a rough surface for the first stage of product to adhere to. This helps to avoid issues with delamination in the future.

Items involved in this step can be found on the following link



The next step is to prime the item. If working with bare metal you may need to use an etch primer first. If bare plastic you will want to use plastic primer first. Following this you spray a base coat of high build primer which can then be sanded back again to give a nice smooth surface on which to spray your base coat colour. The colour of primer can be harnessed to give the colour placed upon it a different feel.

Items involved in this step can be found on the following link



This step is where you will add your colour of choice. Colours are often chosen based on how they will complement your chosen pattern. We have a great range of aerosol paint. We would usually advise spraying a lighter coat first and then a second heavier coat in a crossing pattern where each pass slightly overlaps the previous one.

Items involved in this step can be found on the following link



This is where you will add your hydrographic design over the top of the basecoat colour. Using our state of the art hydrographics tank and activators we will make sure we get an awesome finish to your pattern. If you don’t have a professional setup however you can make do with a plastic tub and warm water.

We have a huge range of Patterns to choose from so feel free to take a look. If you find a pattern you would like that we dont have on our site simply let us know and we will get it for you if we are able. This is where we will add your hydrographic design. Using our state of the art hydrographics tank and activators will make sure we get an awesome finish to your pattern.

Follow the steps below to apply your film:

1: Cut your film to the correct size for the part you are going to print. It is important to allow space on all sides of the part to maximise your working area. This can help to avoid any bubbles you may accidentally trap and also reduce stretching from the side. You may apply tape to 2 sides to make it
easier to lay the film.

2: Identify the sticky side of the film. This can be done by licking your thumb and forefinger tips and gently squeezing one edge of the film. Whichever finger the film stuck to, this is the side without ink and should be placed facing the water. So the sticky side always goes down!

3: Lay your film on the water and allow the water to soak fully into the film. Some people try to stick to rigid timings such as 60 seconds. This is not a realistic method to use because all films can behave differently. Especially those printed on thicker PVA, which require much longer soak times. Having a higher or lower tank water temperature can also change the soak time so we recommend learning to read your film to know when it is fully hydrated. To do this simply observe your film on the water. What you are looking for is the moment when all the creases and wrinkles in the film have completely dropped out and the film is as flat as possible. Be sure to blow any bubbles to the side of the film as early as possible.

4: Apply your activator. Whether this is aerosol or gun, it is important again to learn to read your film. Problems can arise very easily if you are not careful:

Too much activator can lead to the following:
– Print sliding off the part
– Paint reactions
– Marking in the ink such as small white worms or blotching
– Round holes appearing after printing.

Too little activator can lead to the following issues:
– Film appears ‘crispy’ or solid when dipping through
– Small holes with jagged edges
– Ink not adhering to the part
– Ink cracking or not stretching during the dip

To correctly apply activator, you should spray your first pass (either top to bottom or left to right with a slight overlap) and then take a look at the surface of the film. If it appears very grainy and dry, then more activator is required, so give it another pass and repeat the observation. If it looks very glassy then it is possible you have already applied too much activator but sometimes this is ok for certain heavier inked films. If this is the case then sometimes it is already too late. What you are looking for is just a very
small amount of texture to the ink. You will learn to spot by eye when you have it spot on.

5: Wait a short amount of time to allow the activator to penetrate the ink fully. This is especially important on thicker inked films such as our silver backed designs. 10 seconds is usually fine. This is one of those things that can vary per design but you will get to know roughly how long to ‘dwell’ for for certain types of film i.e. thin PVA thick ink, thin PVA thin ink etc.

6: Rinse your part of all PVA and admire your good work!

Items involved in this step can be found on the following link



Now add your lacquer to your product in order to seal in the pattern and make your item nice and durable. Extra layers can be added should you deem it necessary such as in the case of a motorcycle frame that may get a bit of stick. Other finishes such as matte etc can be added at this stage too.

Items involved in this step can be found on the following link



The final step is where you finish your item and carry out any final polishing, buffing or anything else that is required by your design. You will use products such as buffing compounds like G3 to cut any minor scratches or orange peel from the surface of the item. Then use G10 for a final polish.

Items involved in this step can be found on the following link


You can see whether your item is suitable for this process by taking a quick read of our Suitability page or by giving us a call or sending us a message via our Contact Us page.