Hydroprinting otherwise known as Dipping

Want a fancy camo job on your rifle? Then Hydroprinting is the way to go. It is the process of putting print on a 3d object. You can do professional results at home for a fraction of the cost. This is the same process that the rifle companies use to camo their products. You can get amazing results with a little practice. Which I suggest you do before attempting to do a rifle.

First you need to buy the supplies. The print is called film so find a pattern you like. The best place to find a huge variety of film is E-bay. They will also be the cheapest. You will also need activator. This is the chemicals sprayed on the film to turn the dried print into wet print. Again E-bay is the best place. You can buy film with activator, I have used several sellers and almost all will be of the same quality. Those are the hard to find materials, you can get the rest at the local hardware store. These include sandpaper or scuff pads, de-greaser and cleaners, paint, clear coat, masking tape and a container to dip into.

The container must be large enough to completely submerge the parts into. Keep in mind that the film will be measured by wrapping it around the object and then will lay flat on the waters surface. For rifle dipping I use a plastic Christmas tree storage box I got on clearance at Wal-mart. It works perfect. Smaller dips I use smaller plastic containers.

The masking tape I use is the good old fashion kind. The easy to remove tapes dont hold up underwater as well.

The paint color depends on the pattern on the film, just remember that the paint will show thru the film. too dark of paint will cause the pattern of the camo to not show as well. I paint several test colors on a 12″x12″ piece of cardboard and lay it under the film to see how they look. I used a darker flat green under mossy oak and it turned out too dark, since then I test the color before I print. The clear coat will be a flat non-glossy.

Prep your parts! First disassemble the rifle and decide which parts you are going to print. Areas on the receiver that have the action I usually dont print since the action working will scrape of the printing. I leave these areas alone and let the original finish stand unaltered, I tape these off later. The rest of the area needs to be scuffed up, either with sand paper or scuff pads. I prefer scuff pads to prevent too much material removing. Also any parkerized parts only need a de-greasing since parkerizing will accept printing super well.  Once the parts have been scuffed, clean them well and let them dry. The tape off any areas you dont want printed. You can make handles out of masking tape to assist in dipping. attach them to areas that you mask off. Also fill voids and tape off voids. In the video you can see that I forgot to fill the void of rifle and when I submerged the stock it let out a bubble which really messed up the back portion of the printing, the air bubble pushed the print away as the stock was pushed thru it. I will expplain the touch up process later.

Paint your parts. Spray a couple of thin coats on your parts following the paints directions. Once painted you will have to print before the paints cure time. Not the dry time but the cure time. Let the parts dry completely before dipping. Usually the paint will cure within 24 hours. The print has to be on the paint before it cures so it can cure with the paint.

Fill your container with warm water, the best temp for the paper I have is 94-100 degrees f. Too hot and the film dissipates too fast, too cold and it doesn’t dissipate at all. I use a harbor freight infra red thermometer. Now also cut the film. I wrap a peice of film around the piece to be printed leaving excess to make sure I have enough. Tape off the film, make a border around your film to prevent it from spreading too far on the water. If you film is as wide as your container then you can skip this part since the film wont spread. You have to lay the film on the water with THE STICKY SIDE DOWN. wet two fingers slightly and pinch the film between them. The side that is sticky is the water side. When laying the film on the water you have to make sure that no air bubbles are under it and that no water gets on top of it. larger pieces will need two people. you can blow bubbles out from under the film. Once the film is on the water that is between 90-100 degrees, I shoot for 94-96, you need to spray the activator on the film. even strokes I go over it twice. Too much activator will destroy the film and too little will not activate it, again practice with several scrap pieces first. I allow the activator to work for 15-30 seconds before the dip also allow the film to sit on the water for about 60 seconds or so before activating it.

When dipping, slowly push the part in at about a 30 degree angle. Plan out how you are going to push it thru the film. You want the pattern to wrap around the part as you submerse it. I decrease the angle as the part goes in, any way will work as long as you start out at an angle to the water. Slow and steady! dont reverse out because you will screw up the print job. Once under the water completely disperse the remaining film before removing the part. this prevents the film from getting on the printed part. Once out of the water, you have to GENTLY rinse the part in water. temp doesnt matter but a constant GENTLE rubbing with your hands will remove the water resolving part of the film. Rinse until you dont feel the slim on the part, if you leave this slim it will ruin your print job.

Once the part is dry you can clear coat it. Do 4-6 thin coats and let them dry between coats. If you do a thick coat and it turns hazy usually another thin coat will remove the haze. This clear coat is what will protect the print from abuse, so make it good.

Thats all there is to dipping! fairly simple process and easy for the DIYer to do at home. Have fun and good luck!