Hydrographics – A Primer

Maybe you’ve been hearing about hydrographics and but you’re still not quite sure what it is. Time to stop scratching your head or nodding and smiling like you know what everyone’s talking about. We got the scoop on hydrographics from the crew over at Voyles PerformanceVP  is an Atlanta based business focused on car tuning, customization, audio and Hydrographic Dipping.

What is it?

Hydrographics, also known as immersion printing, water transfer printing, water transfer imaging, cubic printing, or hydro dipping, is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional objects. The hydrographic process can be used on metal, plastic, glass, hard woods, and various other materials.

How does it work?

The process is First, the item to be printed is pre-treated and a base coat material is applied. The graphic or design is actually a polyvinyl alcohol film which has been been gravure printed with the design to be transferred. This film is floated on the surface of a vat of water and an activator chemical is sprayed on the film to dissolve it into a liquid and activate a bonding agent. Your item is then, quite literally, dipped into the water and voila!  Just like that, you have a custom surface image. The final step is a coat of automotive clear coat which is applied to protect the printing.  Hydrographics can be applied to almost anything, including car parts, boat parts, guns, XBox controllers; if you can think it Voyles Performance can dip it. If you are ready to make your first hydrographics purchase, mention this seeing this article on the blog to receive a discount.

Check out this video to see the the process in action:

That sounds really simple. Can I do this myself at home?

Well, that depends… If you have the right equipment, you can do almost anything you set your mind to but this might be a job better left to the experts. Hydro Graphics by Voyles Hydrographics is a unique scientific process of transferring images through many steps. All items must be properly cleaned to accept the hydrographic process. Most items then go through a lengthy prep from sanding to priming. Different surfaces require different types of primers. After proper prep and priming, the items must then be painted with multiple coats of specific paints from waterborne to solvent, depending on the application, in our paint booth and then baked in our paint booth. Different paints require different curing times that have limited “dipping” windows. Sometimes, the image transfer may look deceptively great to the naked eye and appear to be adhered perfectly. Unless the underlying paint is cured correctly, however, the inks will not etch and eventually the paint will flake off, along with your design. After dipping and inspecting for proper etching the item gets rinsed thoroughly with soft water to remove starches and chemical activator from the film. Once adequately dry, all our items receive coats of automotive clear coat paint in flat or gloss finishes. This step requires about four hours. Once every step is complete and the item has passed our thorough inspection, your items are repackaged and shipped out or made available for pick up

Worried about the price tag? Don’t be! Customizing your gear with hydrographics is surprisingly affordable!

For example, Honda Valve Covers usually cost $80-$100 and Interior Trim Packages start at $250. You can get your side mirrors dipped for around $45 for the pair and grills start at only $60.  Don’t think hydro-dipping is only for automotive items. Voyles Performance has dipped hard hats, toilet sets, computer hard drive covers, cell phone covers and more.  The application is limited only by your imagination.

Still have questions? Thinking about getting something of your own customized?

Jessica Singleton and her crew at Voyles Performance will happily answer all of your questions. Call, email, or visit them at the shop. Voyles Performance is located at 358 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, Georgia 30067.


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