How to Add Color and Style to Your 3D Prints with Hydro Dipping and Water Slide Decal

Last modified: September 15, 2023
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Estimated reading time: 3 min

3D printing is a great way to create custom objects with complex shapes and details. However, most 3D printers can only print in one or a few colors, which limits the aesthetic appeal of the printed objects. If you want to add some color and style to your 3D prints, you can try two easy and fun methods: hydro dipping and water slide decal.

Hydro dipping, also known as hydrographics, immersion printing, water transfer printing, or cubic printing, is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional surfaces. The resulting combinations may be considered decorative art or applied art. Hydro dipping works by transferring a pattern from a water-soluble film to the object’s surface using water pressure and temperature. The film dissolves in water, leaving behind the ink that floats on the water surface. The object is then dipped into the water, and the ink wraps around it, creating a seamless and smooth coating.

Give the 3D printed cat model a leopard pattern with hydrographics. Source: 3D Printing Industry
Give the 3D-printed resin cat model a leopard pattern with hydrographics. Source: 3D Printing Industry

Water slide decal, also known as water transfer decal, water transfer film, or water slide film, is a method of applying printed graphics to flat or curved surfaces. The graphics are printed on a special paper that has a water-soluble layer and a backing layer. The paper is soaked in water, and the backing layer is peeled off, leaving behind the graphic on the water-soluble layer. The graphic is then slid onto the object’s surface, and the water-soluble layer dissolves, leaving behind the graphic on the object.

Custom waterslide decal for 3D printed vintage racing car model. Source: Soldan Models
Custom waterslide decal for 3D printed vintage racing car model. Source: Soldan Models

Both hydro dipping and water slide decal can create beautiful and unique patterns on various 3D printed objects, such as plastic, metal, wood, glass, ceramic, etc. They are also easy to do at home with some simple tools and supplies. You can use any 2D inkjet printer to print your own designs on film or paper, or you can buy ready-made ones online or in stores. You will also need a container filled with water, some masking tape or hot glue to secure your object, and some sticks or wires to hold your object while dipping.

The steps for hydro dipping and water slide decal are similar, but there are some differences. Here is a general overview of how to do them:

Hydro Dipping

  • Prepare your object by cleaning it and applying a base coat of paint if needed.
  • Cut out a piece of film that is slightly larger than your object and place it on the water surface with the ink side facing up.
  • Wait for about 60 seconds until the film becomes soft and wrinkled.
  • Spray some activator on the film to dissolve it and release the ink.
  • Dip your object into the water at an angle of about 30 degrees and slowly submerge it until it is fully covered by the ink.
  • Remove your object from the water and rinse it with clean water to remove any excess ink or film residue.
  • Let your object dry completely and apply a clear coat of paint to protect it.

Custom waterslide decal for 3D printed vintage racing car model. Source: Soldan Models

Water Slide Decal

  • Prepare your object by cleaning it and applying a base coat of paint if needed.
  • Cut out a piece of paper that has the graphic you want and soak it in water for about 30 seconds until it becomes soft and flexible.
  • Peel off the backing layer from the paper and slide the graphic onto your object’s surface.
  • Use a soft cloth or sponge to smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles.
  • Let your object dry completely and apply a clear coat of paint to protect it.

As you can see, hydro dipping and water slide decal are both fun and easy ways to add color and style to your 3D prints. You can experiment with different designs, colors, shapes, and objects to create your own unique creations.

If you are looking for a professional and reliable 3D printing service provider that can also offer you post-finishing services such as hydro dipping and water slide decal, you should check out FacFox. You can upload your 3D files to their website facfox.com and get an instant quote and delivery time. You can also choose from their online catalog of ready-made 3D models or customize your own design with their online 3D modeling tool.

But that’s not all. FacFox also offers post-finishing services to make your 3D prints look even more amazing. You can choose from two methods: hydro dipping and water slide decal. Hydro dipping is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional surfaces using water pressure and temperature. Water slide decal is a method of applying printed graphics to flat or curved surfaces using water-soluble paper and film. Both methods can create beautiful and unique patterns on your 3D prints, such as wood grain, marble, camouflage, floral, etc.

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