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Add full color graphics to 3D Printed parts with Hydro Dipping guide by Adafruit

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Learn how to Add full color graphics to 3D Printed parts using Hydro Dipping technique!

Hey guys! guess what? I just found that, a few weeks ago, Adafruit published a full guide to hydro dipping your 3D prints and it is definitely a good option if you want to give a nice finish to all your projects but you’re not wiling to spend too much time and money. So here is a resume of the most relevant I found about Hydro Dipping:

1.- What hydro dipping actually is

Hydro Dipping is a post-processing method that allows you to wrap graphics around objects. People also calls Water Drape Film, Water Transfer or Inkjet Water Slide Decal Transfer to Hydro Dipping techniques. However, thanks to this method, you can add some pretty cool textures and full color graphics to your projects!

Although Hydro dipping is originally used on machined and injection molded parts, people found it also works really fine on 3D printed objects. It means Hydro dipping enables you to add high quality textures and graphics without sanding, priming or painting. What is more promising, it even works with visible layer lines that you get with 3D printed parts, which I personally find unsightly on most pieces.

Caption: Hydro dipping a 3D printed fidget spinner. Hydro dipping also works on moving parts. Images can actually wrap around 180° – so you can get some nice details on the sides and edges of your parts. You can even apply graphics to mechanical moving parts like no bearing fidget spinner! Source: Adrafruit.

2.- Now, here’s how Hydro Dipping basically works:

hydro dipping
PVA Samples with cool graphic patterns

This type of PVA paper is called “Water Transfer Paper” and it’s mostly used for Hydro Dipping. PVA is the same material you can use for 3D printing dissolvable supports. Users reported it smells a lot like elmer’s glue and dissolves fairly well in hot water. The paper has a shiny PVA side and a matted backing you need to peel away (it reminds me temporary tattoo paper):

Coating process involves modifying graphics to fit parts, making use of design software like Photoshop or something similar.

The PVA film dissolves when you submerge it in water. The ink then actually floats on the surface of the water. Once set, you can then dip an object over the ink and into the water; Just make sure you dip your pieces slowly at a 45 degree angle.

Adafruit guide alerts that transparent graphics are trouble since it needs a good amount of ink to hold the image together as the PVA film dissolves. They also found best way to do transparent artwork is to simply add a light gray colored background.

3.- Hydro Dipping 3D Prints step by step


As you can tell by the tutorial above, the Hydro Dip isn’t the most complex method around. The level of detail and precision is relatively low; perhaps aesthetic or ornamental pieces might require extra processing in order to get a better finishing look. However, for most hobbyists or 3D printer users who just want a nice finishing for their objects, this is a super easy and effective post-processing technique that’s definitely worth a try.

Here’s a list of some tools and supplies you’d need to start Hydro Dipping your 3D prints:

  • Hot glue gun.
  • Masking Tape.
  • PVA Film Paper.
  • Container.
  • Sticks or Solid Core Wire.
  • 2D inkjet printer.
hydro dipping
Basic supplies for Hydro Dipping.

Most of these materials are easy to find around, even if you’re not a full-time a maker.

Read the complete guide on for plenty of  info about Hydro Dipping 3D prints, from graphics modifying to water temperature and more useful tips.

Stay with, more posts like this coming up soon!


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  1. Jared Heifetz says

    Huh, interesting. I never knew about this. Thanks for the article!

  2. Tom Baxter says

    I have always wanted to hydro dipping. Now, I need to!

    1. Diana Segura says

      Nice! do it soon, we would like to see what you print

  3. ZQ H says


  4. Richard Bynum says

    I love watching the parts being dipped and being covered! I just went to YouTube and watched about 30 minutes worth of videos of it. There’s a LOT more to watch but I got my fill for today..haha. Thanks for posting links on how to make the paper. I have a feeling most everything in my house is about to have a print around it..hehe. This is going to save so much time and aggravation for people wanting to add some style to their prints. And 3D printed objects are usually the perfect size for fast and easy printing. They will be able to fit in the bowls and kitchen sinks we have at home. And just think- anything bigger can just be dipped in our bathtubs!! Or we could just dip ourselves in the bathtub and have instant full-body tattoos!! HA!

  5. Tom Baxter says

    I went to Adafruit’s website and watched the full video. I’m now looking at Dipping supplies on Amazon. lol

  6. Derek Thomas says

    Interesting and a great idea, will have to look into this to try

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