Water Transfer Printing for Plastic

Secondary Decorative Techniques for Plastic

water transfer printed car part

Whether you are familiar with your camouflage decorated ATV or your flame designed bike helmet, you are familiar with Water Transfer Printing on Plastic. Perhaps unknowingly, you are familiar with this very cool, science-lover friendly process. Water Transfer Printing is known by a few other common terms: Hydrogaphics, Water Immersion Printing, and Hydro Dipping. All these terms refer to the same amazingly simple secondary decorative manufacturing technique.

Preparing Your Plastic for Water Transfer Printing

Before the water transfer printing process begins, the plastic part must be primed. This process requires the plastic part to be cleaned, primed, and painted. The ink adheres better to the part due to the prime and paint process. Additionally, the paint affects the hue of the final product. Many of the patterned inks remain semi-transparent. Consider your base coat color when you plan for the final design. Once the part is cleaned, primed, and painted it is ready to be dipped.

Preparing the Transcription Tub for Water Transfer Printing

There is a second part of preparation that must be performed before you are ready for hydrographic dipping magic. Preparing the transcription tub/tank requires a large supply of water, and a hydrographic printed film. The ink is printed onto a Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) film. PVA film is a water-soluble material. PVA disintegrates when submerged into the water. This chemical reaction leaves behind the ink, suspended by water tension.

Dipping Plastic for Water Transfer Printing

Water transfer printing is not just for plastic. You can use this process on metal, glass, wood, etc. For the sake of our companies endeavors, we are going to focus on water transfer printing onto plastic. This is one of the more popular decorative techniques. It is especially popular for the automotive industry, and all-terrain vehicles. Once you have prepared the part and the tank, dip the part slowly, at an angle, to thoroughly cover all surface area. As the part is dipped the ink wraps around it. Once the part has been completely submerged, rinse the excess PVA residue and allow time to dry.

water transfer printing demonstration

Finishing Touches for Your Hydrographic Masterpiece

After the part has been dipped, it needs to dry. Then it must be finished with a protective clear acrylic coat. This final coat can be matte, satin, or gloss. A drying room/space can be prepared with dehumidifiers and fans. Once the clear coat has been applied and the part is dry, be sure to inspect the part for flaws. A part can be re-dipped if the final result is not what you intended.

Looking to Learn More Information about whether Water Transfer Printing is the right decorating technique for your project? Reach out to scooley@nylacarb.com with your questions or to get a quote on your project.

2 thoughts on “Water Transfer Printing for Plastic”

  1. I am considering hydro dipping on my golf cart re-build. Do you do this type of work? The body is 2 pieces, has the body work completed and has been primed and removed from the frame Please respond yea or nay

    1. Hey Jim, Appreciate your comment. We are an injection molding plastic part manufacturer, so we don’t do hydro-dipping at our plant. It is a popular secondary decorative technique. We have a contact we can give you though! I will reach out through email. 🙂

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