Have you seen those super cool hydro dipped shoes, helmets, and guitars covered in wild, colorful designs?Hydro dipping is a funky technique that lets you customize and paint objects by dipping them into floating paint. Usually people use spray paint which requires lots of safety gear and ventilation. But here’s the secret – you can hydro dip with regular acrylic craft paint too!
In this handy guide, I’ll walk you through how to hydro dip with acrylic paint so you can make amazing designs without toxic sprays. Get ready for some artsy fun!
Gearing Up for Hydro Dipping
Before we dive in (pun intended!), let’s go over the supplies you’ll need to start hydro dipping with acrylics.
Paint and Additives
Obviously, acrylic paint is the star of the show here. Any decent acrylic craft paint will do, whether it’s squeeze bottles or tubes. Gather a bunch of colors to create cool designs.
Here’s the catch – acrylic paint is heavier than water, so it’ll just sink if you try to pour it straight into your dipping tub. The solution? Add a little borax or cornstarch to the water to increase the density so your paint floats.
Start with about 1 part borax or cornstarch mixed with 3 parts water. You can tweak the ratios as needed to get the perfect consistency. Test your paint colors by dripping a drop or two into the water mix. If they sink, add more borax or cornstarch. If they spread and mix too quickly, your water is too dense so dilute it a bit.
You’ll need a tub or other large container to hold the paint water. Clear plastic storage bins or even a big bucket will work great.
For swirling and dripping the paint, you can use toothpicks, pipettes, sticks, eye droppers – anything that lets you control the flow of paint. Get creative!
Of course, you need stuff to dip! Shoes, paper, rocks, guitars, water bottles – the possibilities are endless. Just pick items that are water friendly.
It’s also handy to have primer, base coat, gloves, and masks on hand, but not 100% necessary. More on that later!
Help Your Acrylics Float
Since acrylic paint wants to sink in plain water, we need to tweak the water’s density so the paint rests on top. That’s where our buddy borax comes in – it’s an easy fix!
Simply mix 1 part borax with 3 parts warm water until the borax is fully dissolved. You can double or halve the ratios – play around until you get a water thickness that makes your paint colors float when you drip them in.
If you don’t have borax, cornstarch also works! Mix 1 part cornstarch with 2 parts cold water first to make a smooth slurry. Then heat up 3 parts water and slowly stir in the cornstarch slurry. Remove from heat and let cool fully before adding paint.
Test, test, test your paints in the borax or cornstarch water mix until you perfect the balance needed to get them to float. Acrylic paints have different consistencies, so you may need to tweak each color.
Thinning Paints for Smooth Dipping
Even with our borax or cornstarch water, you’ll get better dipping results if you thin down very thick acrylic paint. The goal is to get a nice fluid consistency.
The easiest way is by adding water – start with just a few drops and mix well. Add water carefully, up to 50/50 ratio with the paint. Go slowly because you can always add more water, but you can’t remove it!
Aim for your thinned acrylic paint to be about the consistency of whole milk. It should flow smoothly and drizzle off a stick in a steady stream.
You can also use acrylic thinning mediums like pouring medium or flow release additive. These help maintain the acrylic’s properties while making it more liquid.
Start with just a couple drops of medium and mix well. Test on some scrap paper or cardboard to ensure your paint flows smoothly without being too thin and watery. Make adjustments as needed until you get the perfect dipping consistency.
Swirly Marbling Technique for 3D Objects
The traditional hydro dipping technique is marbling. This produces those iconic swirly, tye-dye looking designs. It works awesome on 3D objects.
Fill your tub or bin with warm water and borax or cornstarch mixture, leaving a few inches at the top. Warm water helps the paint spread better.
Now slowly drizzle, sprinkle, and drop your thinned acrylic paint colors onto the surface of the water. Feel free to get creative with the patterns and designs!
Use a stick, skewer, or pipette to gently swirl the paint together. You can also drizzle in new colors and continue swirling to get really wild effects.
When you’ve got a design you like, it’s dipping time! Take your object – a barrel of a pen, shoe, helmet, whatever you want to customize – and dip it straight down into the paint water.
Let the object sit fully submerged for at least 5 seconds so the acrylic paint adheres completely. Then slowly lift it straight up and out.
Let any excess paint drip off back into the tub before setting your object on newspaper or cardboard to dry. The acrylic should start drying within a few minutes.
That’s it – you just hydro dipped something cool! Acrylic paint dries permanent on lots of materials like plastic, wood, and metal.
Making Groovy Marbled Paper
Marbling is also awesome for making brightly colored papers and stationery. Follow the same steps, but lay paper or cardstock on the floating paint instead of dipping 3D items.
Fill a flat tray with room temperature water mixed with a bit of borax or liquid detergent. The detergent helps the paint spread out smoothly.
Drizzle your thinned acrylic colors in groovy patterns, then use a stick or toothpick to swirl everything together.
Gently lay your paper on the water’s surface and hold it still for 5-10 seconds. Slowly lift one corner – the paint design should transfer to the paper as you peel it up!
Set the painted paper on plastic or wax paper to dry completely before using. Trim off any unpainted edges if needed.
You can also buy specialty marbling paper kits with the right paints and tray included to make it even easier!
Hydro Dipping Shoes Just Got Cooler
Customizing sneakers is a super popular hydro dipping project. With some acrylic paint and creativity, your kicks will be the coolest around!
Taping off parts of the shoes you want to keep clean is a smart move. Masking tape or painter’s tape works great – just press it down firmly.
Fill up a plastic storage tub bigger than your shoes with lukewarm water and borax solution. Then scatter, drip, and swirl the paint colors.
Holding the laces, dip the taped up shoes into the center of the paint swirls, letting them sink fully underwater. Count to 5, then lift straight up.
Carefully peel off the tape and set the shoes on cardboard or cloth to dry. The acrylic paint should adhere to the shoe material, giving you durable designs!
Let the shoes dry at least 24 hours before wearing so the paint cures fully. Then show off your stylin’ footwear!
Hydro Dipping Rocks for Decor
Rocks and stones also make nifty hydro dipping canvases to turn into decor pieces or paperweights. Kids especially get a kick out of this project!
Start with smooth, rounded rocks. Give them a bath and scrub to remove dirt, then sand lightly. Paint the rocks with white acrylic as a base coat and let fully dry.
Fill a small plastic container with borax water solution. Choose your paint colors and swirl away!
Using barbecue tongs is an easy way to grab and dip the rocks fully underwater, making sure the entire surface gets coated.
Lift out the rocks and arrange on cardboard or foil to dry. The acrylic paint will adhere best on top of the base coat. Let sit overnight before handling.
Now you’ve got beautiful custom rocks to use for decoration, paperweights, or heck – just admire their groovy paint patterns!
Dipping All Kinds of Stuff into Paint
Really, the possibilities are endless when hydro dipping with acrylics. Some other ideas:
- Tumblers & mugs
- Plastic water bottles
- Phone cases
- Artsy sunglass frames
- Abstract paper tablecloths
Tape off any areas you want to keep paint-free before dipping. Plastics, metals, and finished wood dipped items work best!
Let imagination run wild coming up with things to customize. This technique really shines for making ordinary items into extraordinary, one-of-a-kind works of art!
Getting Trippy with Other Hydro Dipping Mediums
While acrylic paint is readily available and easy to use, you can kick hydro dipping up a notch with products specifically designed for the process. No nasty spray paint cans required!
Magical Marabu Marbling Paint
Germany-based brand Marabu makes an awesome line of paints formulated just for hydro dipping. They spread like a dream and you don’t have to mess with any additives – just drip straight onto water!
With ultra vibrant colors and glossy finishes, Marabu paints produce stunning, professional looking dipped items. They work beautifully on materials like wood, metal, and hard plastics.
The bottles make it easy to create any design you want by hand. Just anticipate projects taking longer to fully dry, around 24 hours. But the results are so worth it!
Dip Without Sprays Using DipDoctr
If you’re looking for a non-toxic, indoor safe way to hydro dip, DipDoctr kits are the answer!
These sets come with specially crafted water-floatable paints designed to work on fabric, unfinished wood and leather, ceramic, even styrofoam. No primer or base coat needed.
The DipDoctr paint bottles have a thinner tip for precision dripping and swirling your designs. Grab a kit for dunking shoes, hats, blank skateboard decks, tumblers, and more!
Film Method for Next Level Dipping
Ok, you hydro dipping pro! Looking to take it to the highest tier? Try the original hydrographic film technique.
This method uses a thin printable film that floats on water. You spray an activator solution that dissolves the film so objects can be dipped into the liquid layer.
It takes some practice, but the film method opens up seemingly endless possibilities for intricate, multi-color designs. Definitely check it out once you’ve mastered the basics!
Handy Tips for Hydro Dipping Success
Woohoo, we’ve covered so much about the wonderful world of hydro dipping with acrylics! To recap, here are my best tips:
- Use just 2-4 acrylic colors for cleaner looking marbled effects
- Work quickly so paint doesn’t dry before you dip your object
- Apply primer and base coats first for maximum acrylic adhesion
- Try acrylic spray paints for easier application on some materials
- Practice on smaller items first to get your dipping skills down
- Consider commercial hydro dipping paints for convenience and quality
- Have fun and get creative with hydro dipping – the possibilities are endless!
Common Hydro Dipping Questions
What types of paint can be used?
acrylic craft paint, spray paint, enamel paint, and specially formulated hydro dipping paints all work well. Avoid watercolor or super thick paints.
Is primer or base coat required?
It’s not mandatory but helps the acrylic paint adhere much better to surfaces like plastic, wood, and metal. An acrylic base coat provides the most consistent results.
What’s the deal with that activator stuff?
Activator solutions work with hydro dipping films to dissolve the printed design so it can transfer and stick to your object when dipped.
Don’t you just need water and paint?
For paint to float on the surface of water instead of sinking, you need to add borax, cornstarch, or a commercial medium designed for hydro dipping.
How long does hydro dipped stuff take to dry?
With acrylic paint, most objects just need 15-60 minutes drying time. However, give pieces 24 hours to fully cure before use or wear.
Dive Into the World of Hydro Dipping!
I hope this guide has inspired you to try hydro dipping with acrylic craft paints! It really opens up so many possibilities for customizing and creating stylish items.
While it takes some experimenting to master the paint consistency and dipping technique, the whole process is super enjoyable and gratifying.
Hydro dipping is also a great craft for kids and classrooms – it’s messy in a fun way! With just some acrylics and borax, you’re ready for a dipping adventure.
Once you get comfortable with the basics, you can move onto advanced hydro dipping methods or even offer it as a service. But for now, get creative embellishing shoes, stationery, tumblers, and anything else you can think of!