Introduction: Hydro Dip Painting

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Hydro Dipping is where paint resting on the surface of water is then transferred onto an object through dipping. It produces some psychedelic effects, is incredibly simple, and no two dips will ever look alike!

To hydro dip at home, all you need is acrylic spray paint and a large bath of water. Check out this quick video demonstration (direct link for those that can't see it):

Ready to give your next project a crazy paint job? Let's make!

Step 1: Prepare Your Wood

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Just like any paint job, before hydro-dipping you need to prepare your work.
I dipped this natural wood skateboard, as it had a light coat of protective that was easy to sand away.

Using an 80 grit sandpaper I blasted through the clear protective coat and got down to the raw wood underneath. I then smoothed everything out with a 180 grit sandpaper to make everything smooth.

Step 2: Water Bath

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Any large, deep container will work for dipping. Since we are using paint your container will also be partially painted during the process, it's best to use an older container so you don't risk ruining something nice.

Large, plastic containers can be inexpensively picked up at any big box home improvement store . You can even use it as a storage container after the paint dries, if you don't mind a splash of colour in your storage container.

Fill container with enough water to completely submerge the item you want to dip. For the skateboard I was dipping even full to the brim the container wasn't large enough, so i dipped it in two sections. Having the maximum dipping depth is desired.

Step 3: Add Handle to Dipped Item

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If you want paint coverage over the entire item you are dipping you'll need to add a handle to your piece so the paint can reach all surfaces (minus the handle). A handle is better than your hand getting in the way, and depending on where your handle is mounted you can make the contact point between the handle and the work piece very small.

For this skateboard, I could attach the handle on the back of the board where the grip tape was - so there was no handle interference with the surface to be painted.

Step 4:

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With the container of water ready you just need some acrylic spray paint colour combinations you want to apply. I had a few old spray paint cans that could be used up here, and almost any combination looks good with this technique.

Of course you're going to need to wear some protective gloves so you don't get paint all over your hands when you dip.

Step 5: Get Spraying

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Here's where you can get really creative! Spray a generous amount of one colour directly onto the water, you can do one big spray in the middle of the container or a few smaller sprays around the surface. Different spray locations will produce different patterns. Don't overthink it though, the pattern will change quite a bit with each successive spray.

Paint will float on water. Switch up colours and give a few blasts of the new colour over the first.

Grab a spray can in each hand and keep spraying all over the water surface, creating all kinds of crazy patterns.

The best part about this process is that the spraying action does all the work creating the patterns. So all you have to do is keep spraying until you're happy with how it looks.

Step 6: Dip!

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Now the fun part, dipping!

The paint will stick to whatever it comes in contact with. If you push your work into the water and through the paint it will stick to the first surface, you'll notice that sometimes the paint can even wrap around the piece and stick to the topside of the piece as well. Depending on the results you want to achieve this may be the look you want, if you only want to cover a certain side of your work then cover the side you don't want painted with petroleum jelly to inhibit the paint from sticking

Push the work into the water until it's completely submerged. You'll find different results depending on the angle on which you submerge your work, and the speed.

Step 7: Disturb Water Surface

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If you don't want paint to cover the top of your work as you bring the piece out of the water you'll need to disturb the water and push away the paint to make a clear spot in the water.

You can shake the piece underwater to agitate the water surface, or push the paint away with your hand. Alternatively, you can leave the surface undisturbed and create another pattern on the topside of the piece as you extract it from the water.

Step 8: Larger Dips

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For the skateboard dip I needed to dip one side, then reapply a few more blasts of spray paint onto the water and then re-dip the other side.

The paint swirls will overlap and won't be noticeable since the pattern is so chaotic.

Step 9: Clearing Paint

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The paint is very sticky and should have no problem sticking to your dipped piece. This also means it will stick to the sides of the container, your hands, and anything else it comes in contact with. Use caution!

Step 10: Let Dry

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After dipping your piece is going to be wet, both with paint and water from the bath.

Let your work dry completely before handling. I left my skateboard for about 2 hours before I could touch it and have it not feel tacky.

Step 11: Remove Handle + Protect

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Once dry you can remove the handle.

To prevent the paint coming off it's wise to protect your work with a polyurethane spray

Apply the spray like with any other project, spraying about a foot away in even sweeps across entire piece. Allow to dry for about an hour before applying a second or third coat.

Step 12: Happy Dipping!

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Now you know the basics of how to paint with hydro-dipping, you're ready to make all kinds of one of a kind dipped designs. Here's the skateboard I dipped from both sides to get good coverage. Can you tell where the overlap is?

There's loads of ways to take this to the next level, like making multiple dips with contrasting colours or partial dipping.

Have you done your own hydro-dipping? I want to see it!

Share a picture of your hydro-dip painting in your comment below and get a free 3-month Pro Membership!


wold630 made it! (author)2017-05-21

This process is highly addictive! My sons and I hydro dipped everything (small) we could think of including a fidget spinner, light switch covers, figurines, and rocks. Thanks for sharing this project, it was so much fun! :)

mikeasaurus (author)wold6302017-05-22

Love those bold color choices. Thanks for sharing your results.

So, what's next to dip? :)

Djjazzyjasper (author)2017-02-27

did the paint get on the grip tape at all?

andygreyrider (author)2016-11-18

Looks like Cheese and Tomato Pizza!
I nearly missed it in my Inbox because it's so convincing.
Thank you for teaching me this method.

MilanV16 (author)2016-11-18

Nice. Ibanez used to do a similar method on Jem guitars in the 80's. (

JNLQ (author)2016-11-18

That is very cool!

huddleto (author)2016-11-16

I've been thinking of doing this with welded chain crosses I make and have wondered what the clean-up is like. What do you do with the water/paint mixture afterwards?

mikeasaurus (author)huddleto2016-11-17

Once all the paint is removed / dries I water the garden.

Jonas_Lagerstedt (author)2016-11-17

Amazing. Did it for a high-school project. Maybe you could label it as a Skateboard Project?

Keep up the good work, Jonas Lagerstedt of USA......

Umbra55 (author)2016-11-16

absolutely amazing!

few questions:

If you’re not happy with the result, can you dip it again right
away or do you have to wait until it’s dry? Is it even possible to
apply a second layer on the first?

Or just the opposite, can you dip multiple objects one after the
other – making sure you add enough paint to cover the whole water
surface before you dip the next object?

I was thinking of using an old bathtub for larger objects. Can you
leave the water in for the next day (after making sure all the
floating paint is removed, using old newspapers)?

Can you leave the paint drying on the walls of the bathtub without
risk for the next day’s run?

stopped at 180 grit sandpaper. Would the paint not stick when using
300 or 600 grit
or is it just because 180 grit was smooth enough for your project?

for this wonderful instructable – needles to say I voted for you.

mikeasaurus (author)Umbra552016-11-16

You can do multiple dips without waiting for it to dry, you will need to add some more paint before dipping.

I don't see why you couldn't leave the water in there. Any leftover paint might contaminate your next batch, so if you're doing drastically different colors best to make sure you've cleaned up as much as you can.

I stopped at 180 grit as there wasn't a need to go further, I just wanted to remove the clear coating on the board before dipping. Since the paint globs onto the surface there's not much use in having a super smooth starting surface, since you'll be sanding the globs away after it dries anyway.

I'd love to see your results when you try this!

PhantomX999 (author)2016-11-16

Well, i don't think i'll make a raw bacon skate board but, this could be useful for prop painting.

spark master (author)2016-11-15

It is called marbleizing , not "hydro dipping", it is an old process and your instructions are very nice.

The novelty of using the process on wood which typically is done very different. (faux finishing), I like the size of the project and that it is something other than paper.

I did this at home many years ago on Paper . I could not get what the people get in there video's, but I made some awesome papers just using corn starch water and paint. I literally took old combs as my tools and made some basic stuff.

I have added 3 video's there are many many more.

Please note these are all water based paint video's. Carrageenan is sea weed , non animal gelatin. It is parve /vegan, and some say it tastes terrible. I have never had it. So one day perhaps I will try it. I called a starch company to find the amounts needed to stiffen the water a bit. Also he uses an Alum solution to help the paper absorb the paint better. If you have unsized paper this may be skipable.

You can use oil based house paint using the techniques in this ancient art and do not need sizing or gelatin, for any surface.

Water process with oil based paint does have some real advantages. Duribility on hard objects or as a print on a T shirt,. Look up the Turkish art of marbleizing use latex paint and go right onto a tee shirt.

Italian gent

American Kid doing it very nicely

Another American Arteest

search youtube for a huge list including Japanese and Turkish versions of the art form.

Nice "structible Love that it was done on a skate board

XTL (author)spark master2016-11-15

Methocel instead of carrageen is a good idea as its commonly used in cooking. Does the exact same job, used the same way. Better than water. Stabler paint on the surface.

Two main approaches to this - oil based on water(this instructable) or water based on methocel/carrageen....

mikeasaurus (author)spark master2016-11-15

I suppose marbling is the technical term for this technique as hydro dipping is for applying printed graphics, however I think in most DIY circles you could call this hydro dipping and people would understand. Thanks for clarifying!

Even though I did this project, I had not made the connection on how they made paper using the same technique. Today I learned...

moosejaw23 (author)mikeasaurus2016-11-15

I agree. I see the roots of hydrodipping in marbling. Your process could be described as either a by-hand version of hydrodipping, or an evolution of marbling. Very cool tutorial! Thanks for putting that together!

IamUprise made it! (author)2016-11-15

I use this style of painting to cover my PWM box mod enclosures. I make advanced personal vapers for those looking to quit smoking cigarettes. The PCB is my own creation and most parts come from my good friend FatDaddyVapes. Vaping has helped millions to reduce the harm caused by traditional cigarettes. I actually copied the guys who do this to their stomp boxes. It's not easy getting the colors to blend well and putting a top coat is even trickier. What ways has everyone tried with sucess on the top coats to prevent cracking and the alligator type finish?

mikeasaurus (author)IamUprise2016-11-15

Cracking on the finish is usually caused from improper adhesion to the paint layer, or because the material you dipped is flexible and paint/finish cracks and chips off. Does this match your findings?

After dipping the paint is allowed to dry completely. Then I applied an off the shelf acrylic finish to protect the wood, waiting about 30 minutes between coats.

IamUprise (author)mikeasaurus2016-11-15

I apply my paint to metal the hammond boxes. I usually use rustoleum crystal clear enamel spray after dipping with rustoleum. I find using this top coat to be the most problematic for me. How do you thin the spray paint? I get a lot of blobs of dots of colors. They don't seem to spread out evenly as well.

RodneyB13 made it! (author)2016-11-15

I am a fine artist who has been using hydro-dipping to create illustrations for years. I use pareidolia to find the painting that is hidden within the swirls and then finish it up. I only add as much to the hydro-dip that is necessary to create the painting, sometimes more, sometimes less. Here are a few of those. Do I win a subscription?

mikeasaurus (author)RodneyB132016-11-15

Pareidolia is so fascinating, and I am always on the lookout for faces in everyday things :)

RodneyB13 (author)mikeasaurus2016-11-15

Thanks for the membership. I also use (and teach how to use) this method on my 3D prints in order to obtain textures. Here is an example of a table that I used this method on to obtain the finish on the tabletop.

beautiful work!

Thank you!

themanwoaname (author)2016-11-15

is the paint smooth or is it bumpy to the touch?

im not following something because the images explaining this are not your skateboard deck - are you dipping the deck and then pulling it up with the painted end facing up to grab the most amount of paint or are you submerging face down and it retaining the paint pattern that way? wouldnt it wash away if it the intended painting side facing down?

im interested in this application for a potential project. thanks for your help.

Watch the video if you can. Its a short but very good video.

SallyJ7 (author)cristinajones2016-11-15

I don't see a video here at all. I'm not gonna click all the pictures to see if any is a video. A video should have that arrow in a circle thing to indicate it's a video. What video?

mikeasaurus (author)SallyJ72016-11-15

Here's a direct link to the video. I've updated this project to now include this link up top for those that can't see it.

SallyJ7 (author)mikeasaurus2016-11-15

Cool, thanks!

themanwoaname (author)SallyJ72016-11-15

it's not in the first step - it's above it.

it answers my second question, but not the first.

After the paint is on the water surface you dip the piece face down into the paint until completely submerged. The surface is then disturbed to move any leftover paint on the surface away and then the piece is brought up out of the water.

Depending on how much paint you add to the water surface and how it coagulates the paint can be bumpy or smooth (sometimes both).

Here's a direct link to the video.

Apologies for the skateboard not being in the entire project. I shot and filmed this alone and you only have once shot to do a dip. I chose to show the skateboard in the video as it's more dramatic, leaving the pictures to scrap wood to illustrate the technique.

abrannan (author)themanwoaname2016-11-15

Watch the video in the first step, it shows him dipping the first end of the skateboard. He keeps it face down the entire time.

Sudden_ (author)2016-11-15

Wouldn't the water damage the skateboard?

mikeasaurus (author)Sudden_2016-11-15

The board is in the water for seconds and the entire deck is impregnated with epoxies from manufacturing, there's not much chance from water damage.

Metcalf32 (author)2016-11-15

I had to really look at the image at first because I thought it was a slab of raw meat (specifically horse meat). The white looks like marbling. Awesome job and thanks for sharing!

Bguz (author)2016-11-15

Very cool. Now have another paint idea for some projects I'm working on.

lappalainen (author)2016-11-14

Nice job, did someone try it for guitar bodies ?


from France

IamUprise (author)2016-11-15

Simple but watch out for the bubbles of paint blobs

Mojo-69 (author)2016-11-15

I knew a dude who made T-shirts this way as part of his livelihood. He'd make a bunch then travel to sell them at select craft shows. I've prolly still got a couple in my tie-dye collection. You got my vote!

holidayv (author)2016-11-14

FINALLY some shows us how to do this! Thank You!

LarsN8 (author)2016-11-14

great to finally learn how to do it! Thanks!

Raitis (author)2016-11-14

I love this kind of galaxy patterns! Will definitely try it on something and clean up my paint shelf as well.

seamster (author)2016-11-14

Love it Mike, nicely done!

indywave (author)2016-11-14

Looks so cool! Voted for you!

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Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
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