Introduction: Hydro Dipping Art Supply Storage

About: Hi, I'm Kat! My YouTube channel, Kat Liepins Art, combines tongue-in-cheek humor with wow-worthy art with the hopes of making fine art approachable and fun while inspiring an appreciation for a variety of proc…

PROJECT OVERVIEW: This instructable documents the process I underwent to recycle a common wooden wine gift box into groovy swirl dipped art supply storage using Humbrol paint. It was a ton of fun to make and I feel I ended up with an eye catching piece that I use in my studio everyday. Now, let's dive into the details!

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Step 1: Priming, Masking and Sanding

This project requires that you already have a wooden gift box to recycle. You don't have to build anything and you're keeping more from going into a landfill - DOUBLE BONUS! :D The gift box that I used, happened to have slide-in dividers that were originally meant to hold bottles of wine, but I decided that they'd work perfectly for organizing my art supplies.

A. PRIMING: Using white acrylic gesso and a paint brush of your choosing, begin covering the larger areas where you'd like the swirl patterns to eventually occur on the piece. Depending on how porous your wood and opaque your gesso is, you may require 2–3 coats of primer to achieve full coverage.

B. MASKING: Because we want the natural wood to show on the sides and inside areas, we'll be using painter's tape to ensure that water and paint don't make their way onto those surfaces. The tape also provides the added benefit of crisp, clean and straight lines once removed. Finish painting gesso up to the edges of the tape for full primer coverage before sanding.

C. SANDING: Once all of the areas are covered with tape and primer we'll allow the piece to dry for at least 24 hours. Then, we'll be using an electric sander on the larger surfaces to level out any raised areas and paintbrush lines. This will make the hydro dip paint adhere evenly. Continue sanding the smaller surfaces and box edges, by hand, with pieces of sandpaper. You can take the sanding disc off of the electric sander and use that so you don't have to purchase more sand paper or create any additional waste.

D. PRIMING II: Finally, the last step in the preparation process involves selecting a color of spray paint that you'd like to see as the base for the hydro dip paint swirls. Knowing that it will show through, I went with a bright turquoise hue so that it would compliment the other colors of paint that I'll be using. While wearing a ventilation mask in a well ventilated area, use the spray paint, according to its instructions, to evenly cover all white primed surfaces. Depending where you are spraying, you may want to throw down a tarp or cardboard to protect from overspray.

Step 2: Hydro Dipping

Now, it's time for the part that everyone is waiting for...HYDRO DIPPING! You'll just need to follow these few simple steps to achieve visually stunning results.

A. SELECTING PAINT: Prior to achieving the swirl look you see in the photos, I tried several different types and brands of enamel paint, in order to find what I felt best for my project. Note: You can not use a water based paint for this process because it will dilute and mix with the water. Enamel is oil based and floats on the surface of the water. This is a literal example of the old adage, oil and water don't mix. You've probably seen a lot of videos where people use spray paint. I found that it will work but spray paint is finicky, you have to work really quickly since it dries very rapidly, oftentimes leaves globs or lumps and doesn't allow for the defined swirly psychedelic marbleized look I was aiming for. Marble Magic was another brand of enamel paint that I tried out. Marble Magic provided more reliable and appealing results than spray paint, but I found that the coverage wasn't as opaque and vibrant as the paint that I finally landed on–Humbrol. Humbrol paints provided me with the coverage, color vibrancy and time required to position yourself and plan for your dip. I suggest using 3 colors for the best results.

B. PREPPING THE CONTAINER AND WATER: When selecting a water tight container or tub to dip in, you'll need to consider the size of the item that you are submerging. You may be surprised how wide and deep your container needs to be to cover the entire surface are of your piece. Imagine the paint on the top of the water as a sheet of shrink wrap that will attract to and wrap the surface. As you can see, in my photos and video, my container ideally could have been larger in order to not have to split the body of the box into two dips instead of one. As for the water, you'll want to make sure that the temperature is 82º F and you've given the Borax powder at least an hour or so to dissolve before attempting to add any paint.

C. ADDING PAINT TO THE WATER: Using the 3 colors of Humbrol paint that you've selected, squirt them in alternating patterns onto the surface of the water. You want to administer the paint in close proximity to the water so that you don't break the surface tension and have the paint sink to the bottom of the tub–you want it to float. As you add colors, you may want to wait a few seconds to let the colors spread and disperse before layering the next color. You can also gently blow on the paint if it is requiring a bit of help to spread. I had a friend help me add the third color since I only have 2 hands. This isn't necessary, but definitely helpful for speed.

D. SWIRLING: I used wooden barbecue skewers to swirl the paint colors into the composition desired. Popsicle sticks don't work as well since their flat sides have a greater surface area that the paint wants to adhere to. Skewers are narrower and glide through the paint more cleanly. For technique, try to enter from the edges of your tub and pull through to the opposite or another side of the tub. If you stick the skewer in or pull the skewer out in the middle of the paint, a lot of times the paint wants to stick and pull up off of the water. This leave globs and potentially holes in the swirl pattern if paint is inadvertently removed.

E. HYDRO DIPPING: You can either hold the piece with your hands (wear nitrile gloves unless you want swirl dipped paws) or adhere a handle of some sort, like a dowel, using hot glue. Grab the piece you're dipping and survey the pattern on the top of the water. Try to imagine how the colors will wrap onto the piece in order to zero in on the spot and angle for dip entry. You want to be sure to give yourself enough paint to wrap around as much of the piece as possible. Once your piece is submerged, DO NOT remove the piece from the water without first having a friend our yourself swish the remaining paint on the surface of the water out of the way. If you pull out with paint on top of the water, that paint will also adhere to your piece during removal and make for some unplanned double layering. Note: You will repeat steps C, D, and E for each of the pieces you will be dipping.

F. DRYING TIME: Once you've dipped all of the pieces, use a hair dryer to quickly blow away the majority of the water (please use caution if you are doing this near the water tub) and set them aside to dry for a few hours before checking to see if you can remove your tape. I ended up waiting around a week before pulling all of the tape off just to make sure that everything had set properly.

Step 3: Tape Removal and Sealing

A. REMOVING THE TAPE: The tape may be tricky to peel up in some areas that are densely coated with swirl paint, so don't be afraid to use a box cutter or art blade to release and free up the corners of the tape so you are able to easily peel and remove the rest. Once all of the tape is removed, you have the option to apply a sealant.

B. APPLYING SEALANT: To reduce the risk of paint scratching off and to add a protective coating to the bare wood surfaces, you can elect to finish your piece with a clear coat. I used a crystal clear water based polyurethane spray that you can order online or find in many home supply stores. Just throw down a tarp and evenly coat all surfaces with the sealant. I applied a single spray coat and any "orange peel" looking textures leveled out during drying. Allow your sealant to dry according to the instructions on the can. I always wait a little extra time since all locations and humidity are not equal–and, just to be safe. :)

Step 4: Final Assembly and Use

A. FINAL ASSEMBLY: Once dry you have a beautifully decorated art supply storage case that can be assembled by sliding in the divider pieces and filling it with your art supplies, or whatever else you desire, and sliding the top lid into place!

B: USE: I personally use this piece as art supply storage in my studio but I could see it making an upgraded goodie-filled gift box for a friend, or a place to stash precious ornaments or knickknacks–your imagination is the limit!

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