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

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

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

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:

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

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42 Discussions


Question 2 months ago

I would like to know, does the polyurethane spray will come off if it is used on something that I touch a lot, I tried your tuto but didn't have the polyurethane spray and I used a protective spray that I use for my planes models but since I used on a phone case and that I use it a lot, paint started to come off. So I wonder if the polyurethane spray is strong ?

1 more answer

Reply 2 months ago

A few coats of polyurethane will protect the surface from handling, yes.


5 months ago

For anyone having issues with this, I highly recomend using primer before dipping as it will greatly help the paint to stick properly.


5 months ago on Introduction

The paint will start to glob up in about 15 seconds once you get it in the water so you have to be quick you can add ice which will give you twice as much time cold water very cold is what you're looking for remove the ice cubes before you dip . Doing it this way will give you a nice clean surface. Practice in a small container to find out how long do you have before the paint starts to glob up you can steal dip your project in the paint after it Globs up but you will not get a smooth surface


Question 7 months ago on Step 7

Have you tried using a few drops of dish soap to break the surface tension and clear the excess paint before pulling the object out? Not sure how well it would work....


10 months ago

I Had Two Problems With the process. I was trying to dip an Altoids mint container (Who Knows Why?) and some Thermomourph things for my fish tank that I made and I found out that for you to dip multi-colored things, you have to spray paint it white first. Also I had a film-like thing cover the top and I was Wondering how do you prevent this?


11 months ago

doesnt work for me :/ i keep getting this kinda film on the top, it dries on the top too quickly


1 year ago

did the paint get on the grip tape at all?


2 years ago

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.


2 years ago

Nice. Ibanez used to do a similar method on Jem guitars in the 80's. (http://www.ibanez.com/products/images/sig/pastmodels/JEM77_PMC.png)


2 years ago

That is very cool!


2 years ago

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?

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

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


2 years ago

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......


2 years ago

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.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

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!


2 years ago

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

spark master

2 years ago

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

2 replies
XTLspark master

Reply 2 years ago

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....

mikeasaurusspark master

Reply 2 years ago

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...