Some of the things we forget to overlook when building or parting an instrument together is finish. We spend a great deal getting necks, tuning machines, tremolos/bridges and even pickups, but never try the daunting task of a custom paint finish. The first thought is, “Man its gonna look like crap if I do it myself.”, but today we have more options than ever. Paint spraying is usually the next thought and there have been great airbrush jobs that are easily done as mentioned in Reverb if dipping is not your thing. But for the focus of today’s topic, we will talk about the alternative…Hydrographics.
Hydrographics or Hydro Graphics, also known as immersion printing, water transfer printing, water transfer imaging, hydro dipping or cubic printing, is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional surfaces. The hydro graphic process can be used on metal, plastic, glass, hard woods, and various other materials. This can be in the form of using paints on the surface of water to apply the colors, to a film that already has the pattern already printed and is transferred to the surface. Both can achieve super professional and unique appearances. Below is a cool video of a guy who hydro dips his mannequin arms in a “carbon fiber” and camouflage graphic. The results are stunning!
To get educated on the subject, we recommend checking out the methods and paints that are available on the web that others have used. At makemagazine.com the info there is a great place to get started on hydro dipping paint. I spent a great deal looking and there is lots of info, but some of it is not detailed leaving you needing more info, so be sure to research like a boss and test the techniques on a separate object BEFORE doing it on the desired surface.
The film transfer can be done as a service in your area or can be done on your own buy purchasing the patterned film. The film however requires some activator chemicals in the process and are sometimes sold separately, so be sure to follow the specific directions needed if you decide to do it yourself. There are many sites that offer DIY solutions with pre-made patterns and another site I found allows you to print your own! Again research thoroughly to decide what will work for you.
There is some prepping required for all these types and practices and are similar to prepping for spray painting.
Here are some great pointers to start prepping. In part 2 we will provide step by step of the project:
- To paint over the original finish, first fill chips and gouges on the surface with auto body filler. Then lightly sand the whole surface to an even, dull finish with 700-800 grit sandpaper. This will allows the new paint to adhere. Glossy surfaces do not hold a top coat, and tend to chip or scratch easily.
- Let fillers dry for at least 24 hours. They can produce gas causing bubbles if you paint over them right away.
- Thoroughly clean the body down with turpentine to remove grease, fingerprints, and other things left over. Dry completely before painting.
- Do not use an undercoat. Modern acrylic primer spray paint has the same formula as topcoats. Finishing paints have gotten past needing an undercoat to grip the surface. Just prep well and spray your color/s.
- Prevent overspray by covering EVERYTHING around. Paint does not dissipate into the nothing. It settles wherever the wind or drafts in your workspace take it. Make sure your paint area or has good ventilation, or you’ll risk dangerous chemical inhalation. A booth 3×3 or 5×5 feet is enough for most of these projects. Painters plastic is cheap and works well.
- When painting try to move the body around to paint, inside edges and the underside, bolt a scrap neck or suitably sized piece of timber to the body and clamp it to something solid. This also covers the neck-pocket area. Do not let the paint or graphic settle there! Even a thin coat can skew neck alignment and that would suck.