What is Water Transfer Printing?
Water Transfer Printing (also known as hydro-graghics, immersion printing, camo dipping, hydro imaging and cubic printing) is a surface decorating process where elaborate graphics like wood grain, carbon fiber, camouflage, geometrical designs, etc. are applied to a 3-D product surface.
The Water Transfer Printing process is extensively used to decorate items that range from entire all-terrain vehicles and car dashboards to small items like bike helmets or other automotive trim. Films can be applied to all types of substrates including plastic, fiberglass, wood, ceramics, and metal. For the most part, if the item can be dipped in water, the hydro-graphic process can be used.
The process utilizes a water-soluble film that contains the printed patterns. The film dissolves in the water and leaves the ink on the surface. In the typical process, the item to be printed is first coated with a primer or an adhesion promoter. After this dries, a base-coat paint is applied which controls the hue of the pattern.
So, for instance, wood grain prints often utilize a brown base-coat and many camouflage patterns use a neutral base. After the base-coat is applied, the item is ready for decorating. The film is activated. The item is then dipped into the water and the ink wraps around it. It is then washed and painted with a clear topcoat.