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How to Make a Hydro Dip Activator: Easy At-Home Guide

Hydro Dip Activator

Hydrographic printing is more common to hunters nowadays because of its benefits for hunting. To paint the gears themselves, many people want to know how to make the hydro dip activator at home.

But what is the activator? Can we easily make some? Is it dangerous to create or not? We answer all of your questions in this helpful guide.


Hydrography and Its Effects on Hunting


Before making hydro dipping activators, we need to know what exactly the process is.

Hydrographic printing, a.k.a water transfer printing or film dipping, is a printing technique that allows us to paint 3-D objects. It uses a painted design called film and the pressure of hot water to work.

Water transfer printing is mostly used to decorate things such as cars, helmets, and other similar items.

In hunting, particularly, we apply this technique to our gears.

There are many types of paint and colors to choose from so we can create a unique pattern for our guns. It can make your weapon look a lot cooler and more personalized.

Fashion isn’t the only reason to use this, though. Most people use hydrographic printing to camouflage their weapons.

One has to hide the firearm when hunting so as to not scare the animal. If not, the hunt may ultimately fail, even before you can take a shot.

Personally, we always paint our firearms with a camouflage pattern. And it can be in any color as long as it’s in that pattern. You can use light green, orange, or other bright shades to increase your chances of success in the forest.

Another creative thing you can do with hydrographic printing is that you can create a watermark. It’s to mark your weapon and prevent it from being stolen or getting lost.

The Hydrographic Activator and Why You Should Make It at Home

Why at Home

If you’ve ever done hydrographic printing before, you would know that the activator is essential. And even though the process can be completed without the activator, it’ll be a harder, more complex, and less effective way.

The modern technique requires the presence of an activator for a quick and easy printing process.

An activator works as a paint thinner. Its job is to soften the painted film in the hot water tank and give it the ability to stick to the object.

The substance is also a plasticizer which means that it adheres to and strengthens the bond between the film and the surface of the object.

Because of its significance, the hydro dipping activator costs quite a lot of money. It’s actually a mixture of chemicals that has many ways to be formulated. In fact, even fuel can work.

And that’s why manually making the hydro dip for water transfer printing at home has become a more practical and interesting way to decorate your gears.

The Most Accessible and Common Formula for Activator

In chemistry, many different chemicals can produce the same effects. Therefore, there isn’t such a thing as a single best formula for the activator.

As we’ve said, this substance is similar to an evaporating paint thinner. And every paint thinner mixture, which includes a solvent like xylene, can become a water transfer activator.

This evidently solves the question, “how to make the hydrographic activator at home?”.

But wait, does that confuse you? There’s no need to panic.

A common hydro dip formula actually exists and it can be the solution for you. You can use a variety of chemicals that are often available in most countries and places.

This formula is also tested and proven to be effective so you can feel safe when following it.

The hydro dip formula we recommend contains xylene, isobutanol, butyl, methyl acetate and b-butanone (methyl ethyl ketone, a.k.a MEK).

Here are the detailed percentages for each component:

  • Xylene – 42%
  • Isobutanol – 5%
  • Butyl – 17%
  • Methyl acetate – 28%
  • MEK – 8%

Other Chemicals to Use for Making the Activator

Other Chemicals

As mentioned, there are plenty of ways to make a bottle of hydro dipping activator. As long as the alternative components can work the same as the original, you won’t have to worry about being too specific.

Here is another hydro dip formula with alternatives for each component:

  • Xylene – 52.94%
  • Methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) – 25.88%
  • Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) – 11.18%
  • Isophorone – 5%
  • Cyclohexanone – 5%

You can also try texanol or 2-butoxyethanol for the activator. Just refer to the MDSD chart to know how much percentage of each chemical is safe to be used.

Safety Tips When Making the Activator at Home

Safety Guidelines

Any process that involves direct exposure to chemicals can never be totally safe. You have to follow a set of strict rules to avoid unwanted accidents.

The creation of a hydro dripping activator is not an exception to this.

The required components are substances that may affect your health, if you accidentally breathe it in, ingest it, or get direct contact with it.

Even cleaning up the chemical after using it can be threatening. It’s especially dangerous when you’ve been exposed to them for a long time or on a daily basis.

So just remember to protect yourself while performing the process. Your health is far more important than the painted car.

Safety Guidelines:

#1 Wear Gloves

They may be your life-saver. Your hand is the only means you have to do the work, so it’ll be the first part to be affected in case an accident happens.

A pair of gloves is necessary to protect your hands and prevent harmful chemicals from going through your skin. You can work freely without being afraid of getting hurt.

#2 Protect Your Eyes

When something bad happens, we should always keep our eyes safe. They are the most sensible and vulnerable parts of the body, after all.

They’re also the trickiest and most sensitive organs to treat when affected. A good tip is to wear goggles or a welding helmet for eye protection during the hydro dip process.

#3 Do Not Break the Content Limit

When referring to the MDSD chart, you’ll find the highest allowed percentage for each chemical in the mixture. You’ll see what is the exact safety level, which one has already been tested, and which one is proven to be safe for your health.

If you break the limit, the chemicals can become toxic. There are some components that have health hazards as they float on the surface of the water or evaporate into the atmosphere.



After reading this guide, we hope that we’ve helped you to figure out how to make a hydro dripping activator at home.

The process is pretty simple, as long as you know the formula and how much content for each component is needed. Just mix them up and make sure to follow safety rules & guidelines.

Now, it’s time to enjoy painting and hydro dipping your gears and give your guns a new look!



April 6, 2022 - Updated article title, made minor revisions to the content
September 23, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links

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