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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 you easily make some? Is it dangerous to create or not?

Don’t worry; I answer all of your questions in this helpful guide!


Hydrography and Its Effects on Hunting


Before making hydro dipping activators, you 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 you 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, I apply this technique to my gears.

There are many types of paint and colors to choose from so you can create a unique and personalized pattern for my guns.

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, I always paint my 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 to prevent it from getting lost or stolen.

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.

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!

That’s why manually making the hydro dip for water transfer printing at home has become a more PRACTICAL way to decorate your gears.

When and How to Use Hydro Dip Activator

Apply the activator AFTER applying the film.

Once the film has finished hydrating, you can use the activator. Once applied, the film dissolves, and the ink is liquefied.

To apply the activator, all you have to do is dip the film in water (make sure the temperature is ideal) and apply one thin layer of activator.

From there, you can dip your product in a 45-degree angle to apply the design!

Remember to apply just the RIGHT amount of activator as applying too much or too little can cause problems.

If you are dipping metallic films, apply a quick, thin layer of activator once you place the film in the water.

The Most Accessible and Common Formula for Activator

The Activator is similar to an evaporating paint thinner.

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?”.

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 places.

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

The hydro dip formula I 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.

How to Choose the Right Activator

When choosing the right activator, I usually look at two main things: temperature and reducer.


Activator has three different types depending on the temperature, so it can range from slow, medium, to fast.

A SLOW activator is ideal for temperatures of around 85-90 degrees.

Meanwhile, if you are working with a temperature of 65-80 degrees, you can switch to a medium activator.

Finally, anything below 65 degrees will require a fast activator for optimal results.


Make sure your reducer and activator are compatible and complementary.

A slow reducer should be paired with a slow reducer; likewise a fast reducer with a fast activator.

Safety Tips When Making the Activator at Home

Safety Guidelines

Any process that involves direct exposure to chemicals can never be totally safe. The creation of a hydro dipping activator is NO 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!

Just remember to protect yourself while performing the process. Your health is far more important than a painted item.

#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, you should always keep your 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 MSDS chart, you’ll find the highest allowed percentage for each chemical in the mixture.

You’ll see 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.

What Happens If You Use the Activator Incorrectly?

Simply put, your product will not look the way you want it to.

Too little activator will not stick liquefy the film, which means it will not stick to the product. Meanwhile, too much activator will not adhere to the surface of your item.

This is why I emphasize using the RIGHT amount of activator.



After reading this guide, I hope that I’ve helped you to figure out how to make a hydro dipping 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!

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