If you're about to have an item printed with hydrographics, you have to ensure the item is prepared and that the procedure is completed properly. Hydrographics is sometimes compared to tie-dye for hard objects, but it's not quite that informal. If you try to dip something in that isn't prepared correctly, the pattern won't stick well. The same goes for not completing the procedure properly; the pattern can be damaged more easily once dry. Here are three tips to help you get the most out of a hydrographic dip.
Cover Only Clean Parts
All parts being dipped in the pattern must be clean. No grime, grease, dust, paint chips, or what have you. Many hydrographic companies offer cleaning services; it's highly advisable that you take advantage of these services as they don't add much to the final bill (and are included in the price of the hydrographic dip in many cases) and ensure that the item is cleaned correctly. Don't try to clean an item yourself until you've talked to the company to see exactly what they need done to ensure that no dirt will still be on the object.
If you don't clean the object properly, the pattern will either not stick, not stick well (as in chipping or peeling off), or not transfer well. There could be warping in the image or streaks, for example.
Remember the Clear Coat
Once the pattern has been added and dried completely, the object has to be dipped in a clear coat. This is like sealant for the pattern, if you want to think of it that way. If you find a hydrographic company dipping items in patterns but not adding a clear coat afterward, you may want to look for another company. The clear coat protects the pattern from dirt and peeling. Note that like other sealants, the clear coat can be chipped if something hits it, so treat the part carefully.
Seek out Computational Hydrographics
You may want to look for a company that uses computational hydrographics instead of just manually dipping the item in the pattern. When an object is lowered into the hydrographic pattern tank, it can pull the pattern down with it. Remember that in hydrographics, a thin sheet with the pattern is placed on top of water in the tank; the pattern softens and becomes an inky top layer of liquid. When the item is dipped in the pattern, the pattern adheres to the surface of the item—but dipping can also pull and twist the pattern and create flaws. Computational hydrographics tries to compensate for this by predicting the pulling and twisting, resulting in a more stable pattern on the item.
If you have other questions about hydrographics, ask the hydrographics company before you agree to have anything printed. This is an interesting procedure that works well when done correctly, but you definitely want to be sure you know how the procedure will affect the item you're dipping.