What Do You Need To Hydro Dip Shoes? Complete List & Steps

Blue spray paint on the surface of water.

Hydro dipping sounds like a high-tech and elaborate operation, and indeed, when done with cars, it is.

However, hydro dipping objects can be a relatively easy and fun process to do at home.

Hydro dipping refers to the process whereby paint resting on the water surface is transferred to an object when dipped.

The effect can also be achieved by using film transfers. Either way, it’s an excellent project for adding character to your shoes. 

What do you need to hydro dip shoes? To hydro dip shoes, you need fabric or plastic shoes (preferably white), gloves, spray paint, a deep container, tape, and water. Fill the container with water, and add the spray paint to create patterns. Dip the shoes, and the color will adhere to them. 

As you read through the following, you’ll see exactly how easy it is to create unique designs that are all your own.

Not only will you find a complete supply list for each method, but you’ll also have clear, step-by-step instructions for both techniques so that you can transform your shoes with confidence – like a pro!

Two Different Methods for Hydro Dipping Shoes

Spray paint and film transfer are the two methods you can use for hydro dipping your shoes. 

The spray paint technique is perhaps the easier option as you can purchase your requirements from any hardware store, but it is limited to creating psychedelic designs.

However, the transfer film style is only limited by your imagination and ability to create graphics on your computer.

Some companies supply the hydro film that allows for printing off a home printer. However, the film transfers are also available in numerous pre-designed patterns.

With both techniques, the common denominator is water. The basic process (more details here) of dipping the shoe in to apply the pattern is the same. 

Supplies for Hydro Dipping Shoes With Spray Paint

If you have chosen the spray paint method as the one to create your unique shoes, then you will require the following items:

  • Shoes
  • Water
  • Acrylic spray paint (check out these awesome colors)
  • Gloves
  • Plastic container (large)
  • Silicone or metal stick (depending on the method you choose to use) 
  • Masking/painter’s tape
  • Plastic bags for stuffing if you don’t want the inside of your shoes painted. 

Getting Started

When selecting the shoes that you will transform, it’s best to use white shoes as these will allow the paint to be most noticeable.

You can use other shoe colors, but it could somewhat counteract the effect. Both fabric and PU materials can work. You can even dip sandals if you want.  

Before beginning the dipping, prep the shoes by removing the laces and taping up the areas you don’t want to paint. This usually includes stuffing the inside of your shoes. 

The container you use should be big enough to allow you to submerge the shoe completely.

Some paint will stick to the container, so make use of one you don’t mind getting dirty. Fill the container 3/4 full with water. 

You should consider using gloves if you don’t want to be covered in paint.

You will need at least two different spray paint colors to create the effect, but three is the magic combination.

You can use as many as you want, but be careful not to make a brown mess. Using contrasting colors works best. 

Spray the paint into the water. You do need to work quickly as the paint dries into a film after a short period.

One technique is to spray a generous quantity of your primary color into the middle of the water.

You then use your other colors to layer on top, and as you spray, unique patterns will unfold.

Another method is to spray the paint toward the outside areas of the tote box and then use a stick to swirl the colors into each other and create patterns. 

Tip: When attempting this method, be sure to use a silicone or metal stirrer as the paint will stick to wood, which will destroy your designs. 

Time To Hydro Dip

You are now ready to dip your shoe. Hold the sole of the shoe and place it top down into the water and paint mix.

You want to sink your shoe in and out quite slowly and as smoothly as possible. Apply more of the same paint before dipping the second shoe. 

Once dipped, you will need to dry your shoes overnight, so store them somewhere safe where they can’t accidentally get touched.

Touching the paint before it dries will mess up the pattern. Once dry, you can remove the tape and stuffing.

Although not necessary with fabric shoes, it is still best to spray your hydro-dipped shoes with a polyurethane spray to seal and protect them. This will give them longevity.

Your hydro-dipped shoes don’t need to sit on the mantle or under a display case. That much style should not be kept locked up. 

Under regular use, they should last a couple of years, but they can become scuffed with general wear and tear.   

Supplies for Film Transfer Hydro Dipping

You’ll require a few more items for film transfer hydro dipping than with the spray paint version. 

  • Shoes
  • Water
  • Plastic container (large)
  • Hydrographic film – patterned or blank (Amazon has an amazing selection)
  • Printer with pigment-based inks (if printing your designs)
  • Activator (find it here)
  • Primer 
  • Gloves
  • Mask (activator is toxic)
  • Scissors
  • Masking/painter’s tape
  • Polyurethane spray – clear (Deft’s interior/exterior spray is ideal)

Getting Started

As with the spray paint technique, it is best to work with white shoes.

Start by preparing the shoe by taping any areas you do not want the design to go.

Then measure the size of the film you will require making sure it is large enough to wrap around the whole area of the shoe you want to be covered.

Cut the film to size.

Next, spray the shoes with the primer and leave them to dry for approximately two hours.

Fill the container with enough water that the shoes can be fully submerged. The temperature of the water should be between 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the primer is dry, you can float your cut piece of film on the water. Wait approximately 40-60 seconds before you spray it with a thin layer of activator.

Time To Hydro Dip

You can now dip your shoe. You need to dip the shoe slowly to avoid crinkles. The film should wrap itself around your shoe.

Before bringing the shoe back out of the water, move the excess film away so that it does not grip to the shoe on the way up and ruin the design. 

When the shoe is dry, you can spray it with a coat or two of polyurethane spray to seal and protect it. 

Common Mistakes To Avoid With Hydro Dipping

There are a few mistakes to be aware of in the hydro dipping process. To avoid them, consider all these aspects before you begin.

 Make sure your container is deep enough to submerge your shoe fully, or you will only transfer designs to parts of your shoe. 

When prepping your shoes, clean them well, or the paint/graphic won’t stick.

Also, spend the time preparing your shoes with masking tape so that the paint goes precisely where you want it, achieving clean lines.  

Make sure your water is not too cold. If it is, the paint or film will harden too quickly and it won’t be usable. 

Mistakes To Avoid With the Spray Paint Hydro Dipping Method

Some errors are specific to the spray painting technique. These include:

  • Waiting too long once you have sprayed the paint into the water. If you don’t work quickly enough the paint will congeal. 
  • Getting the wrong angle or speed when dipping the shoe, resulting in the paint not adhering or only sticking to part of your shoe. It’s best to lower the shoe by slowly holding the sole and submerging the whole shoe.
  • Double dipping can result in a messy design and clumpy paint. If you are dipping one side at a time or the paint didn’t stick to part of the shoe, you can double dip, but try to only get the undipped section and a little of the dipped area so it joins seamlessly. 
  • Touching the paint before it has had the chance to dry. Don’t do it!
  • Not using enough spray paint – it takes more than you think.

Mistakes To Avoid With Film Transfer Hydro Dipping

These mistakes are specific to the film transfer technique:

  • Placing the film in too quickly and creating bubbles. 
  • Double dipping when wet. If you are doing one side of the shoe at a time, you need to wait for the shoe to dry before applying the next portion of the transfer film.
  • Placing the film the wrong side up.
  • Allowing water to be on top of the film before you spray it with the activator.
  • Not sealing the shoes to protect them. 

Conclusion

Both techniques of hydro dipping shoes are effective and can be done at home with relative ease.

While the spray paint technique is a little more foolproof and creates an intoxicating whirl of color, the film transfers offer more variety of design.

A few basic requirements for each include shoes, a dipping container, water, and paint or transfer film.

With these supplies in hand, you are ready to create your very own unique pair of hydro-dipped sneaks. 

Sources:

https://www.instructables.com/Hydro-Dip-Painting/

https://www.instructables.com/Custom-hydrographic-design-for-3D-printing/

https://www.matterhackers.com/articles/coating-your-prints-with-hydrographics

https://www.polkadotchair.com/how-to-hydro-dip-vans/

https://sutherlands.com/blog/hydro-dipping-plain-white-sneakers-150.html

 https://www.tsautop.com/blank-hydrographic-water-transfer-printing-inkjet-printer-6-color-inks/

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Rich

Rich

I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!