I had the pleasure of sitting down with Hydrodipping Expert, Barry Nelson, of Wisconsin Hydrographics LLC to talk about his shop, hydro dipping history and advice about hydro dipping. Here is what we talked about;
The History of Wisconsin Hydro Graphics LLC:
Nelson is a retired law enforcement agent and started hydro dipping as a part time hobby back around 2008. Previously he had done a lot of airbrush work and while looking through a catalog, he came across a snakeskin pattern which he had thought was airbrushed, curious about the process he did some research and found out that it was in fact a pattern printed on a hydro graphic film. Being the self propelled learner that he is, Barry decided to order a few meters of film along with some activator and started experimenting with the process. He really liked what he saw and decided to become certified through TWN Water Transfer Printing and from that was born the full time operation that is Wisconsin Hydrographics LLC. Wisconsin Hydrographics is an FFL licensed, fully insured shop that specializes in airbrushing, hydro graphics and custom painting. Wisconsin Hydrographics are experts in a technique that incorporates custom paint jobs with hydrographic film on top to give customers a multiple color blended/faded effect with a pattern over top, if you are looking for a fade or great blend underneath your film, they are your guys.
Barry likes to keep himself and his team one step ahead of the hydrographic industry and is always experimenting and patenting new techniques. One of their most recent custom technologies was the development of a thermochromatic pigment that they transformed into a sprayable material. What does that even mean?! It means that if before reaching temperatures of 86 degrees Fahrenheit the pigment keeps a certain color and at 86 degrees or higher it changes it’s color composition— preferably to be used with cars or motors. If you are a fellow hydrodipper, we have good news for you! The special sprayable pigment can be purchased in a variety of colors through www.ohwpaint.com by contacting them by phone and asking for the Wisconsin Hydrographics sprayable thermo chromatic pigment (the pigment is not yet available for sale directly on the website so you will have to talk with a representative to place an order). Their contact information will be listed at the bottom of the page.
Here is a video link for the thermochromatic pigment.
Wisconsin Hydrographics LLC has, to date, dipped everything from toilet seats to Ferraris. They handle any production and any custom one-off jobs. A majority of their business does come from the outdoor industry (hunting equipment, fire arms and accessories) but they also work with motorcycles, ATV’s and automotives, basically they can dip anything.
Here is an Underwater Movie that they did.
D: What is the History of Hydrodipping?
B: Hydro graphics film and the process of dipping, supposedly, was started in China around the early 90’s. The automotive industry was using the technology for the woodgrain patterns they used on car interiors. At some point in the mid 90’s the US automotive industry adopted the practice and it then became a popular in the outdoor hunting market. In the early 2000’s it became something that was accessible to the public but it was very costly. It wasn’t until the mid 2000’s that general consumers finally had the option to hydrodip personal items. Currently there are only about 100 full time custom shops and a whole lot of garage dippers (independent dippers who work on part time projects).
D: What kind of advice can you give to those who are interested in the dipping process?
B: It is really important to research the process and products. You need proper and complete training instructions so that you can know the process from start to finish. It is also really important to select quality materials; from the films to the equipment to the finishes, that you will be using on the products. Another key point to keep in mind is licensing and insurance — without these two you can find yourself in a world of trouble whether it be with FFL license and problems with the ATF or of course with insurance claims if something goes wrong during the dipping process, because accidents can and do happen.
D: What advice can you give to those who are interested in having something dipped?
B: 1. The most important thing to keep in mind is to be open to suggestions. Although you think something might look good, the experts can always better guide you and suggest different designs or layouts to capitalize on your idea.
2.Do your homework and make surrey know where you are going and that the processors and team are knowledgeable and trained from the process to the paints to the coats to the films.
3. Listen to the processors and take their advice, they are the experts after all and have a better understanding.
4. Find out all of your options before you decide that what you have is the best, because once the work is done, it’s usually REALLY done and hard to re-verse if not impossible.
5. Work with a team that will give you what you want the first time around.
D: You have been working with our patterns and films for a while now, what is it that you like so much about them?
B: I have been working with your films since the release of Reaper Black and since the release of the other patterns we have kept them fully in stock (as permitted because sometimes they are in such high demand that there are backorders). What we like so much about your films is that; they do not curl up in the water, they always activate properly, they have consistent hydration, they have good pattern and color quality and they are printed on an overall high quality film. (Proveil Hydro Graphic Film can be ordered from TWN Industries. Our contact Person is Mike Richards)
D: What tips can you give our readers about choosing films?
B: Buy from a reputable vendor!! Films have about a 1 year shelf life because of the storage process and conditions so you want to make sure it is not old stock. Just because you are getting a very low price does not mean it is a good film and usually is an indication that it will not be— just like with tattoos; “Cheap work is not good and good work is not cheap”. If you are not getting film from a known supplier or vendor when you order the film (and this should be done as a sample batch) you will need to check for a few things; does it have a bit of stretch when you pull on it? It should not tear like a paper would, it needs to have a bit of pliability and resistance, the edges should also should not curl when placed in water and it should absorb water across all sections evenly.
We recommend ordering films from:
D: Does Wisconsin Hydrographics LLC have any news for 2015?
B: Yes. Currently we are a 3,000 square foot facility but we have plans to expand another 6,000 square feet this year and to add another dipping tank with a robotic dipping arm as well as increase the staff selection.
Here is the 2015 Promotional Video for Wisconsin Hydrographics LLC.
I had a really great time talking with Barry, he really knows his stuff!
Here are some more ways you can get in touch with Wisconsin Hydrographics LLC:
Phone Number: (920) 918-1045
Contact Person: Barry Nelson
One Hit Wonder Paint Contact: