How Water Transfer Printing Works
- Pick a Pattern: We offer hundreds of patterns that range from Realtree® camouflage to wood grains, marbles, and metallics. Once a pattern is chosen, it is digitized and printed as an exact replica on film.
- Prep a Product: Preparation is key to a successful water transfer. Most product surfaces are cleaned before applying a special primer, which adheres to the item and accepts the inks of the printed decoration. If necessary, objects to be printed are base painted. This determines the pattern’s color, such as the green in camouflage or the brown used in wood grain.
- Image Orientation: The pattern or image is then printed on water-soluble polyvinyl film and placed in a vat designed specifically for water-transfer printing. This part of the process is managed either manually or is automated. Sliding baffles keep the printed film in place to achieve good decoration.
- Activation: The Printed film is sprayed with a chemical activator, which dissolves the film, allowing the pattern to float on water.
- Immersion: Water follows the contours of the part and forces the inks to penetrate the basecoat. After being fully immersed, the part is removed from the water and the eye can immediately see that the part has taken on the color and design of the original pattern. Because the graphic is only a few microns thick, the decoration is possible for flexible plastic products such as ski goggles, and even molded parts including ATV hoods, fenders, and related components. Many sizes and shapes can be decorated from firearms and instrument panels to radio bezels.
- Rinsing and Drying: After immersion, the product is rinsed and dried.
- Clear-Coating: In the final process step, the decorated product is covered with an automotive-grade urethane. This gives the object a glossy or matte shine, depending on your preference. The urethane also acts as a protector from harmful UV rays and chemicals that may ruin the pattern. When the final coat has dried, the object is sanded and polished to shine.