Add Patterns to 3D-Printed Objects with Hydrographic Film

3D Printing & Imaging
Add Patterns to 3D-Printed Objects with Hydrographic Film

fabshop hydrographics

Friend of Make: Bertier Luyt, president of French 3D printing company Le Fab Shop, was intrigued with the possibilities of hydrographic technology after seeing this popular YouTube video demonstrating the technique of applying graphics using hydrographic film:

YouTube player

Hydrographics (aka immersion printing, water transfer printing, water transfer imaging, cubic printing, or hydro dipping) has been used by manufacturers for years.

The hydrographic process can be used on metal, plastic, glass, hard woods, and various other materials. … In the process, the substrate piece to be printed is pre-treated and a base coat material is applied. A polyvinyl alcohol film is gravure-printed with the graphic image to be transferred, and is then floated on the surface of a vat of water. An activator chemical is sprayed on the film to dissolve it into a liquid and activate a bonding agent. The piece is then lowered into the vat, through the floating ink layer, which wraps around and adheres to it.

After removing the piece from the water, a top coat is applied to protect the design. With multiple dippings, hydrographics printing can achieve full 360° coverage of the part surface, including small crevices.

Of course Luyt was eager to see how this technique would work with 3D-printed plastic objects, and his team did a test on the pair of printed shoes seen at the top of the post. They shared their how-to on Instructables, and they write: “Our first tests left us speechless. This technique really does feel like magic.”

Here’s their tutorial video:

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

View more articles by Goli Mohammadi


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).