How to properly do aqua-print on the car

How to do waterprint on the car with my own hands

A car is quite a mass product, which is caused by the complexity of its design “from scratch”. And although in recent times there are more and more new technologies allowing to automate this process, there are also reverse trends. For example, the use of universal platforms on the basis of which all new models are designed. In any case, the current situation cannot be compared with the situation 30 years ago, when the majority of cars were externally similar, as twins. Today, in terms of variety of exterior, everything is much more optimistic, but as for the interior design, here, except for the elite models, the monotony is much more. Therefore, every car owner seeks to individualize his vehicle somehow, to give it a touch of exclusivity. Waterprinting is a technology which gives such possibility, and for rather small money. We shall try to tell about how to do waterprinting, what tools, materials and equipment are necessary for this purpose to those who wants to make their car unique and unlike others.

How to properly do aqua-print on the car

What is waterprinting

Appeared in the late eighties, aqua-printing technology for a long time has not been available to the masses, but was actively used in various fields. The application of decorative patterns on virtually any material, from plastic and glass to metal and wooden surfaces required the use of innovative technology, providing high-quality decoration of details of any geometry. Currently, water printing has become so advanced that this technology is used for texturing and decorating their products by such companies as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Boeing, Adidas, BMW, Samsung, Nike, Nissan, Dell and HP. In fact, an average user can hardly tell the difference between the dashboard of the car, decorated with mahogany or Aqua Print, because the technology is so perfect, remotely resembling the usual painting of the car body. It is gratifying that in recent years aqua-printing on cars has become available for ordinary motorists. The immersion printing (scientific name of the method) allows creating textures on any parts, which are almost fully identical to their prototypes, whether it is precious wood, metal surfaces, stone or animal skin.

Example aquaprint

Preparation of auto parts for waterprinting

Certainly, each detail of a car detail which you have decided to individualize with the help of waterprinting should be preliminary prepared in the same way as it is done, for example, before painting. Sequence of actions on preparation of a car part for water-printing:

  • Thorough degreasing of the surface. Note that in this case, this procedure should be treated with even more attention than before traditional painting. If the part to be treated has an external rubberized layer, it must be completely removed, usually using the same solvent that is used to degrease the surface;
  • sanding the part is necessary to increase its adhesion, but here you need to observe a certain compromise – the risks caused by large-grained sanders will be clearly visible even after the application of waterprint. So use only the finest material – it will eliminate visible defects and at the same time give an imperceptible to the eye roughness absolutely smooth surfaces;
  • Primer coating is required mostly for plastic surfaces – it will protect the primer from blistering;
  • priming of the part is carried out with the same purpose as at classical painting, with one difference – after applying a layer of the primer it is necessary to sand the surface again;
  • if a water-based print requires a background of a certain color, apply this base color with nitro paint in a thin and even layer. Note that modern paint nitro formulations dry in about 15-25 minutes.

And only after the layer of base paint is completely dry, you can proceed to the procedure of applying waterprint on the part of the interior of the car.

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Fulfillment aquaprint

Required equipment/tools

One of the main questions car owners who are interested in individualizing the interior of their “iron horse” are aqua-print cost. Here everything depends on the scale. One thing is if you plan to make extra money on this later, and quite another thing is if this procedure will be used only for personal pleasure. So, to carry out home aqua-printing of the interior of the car we will need the following equipment, tools and materials:

  • A sufficiently large and easy to use container of water;
  • a watch with a timer or stopwatch function (in the era of smartphones, this is not a problem);
  • a special immersion film;
  • film activator;
  • a compressor or a stand-alone paint gun used to apply the activator;
  • varnish;
  • a tank for rinsing a part with an already applied pattern.

Note that the bathtub in which you used to bask after a hard day’s work is not very suitable for these purposes, but in principle you can use it, providing the necessary temperature. So you should also have a thermometer and a special filter to get rid of the liquid from the rest of the film.

Immersion film is not sold everywhere – only large construction hypermarkets sell it, but most users order it online. It already has a pattern, which will be transferred to the workpiece. The pattern can be different – to imitate natural materials, animal skins (snakes, leopards), you can meet and abstract designs, and a variety of geometric patterns. If you want something really exclusive, you can order on the Internet a film with your own picture (for example, photo) of the desired size, which, of course, will cost more than finished products. Immersion film with a ready-made pattern costs 250-700 rubles per running meter, the width of the film is usually 0.5-1.0 meters.

The activator for the aqua-print, which promotes a rapid dissolution of the film to a gelatinous state, requires approximately one liter per 20-25 square meters of film. Varnishing of the finished product is needed to give it both consumer properties (gloss), and to protect it from mechanical influences.

Technology of aqua-printing

In principle, there is nothing too complicated, but the worker will have to be very careful and follow the instructions exactly – even a small deviation can affect the quality of the final result. So, here’s a sequence of actions, how to do aqua-printing for any part of the car:

  • Pour water heated to a temperature of 29-34°C into a tank of sufficient size for dipping the film and the part itself. Note that going beyond this range is inadmissible, since the chemical reaction between the surface of the film and the activator is only possible at a certain temperature regime. In principle the time interval between dipping the film and applying the activator is not long, that’s why the water heated to 33-34 degrees shouldn’t cool down below the critical value, but just in case one should be guided by the thermometer readings, and in case of need use a water heater;
  • prepare the film, which by the time of dipping should have a room temperature. Its dimensions should be chosen on the basis of the dimensions of the part to be painted, of course with a small margin. It is desirable to make notches on the edges of the film every 2 centimeters;
  • The next step is dipping the immersion film in water. One side is sticky and should be on the bottom. If you mix it up, you won’t be able to draw on the surface of the part, that is, all the work will go to waste. To make no mistake, wet a piece of film and after a few minutes try it with your hand – the working side will be sticky. And one more important point – the film, being submerged in water, may start to “free float”. To prevent this, you should fix it. For example, lean it against one side of the tub, and place bottles filled with water on the other three sides;
  • After lowering the film into the water, its edges may bend, but the notches we have made will not allow the deformation to spread further. After 30 seconds, air bubbles may appear, which you should get rid of, being very careful not to move the film itself. If there are no bubbles, you just need to wait about 1.5-2.5 minutes;
  • Now it is necessary to quickly apply a layer of activator to the film with the paint gun. You should try to do it evenly, without any gaps. The optimum technique is to apply the activator first horizontally and then vertically. The time for complete dissolution of the layer of gelatin, which is the base of the film (its substrate) is about 10-15 seconds. After that you need to be extremely careful, because on the surface of the water will be floating jelly-like mass, subjected to any external influences – a draft, mechanical impacts on the bathroom, even the sharp movements of the worker. And remember – you have very little time to apply the pattern on the part – about 2-3 minutes, after which the film dries so that the transfer of the pattern to the surface becomes impossible;
  • Now it’s the turn of the most responsible operation – dipping the part into the bathtub with the floating pattern on the surface. It must be done quickly, but very carefully – jerks or shifts of the part will lead to an uneven overlay of the pattern. It is also necessary to adhere to two obligatory conditions: the speed of immersion should not exceed 2 cm/sec, otherwise the pattern will not have time to be fixed. The second condition is the observance of the optimal angle of immersion of the part: 30-45 °. This value will allow you to achieve a more uniform layer, and to lower and rotate the part to cover the entire surface area to be painted. At this stage you may think that nothing has been done, because the pattern visible on the water surface will start to crumble and disappear. This is a normal phenomenon, indicating that the pattern has been successfully applied to your part. After a complete dip, you should run your hand sharply over the surface of the water, clearing it of the remains of the aqua-print, and only then pull the piece out;
  • To remove the layer of grease, we need an additional container of clean water heated to 30 degrees. We dip the part in the water and start dabbing it until the shiny layer is completely washed off;
  • the next step is drying the part, the method does not matter;
  • The final step is to cover the surface with varnish (preferably in 2-3 layers), followed by final sanding.
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Note that you have to wear rubber gloves when working – when dipping details your hands will inevitably be exposed to the aqua-print, which will be difficult to clean. Remember also that film activator is a chemically active substance, contact with which can have serious consequences in the eyes.

Without certain skills it is difficult to expect that your first experience will be successful, so it is highly advisable not to be lazy and try to apply waterprinting on a small part of the car interior, observing all the above requirements. Here is a list of typical mistakes when performing such works together with their undesirable consequences:

  • after the application of the activator, the part is immersed after more than three minutes. In this case the aqua-print will not adhere properly to the surface and will wash off completely or partially at the washing stage;
  • Dipping the part faster than the activator has worked off is also inadmissible since the pattern will not be applied evenly, air bubbles may form and during washing the aqua-print will be washed off in places, being insufficiently fixed;
  • an overdose of activator will not only corrode the film, but the native paint on the part risks being similarly affected;
  • insufficient amount of activator has the same effect as late immersion of the part to be painted: washing off the aqua-print during rinsing;
  • Droplets of water and dust on the surface of the dissolved film, not to mention other objects, are inadmissible – at that point the pattern will be irreparably damaged;
  • If air bubbles appear under the film, they must be blown out, and you will have to work very quickly – no more than 30-40 seconds. Otherwise, in these places the waterprint will not transfer;
  • Immersing the workpiece at a suboptimal angle will result in no water printing in some places, bubbles may form, and part of the pattern will be washed away when rinsing. Immersion angle less than 30 degrees is fraught with the formation of an air cushion, at angles greater than 45 degrees the film can simply tear, there is also a high probability of drawing with distortions;
  • dipping too slowly will cause wrinkles and folds to form
  • exceeding the optimum dipping speed can distort the pattern;
  • if your hand jerked sharply when submerging the part, it will cause the film to break, no matter what direction you take the jerk. As a result, tears, cracks, distortions, or missing patterns will appear on the surface;
  • if the film has been coiled before use, it is almost inevitable that cracks will form in the kinks and, consequently, that the pattern will be missed;
  • excessive movements when rinsing the part, as well as the use of showers, can lead to the washing away of the film that has not had time to set;
  • prolonged washing of the wax layer leads to polymerization of the protective layer which cannot be washed off later;
  • if the rinsing stage is skipped – the applied lacquer will inevitably start to peel off with all the ensuing consequences;
  • Do not contact the surface to be treated during the rinsing phase, as there is a risk of damaging the film;
  • water temperature under 29°C will cause the chemical reaction between the film and the activator to become so slow that the activator will dry out before you start submerging the part
  • conversely, if the water temperature is higher than the upper threshold, the reaction speed will increase and the activator will eat the native paint when the part is submerged, even on surfaces that should not be exposed to aqua printing.
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Car interior

So, now you know how you can do aqua-printing on your own car. If you are careful and do everything according to the rules, you can decorate your car with your own hands as well. We wish you good luck in transforming the exterior of your car!

Doing aqua-printing with my own hands at home

Hello all. In this post I will tell you about one of the most difficult for me “modifications” in my Tussan. And that is aqua-printing. It’s been about 4 months since I did it all. The result is a solid seven for me. Satisfied. More about everything.

The first thing we need – 1) film. 2) activator. 3) primer on plastic 4) base (paint) 5) lacquer.

Simplified process aqua looks like this film itself consists of two layers – the texture (paint) itself, which will remain on the part. And the gelatin base. Of course the film structure is much more complicated, but for simplicity will do. The film is put on the water, pause for 2 minutes. During this time the gelatin base dissolves, and roughly speaking the texture (paint) itself is pure. Then the activator spray is applied, it is necessary so that the paint has begun to take on your part. After applying the activator, wait about 30 seconds (averagely), wash the detail. Then you need a pure experience.

Where to buy – I ordered everything at They only ordered, with delivery to Minsk. Then I did all by myself. I was interested. Just a couple of times with questions addressed in Insta to a very smart guys in Minsk – Dynamica DTL Just as a film for aqua printing can be ordered on Ali. There it is not expensive and good quality.

The hardest part is finding the activator. I’ve read a lot that can be replaced by solvent, 21 solvent. But no one has a normal quality of work. Order a normal activator in a can. and do not fool your head. Waste time, disassemble the entire cabin, and you will save 10 bucks. Not only that – even with an activator in a bottle is very difficult to guess at the time. I’ve been through a lot.

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Regarding primer on plastic, base, and 1k varnish – in any store varnishes and paints. Also need scotch-bright for matting the plastic.

Now step by step: 1) Removing the parts. In my case, I removed both air deflectors on the sides, the center trim around the head unit. The center tunnel, steering wheel cover. I did not remove the door liners. There is a lot of fuss. There is just a film.

The right deflector is easy to remove. Remove the right plastic panel by opening the door. Remove one screw. Pull the air duct toward you.

To remove the radio, and the frame around it – you need to remove the upper visor dash, sliding it toward you. Unscrew all the screws in the photo (3 screws on the right to remove the radio, the rest – to then pull out a little speedometer dashboard, and pull out the left deflector).

The hard part is removing the left deflector. It is screwed on the left with a screw (to do this, remove the plastic liner from the end of the door. Then unhook yourself from the bottom panel (where the control unit esp), as well as a couple of centimeters pull the dashboard toward you. To release and pull out the right side of the deflector. Also on the bottom there are two screws – unscrew them.

The central liner, the one near the handbrake, starting with the armrest, gradually lift up. When it all came away from their seats – disconnect the 2 loops – going to the area PRND. In the photo I have the old film glued to this plastic panel. I will take it off further.

And at the end – the sweetest part. Removing the steering wheel. In order to remove the V-shaped gray plastic pad. In the photo on it as a carbon sticker – bought before on ali (will demonitit).

The steering wheel is difficult to remove – turn immediately by 90 degrees to one side, put a screwdriver on the left – flat but wide, to get her and bend the spoke inside the steering wheel. This spoke can be seen in the photo (circled). I at this stage took a very long time – about 20 minutes. It is necessary to unbend from 2 sides, while filing a cushion klaksona itself. In general, the photo will understand.

Then we remove and separate clean gray elements from all removed parts, with which we will work further.

Preparation of plastic before waterprinting.

Roughly speaking, a part covered with waterjet is the following layers

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1 layer) is the plastic part itself. it is rough and matted. 2 layer) primer on plastic 3) base – a paint without varnish (because often in cans is a paint with varnish). 4) itself a layer of aqua-print 5) varnish. 6) varnish 7) lacquer. – It is clear that the lacquer can be covered in 2-3 layers.

1) This applies only to the central panel. It is covered with soft touch plastic. Neither the primer nor the base will lay on it. All this soft touch will have to wipe it off with solvent. Wet it, wait, scrub it. And so it goes until all the soft touch is removed. You can see everything from the picture below.

2) All parts should be matched with scotch-bright (such a rough sponge). It is necessary so that the primer (primer) on the plastic firmly grasped the part. And then for this primer then the base (paint without varnish).

3) We apply the base – after we have matted the parts. We degrease them. On the back side we glue 200 nails with a glue gun. This is to make it easier to twist the parts. For fixing the parts I used pizza boxes, you can use paralon.

And spray the base of the spray cans. My base is dark gray (graphite).

4) passes literally 20 minutes. completely dry the base is not give – then the most responsible – “soaking”. I even recorded a short video for you.

The film is cut to spare, the sticky side will be put on the water. You can wrap the perimeter with masking tape. This is to ensure that after the dissolution of the gelatin layer – aquaprint is not blurred across the surface of the basin (container). But the tape around the perimeter will not allow the film to stretch well behind our piece. So the ideal is to cut the aqua-print to the size of your pail, and do not tape anything around the perimeter. Take my word for it… I’ve already eaten my dog…

We put the film on the water (the water is slightly warmer than room temperature)-about 25. Wait 2 minutes. The film will be smooth. apply the activator from a distance of about 30 cm thickly enough. Let’s wait 20-30 seconds more. Let’s soak! There are 2 lines in the text – in the case – 3 times remade some parts.

5) after applying the film – coating varnish. in 3 layers. at intervals of about 20-30 minutes. not on the dry. The lacquer should not dry out to the end between coats.

Well and after the last layer of lacquer – leave to dry for 24 hours.

6) After a full drying is better to polish a little.

What happened as a result.

I would say that for the first time turned out well, because in any case you need to fill up a hand. Central tunnel was redone 3 times. Also, the texture on the plastic near the GUI is going in the wrong direction. Only later I figured it out. But as is. Maybe a little later remake.

Well, a couple of pictures in the interior after the installation.

P. S. Personally, I am very happy! Some people like carbon fiber, others like wood. This is a matter of taste. But I know that you can make aquarpint with your own hands. But this is probably my most complicated job, if you consider all the nuances of applying the film, as well as all the work on the removal and installation of interior parts. In time took me 2 days. and the money – about $ 70 total.

Photos were very much – more than 200. How it all fit in 20 – I have no idea. So I combined

They only ordered materials for aqua printing. The quality of materials and delivery to Belarus without criticism.

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