Artwork 101: 5 Tips for custom printed hydrographic artwork

Artwork 101: 5 Tips for custom printed hydrographic artwork

Posted by Laura Mann on May 21st 2021

blank-water-transfer-film-customized

There are many ways to choose or design artwork for making custom hydrographics with blank pva film. Here are five tips to help you get the best outcome for your project with the artwork you choose.


1. Types of Images

Artwork comes in many forms and can be saved in a variety of ways. It is essential to know the types of images you are selecting and have a good understanding of what raster and vector images are, along with the benefits of one over the other. Some popular raster image extension names include: .jpg, .png, .gif, and .tif.

A raster image refers to an image that consists of a grid made of a specific amount of pixels within a given space. It can have a great amount of color and detail, but ultimately cannot be scaled to a larger size without losing image quality and appearing pixelated with jagged edges. A raster image is also not easily customizable, or in other words, they are not easy to edit.

The other popular image type used in graphic design for hydrographics, is called a vector image. Vector images are images created by a computer using defined mathematical points to fill in the information between points and lines, almost like a coloring book. Using this unique method to interperate the data, makes vector images highly customizable and scalable, allowing images to be very crisp and clear at any size. Once created or purchased, vector images can be easily edited. You can use these features in many ways to refresh your graphic by giving it a unique look many times over. Some popular vector image extension names include: .ai, .eps, .svg, and .drw.

2. Choosing an Easy-To-Use Pattern

printable-hydrographic-artwork

When using water transfer film, pattern choice is important. Water transfer film has the ability to stretch and bend around the object that you are dipping. When doing this, the pattern that you choose will also stretch and flex to a degree. By choosing a very precise pattern, you will need to understand and account for how much stretch your image develop on the substrate. Substrates that are very curvy, such as a globe shapes versus flat surfaces, will have drastic differences in image stretching. You will have to take shape into account when considering patterns and determine the best approach in order to minimize film distortion. It is much easier to choose a more forgiving pattern to work with when starting out as a hydrodipper. Patterns that are more forgiving include patterns that are more abstract in nature, seamless, and less geometric.

3. Know Your Software & Design Capabilities

Multiple benefits of customization exist, including producing unique items and high ROI one-of-a-kind products. While there are many great benefits to creating your own artwork for blank hydrographic film, there are also many fine images out there that might suit your purpose. The pitfall to designing your own image is that you must have design software as well as the expertise required to operate the designated software. There are a wide range of design programs on the market, anything from the hobbyist level to the professional level. I personally recommend the Adobe suite of products for design, specifically Adobe Illustrator for designing vector images. However, if you are looking for a free intermediate software rather than the expert level, GIMP is also a great design software program.

When designing your own image for printing custom hydrographics, I suggest starting out by designing a seamless pattern. Seamless patterns can be tiled without any break in the design, making it easy to fill a large area with your design. There are many videos on YouTube that can walk you through the basics of this process, such as this one . If you are less interested in designing a unique pattern, but you would like to have a broad category of readily available images to print on your blank PVA film, there are many places to get high quality graphics that are perfect for hydrodipping. Some great places to start your search include: Depositphotos, Pixabay, Freepik, Vecteezy and Pattern Crew. Graphics can vary in price and usage permission. For larger projects, I suggest considering seamless pattern options and for smaller projects, it is ideal to use patterns that are large in file size and higher resolution.

4. Avoid Islands

custom-hydrographic-image

When choosing or creating an image, keep in mind that most reasonably available printers on the market cannot print white. To achieve a white portion of your design, you are reliant on the fact that the basecoat will show through in that spot and there is no ink coverage in that area. This means, if you have a part of the design that is floating in a white space, there is nothing to help the image maintain its position and shape once the PVA backing of your film is dissolved in the water, before dipping your item. A good example of this would be polka dots on a white background that do not connect to any color or other objects within the design.

If you have an island, it can lead to that portion of the image twisting or warping when you dip your item. A way to avoid this, is to be sure that when choosing or designing your own artwork, that there are no floating islands of design space. To do this when designing your own piece, you can either connect the image piece with colored lines or shapes or you can simply change the white background area in the artwork to a light color such as light tan. This will ensure that ink coverage in that area will help stabilize the islands.

5. Basecoat Color Selection  

water-transfer-film

Basecoat color can affect your finished artwork in drastic ways. Hydrokon Hydrographic Film has a unique clear backer that makes it simple to test how your basecoat will affect your finished artwork; simply print your custom design and hold it up over an item that has been coated with your choice of basecoat color. This simple test can let you know if you need to adjust your artwork or if you need to choose a different basecoat color.

custom-hydro dip-graphic

Remember that brighter basecoats will help bright colors turn out their best, but may dull darker colors, unless you have denser ink coverage to make up for it. This is especially true for gradient fills where the ink coverage goes from dense/dark to thin/light coverage. (see the image example) This also works in the opposite direction, in that a dark basecoat color will take away a lot of the contrast in your image. Unless your printer can print using white inks, you must depend on the highlight tones coming from a light color basecoat. Keep your­ basecoat color choice in mind when choosing or creating your pattern to be sure you are getting the most out of your printed hydrographic artwork.

Keeping these tips in mind when considering artwork, you’ll be sure to get a pattern that will give good dipping results.


Laura Mann Laura Mann is the Graphic Designer for Hydrokon. She has over 15 years of experience designing artwork for print and screen media. She joined the Hydrokon team of specialists in 2020. She enjoys the challenge of designing graphics for unique products like Hydrokon Water Transfer Film. She hopes to be able to help develop a passion for designing hydrographics for a new generation of hydrodippers.          


For European inquiries, contact distributor, HARKE Imaging: +49 (0) 208-3069-1700 | E-mail HARKE Imaging