Dipping Directly To Canvas

Dipping Directly To Canvas

Posted by Laura Mann on Oct 13th 2021


Do you have a pair of plain canvas shoes that need a little pop? You are in luck! Canvas is one substrate that you can hydrodip directly to, but prep is key!

You will need:

  • Clean, untreated canvas shoes
  • Painter’s tape or masking tape
  • Application tools (we suggest a cuticle pusher)
  • Hydrokon hydrographic film with custom printed pattern
  • Fixative Intercoat(otherwise known as Activator A)
  • Activator (such as: Superbrew from K2, Ink Drink from OHW, Hydro Solutions Activator , or Mossy Sauce)
  • Large container of water
  • Thermometer
  • Well ventilated area
  • Respirator face mask
  • Gloves
  • Rinse container or sink

  • canvas-shoe-hydro dip

    You will want to choose a pair of canvas shoes that are untreated, unwaxed, and light in color. The base color of the shoe will affect the outcome of your dip. I suggest white for most dips, however experimenting with different base colors can always be fun too. Typically, priming with a base coat is needed when working with hydrographics. That is not the case with canvas.

    Once you have selected your shoes, you must prepare them for dipping. Poor preparation can lead to a bad dip. Be sure to take your time on this step for the best results. Remove the shoelaces and tape up any section that you do not want to have your custom hydrographic design transferred to. After taping the outside of the shoe, be sure to stuff or securely tape off the inside of the shoe to avoid any air bubbles. Remember to use precision tools to make sure the tape firmly adheres to the substrate. We suggest using a cuticle pusher for the hard-to-reach spots, but any tool that gets the job done will work.

    Once your shoes are properly prepared, it is time to start dipping.

    Read on for a detailed description of how to prepare your film and dip your shoes; or simply watch the video below.

    Preparing Your Custom Hydrographic Film

    1. Choose a watertight plastic, glass, or aluminum container that is deep enough to fully submerge the shoes you are hydro dipping. It should also be long and wide enough to leave 5-6 inches (approximately 12-15 cm) between the edge of the container and the shoes.

    2. Measure the size of the shoes from every side you wish to cover and include an additional 4-5 inches (approximately 12-15 cm) of the hydrographic design on each side. Be sure to account for the curves and height, or thickness, of the shoe from sole to tongue. With clear backing still attached, position pre-printed Hydrokon film over the shoes to be sure the design will cover the whole surface. Cut the film accordingly. Make sure that the film remains dry during this process, as getting it wet could cause the image to warp.

      If using pigment-based inks, apply a light coat of the fixative intercoat lacquer to the printed side of the Hydrokon hydrographic film. (Once the lacquer is applied, Hydrokon must be used within 2 weeks.)


    3. Fill the container approximately ¾ full with water. Water temperature must be around 90° F. Be sure to use a thermometer to maintain this temperature.

    4. Remove clear backer from the film.

    5. With the printed side up, carefully pick up the film and bring the opposite sides together, creating a triangle and holding it like a sling.

    6. Place the bottom of the sling onto the middle of the surface of the water, and slowly allow the sides to lay flat on the water.


    7. Use dams or masking tape to create a containment area around the image.

      Note: If using masking tape, you can either place tape around the edges of the film, or lay tape gently on the water around the film. If taping the film, be sure to cut the tape at the corners and every few inches to allow for film expansion.

      Creating a containment area will help limit pattern drifting, warping, and fading of colors due to stretching.

    8. With dry hands, push down lightly on the film if any air bubbles appear between the film and the water. 

    9. Using a stopwatch, ensure that the film dwells on the water for 60-75 seconds. This allows the film to properly hydrate.
    10. Next, put on your respirator and spray a “cool” activator evenly over the film. Once coated, the film should take approximately 5-10 seconds to turn into liquid ink on the surface of the water.

      When the film is fully activated it will have a distinct glossy appearance and will expand to fill the containment area.


    Dipping Your Canvas Shoes

    1. Put on gloves before dipping your canvas shoes.


    2. Hold the shoe upside down at a 45° angle and slowly submerge it into the water, starting with the toe first. Gradually, even out the angle by pushing it down toward the ink. Keep your movements fluid, firm, and steady for best results.

    3. While fully submerged, turn the shoe right side up again and remove it from the water. This should be a quick and fluid process. Be sure to practice the movements in the containment area before dipping your shoes.

    4. Slowly, remove the shoe from the water. Hold it carefully and avoid rubbing the surface. Allow the shoe to 'rest' for about 5 minutes before rinsing. Be sure that the shoe stays moist.

      canvas-custom-hydro dipped-shoe

    5. Rinse each shoe under cold water for approximately 3 minutes to remove any PVA residue. You can remove any masking material at this time. If using Hydrokon, you can use a black light to make this determination as the PVA will quit glowing brightly once the residue is completely rinsed off. Otherwise, feel for any slimy residue and be sure to rinse thoroughly.

    6. Air dry the shoes completely and apply a desired top-coat. For canvas shoes, we recommend a top-coat of Scotchgard to waterproof the shoe and prolong the life of the finished dip.

    Once the shoes are dipped and dry, you are ready to step out on the town with some fresh new kicks.


    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