Can You Hydro Dip with Acrylic Paint? The Process

Yes, acrylic paint is arguably the best medium for hydro dipping. As you mix acrylic paint with water, the paint creates a thin film on the water’s surface and provides your desired 3D effect. However, the results and preparation will vary depending on which form of acrylic paint you’re using.

Heavy-body acrylic paints must be thinned before you start dipping. The lighter ones easily float on water and can be mixed directly without any alteration.

Excited to start your very first hydro-dipping project? Can you hydro dip with acrylic paint? Let’s dive deep into the process and find out the best medium and the easiest method of hydro-dipping a 3D object.

Hydro Dipping vs Ordinary Painting- What Are The Differences?

Before we start, let’s have a look at the differences between ordinary painting and hydro dipping.

Painting Surface 

Typically, ordinary painting is done on canvas or paper. Metal, wood, plastic, fabric, etc., are some other surfaces you can paint on. Although MDF can be a difficult surface to paint, you can use acrylic paint on MDF.

However, when it comes to hydro dipping, the painting surface is water in which you can dip any object you want the color on. 

Suitable Paint Type 

Ordinary painting can be done with a number of different paints like oil paint, watercolors, acrylic paint, latex paint, enamel paint, fabric paint, etc. However, not all these paints are suitable for hydro dipping as they don’t sit on the water surface. 

Painting Method 

In regular painting, all you need to do is take a canvas, choose suitable paint, and use your brush to create anything you want.

As for hydro dipping, you have to pick any oil- or water-based paint, spread it on the water surface, and dip an object in it so that the color sticks to the object. Oil-based paint, and acrylic paint are mostly used for hydro dipping.

Created Effects 

You can create almost any kind of effect and design while painting on an ordinary surface. That’s not possible while hydro dipping as it’s done on water. You can only create a marble effect, psychedelic effect, and 3D effect on an object using the hydro dipping technique.

Which Medium Is the Best for Hydro Dipping?

First things first, you must choose a suitable medium that provides the most perfect results. In the hydro dipping process, you need a base and a medium. While water acts as the best base, the paint works as the medium. 

So, for the medium, three types of paints are the most popular ones:     

Paint TypeBest forUnique FeaturePrice Range
Oil-Based PaintCanvas and paperLightfast, slow-drying, contains natural oils$8.42/fl oz to $30/fl oz
Spray PaintWood, metal, canvasContains a high ratio of solids and solvents$4 to $16 per can
Acrylic PaintCanvas, wood, and paperFast-drying, highly flexible, suitable for almost all surfaces$0.25/ fl oz to $9/ fl oz

Oil-Based Paint 

If you want to hydro dip a surface such as canvas or paper, oil-based paints are the best option. You might have to mix some water so that the paint floats on the base. 

Creating marble effects is super easy with oil-based paints. However, these paints aren’t suitable for 3D hydro printing as these paints are heavy and don’t create any thin film on the water surface.

Moreover, you can’t apply oil-based paint on non-porous surfaces like plastic and resin. The paint doesn’t stick to those surfaces and eventually flakes off.

Spray Paint 

This type of paint is more popular for three-dimensional objects like helmets, shoes, jars, etc. Spray cans contain gloss paint that floats on the water even without thinning or mixing.

Oil- and water-based spray paints are two popular choices for hydro dipping, but oil-based ones are definitely a better pick. One issue with spray paints is that they contain toxic fumes. However, Spray paint is still the most used paint form for hydro dipping as it’s easy to apply on the water surface. 

Acrylic Paint 

Without a doubt, acrylic paint is the best option for hydro dipping. It quickly dissolves in water and sits well on almost all types of surfaces. Acrylics are non-toxic and available in many vibrant colors.

Also, the paint dries faster which makes it a more popular choice for hydro dipping over oil-based paints. With acrylics, you can create any effect and pattern you prefer.

Benefits of Using Acrylic Paint As a Medium for Hydro Dipping

Most hobbyists prefer acrylic paints for hydro printing. Here are the benefits of choosing acrylic paint as a medium for hydro dipping:

Suitable for water base

As you might know, acrylic paints are water-based. Hence, the paint works well with water and can be thinned as necessary. Fluid acrylic paints create a thin film of paint, and you don’t have to wet or mix any medium with these paints for thinning.

If you work with the paint at low temperatures, know at which temperature acrylic paint freezes. It will help you avoid common mistakes while dealing with the paint on chilly days.


Since acrylic paints are available in many different forms, you can always get the right thickness. Besides, acrylic spray cans are also available for easy application of the medium. This versatile paint comes in numerous vibrant colors allowing you to get the perfect print you want.


When compared to other paints, acrylics are way cheaper and widely available. Be it a one-time thing or a permanent hydro printing, you’ll always get the right acrylic at a reasonable price. 

Works on all surfaces

You can apply acrylic paints on both porous and non-porous surfaces. Therefore, acrylics are suitable for hydro dipping three-dimensional objects, canvas, paper, plastic, wood, metal, resin, etc. 

Dries fast

Thanks to its liquid base, acrylic paint dries faster than oil-based ones. It will take only 20 to 45 minutes to dry completely.

Better choice for amateurs

One thing we love about acrylic paint is that it’s easy to work with. You can change its consistency without ruining the paint’s properties. It can also be mixed with various products and paints to achieve the desired effect. 

Even if you’re doing hydro dipping for the first time, you’ll get decent results with acrylic paints without any ugly patches or unwanted splashes. 

Does Acrylic Paint Float on Water?

No, regular acrylic paints that come in cans or tubes don’t float on water. As most acrylic paints have a thick consistency, they easily sink in water instead of floating.

However, fluid acrylic paint in spray form will float on water, thanks to its lightness. If you want to use typical acrylic paint for hydro dipping, you must thin it first. Otherwise, you’ll face issues like uneven coverage, improper adhering, or exfoliation.

Here’s how to thin acrylic paint for hydro dipping:

  • Mixing water or some Flow Aid is the easiest way of thinning acrylic paint. Adding more fluid will make the paint runny and help it disperse better. 

However, you must be careful about the ratio of water and paint so that the paint isn’t too thin. Otherwise, it won’t provide sufficient coverage. Mixing one part paint with three parts of water will be sufficient.

  • Another way of thinning acrylic paint is to use a wetting agent. Wetting agents lower the surface tension of water so that the paint can spread and float on the water.

You can purchase wetting agents online specifically made for acrylic paints. Besides, adding alcohol or soap water will also decrease the paint thickness.

How to Hydro Dip Shoes with Acrylic Paint?

Now, let’s see if we can hydro dip a three-dimensional object with acrylic paint. A pair of old white shoes will be the perfect choice for this process. Here are the necessary steps:

Step One: Gather Necessary Items 

To hydro dip your shoes, you’ll need the following things:

  • A bucket or tray
  • Hand gloves 
  • Face mask 
  • Tape
  • Toothpick 
  • Fabric protector 
  • Cornstarch or Borax 
  • Acrylic paint of different colors 

Got all of them? Proceed to the next step then.

Step Two: Choose Your Color 

Have you decided on any color yet? If not, we recommend you go for hues that blend well and create great shades. For example, pick bright colors like pink, orange, and yellow if you want something eye-catchy.

Or, go with cool colors like green, purple, and blue. Don’t mix light hues with the deep ones.

You must also select which paint form you’ll use. Spray cans are the easiest option to go with. If you choose any other form, you must thin the paint first using the methods mentioned above.

Typically, it’s recommended to maintain the 1:3 ratio of water and paint. For every tablespoon of acrylic paint, only a few drops of water will be enough.

Step Three: Prepare the Base 

As mentioned, water is used as the base while hydro dipping. For spray paints, you don’t need to mix anything with water. If you’re using regular acrylic paint, you need to increase the density of water so that the paint can float on water instead of sinking.

You can mix equal amounts of water and borax to make the paint float. Adding cornstarch will also give the same result by increasing water density.

Step Four: Get Your Shoes Ready 

Take your preferred pair of shoes and remove the inserts and shoe laces. Use some tape to cover the areas where you don’t want any paint. Seal the sole of the shoes and insert a plastic bag inside the shoe to protect it from splashes. 

Some also suggest washing the shoes before dipping as it allows the paint to set better and quicker. 

Step Five: Pour and Mix the Paint

Now it’s time to start the dipping process. Before you start, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the paint. Also, you should wear a gas mask in case you’re using spray paints.

To clean up the mess easily and dry the shoes faster, we recommend working outdoors. Take a bucket for mixing the colors and fill it with enough water so that your shoes can fully submerge in the water. If you’re working with canvas or paper, a tray will work better instead of a bucket.

Spray the paint on the water’s surface and wait a moment until it disperses. You need to spray the different colors simultaneously to get a better effect. If you’re using liquid paint, you can directly pour the colors on the water surface. 

Once you’ve mixed enough paint, use a toothpick to spread the paint and create a swirl or marble-like effect.

Now, hold your shoe upside down and quickly dip it in the paint.

Clean up the water’s surface with your free hand so that the paint doesn’t get in your way while you take out the shoe from the water.

Dip the shoe only for a few moments and slowly take it out. After you’ve taken out one shoe, clear the water and remove the painted item.

Clearing the leftover paint is necessary as the paint has been already used and the remaining paint won’t be enough to fully cover the other shoe. Add the same acrylic paints you’ve used before and dip the remaining shoe.

Quickly take it out of the water and let the shoes dry under the sun for 20-30 minutes. You can dip the shoes twice in case you feel they need more coverage.

Step Six: Use Fabric Protector 

Finally, we need to protect and seal the acrylic paint so that it doesn’t wash off as it comes in contact with water. For this, you can use a fabric protector. Apply the product to your shoes and let them dry. Once dried, spray another layer to make it long-lasting.

What Are Some Purpose-Made Hydro Dipping Paints?

Only a few brands make purpose-made paint for hydro dipping. Among them, the best ones include:

Marabu Easy Marble Paint Set

This is probably the best purpose made hydro dipping paint set available in the marketplace. You get 56 different colors which include metallic, basic, pastel, and neon colors to deliver the perfect result you want. 

The paints are solvent-based, quick-drying and stick to numerous surfaces including metal, wood, paper, polyester, canvas, ceramic, and glass.

Dodin’s Paper Marbling Kit

If you’re a beginner, this kit will be a perfect choice. This marbling kit comes with all the necessary items you’ll need for hydro dipping including an apron, tray, stirring stick, regular and metallic acrylic paint, measuring cup, and hydro dipping guide. As the paint is acrylic, it will perfectly sit on the water’s surface. 

Color Bank Vivid’s Water Marbling Paint Kit 

In this kit, you’ll get 12 vibrant tube colors that easily stick to fabric, stone, and paper. These paints are oil-based which is ideal for hydro dipping. You don’t need to change the consistency of the paint as well. Simply pour the paint from the tube directly on the surface and swirl the paint with a toothpick to create eye-catchy marble effects.

Wrapping Up!

So, can you hydro dip with acrylic paint? There you have the answer. As you can easily change the viscosity of acrylic paint, you can use it to hydro dip any object or surface you want.

To achieve the desired effect, you must make the paint float on water. Follow our detailed guide to hydro dip your monotonous objects and give them life with popping colors and patterns.

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