spray paint cans

Want to hydro dip without spray paint? Good news! There are at least 5 other methods you can try.

Hydro dipping is an awesome and fun craft that has taken the web by storm. While many viral videos show people using spray paint to hydro dip, this isn’t required. If you don’t want to be exposed to the fumes and the mess of spray paint, or if you just don’t have any around, you’re in luck because there are other effective methods you can use. 

Here’s how to hydro dip WITHOUT spray paint!

Why Hydro Dip Without Spray Paint?

People prefer not to use spray paint for several reasons.  Aerosolizing paint disperses fine chemical particles with force needing the user to wear a respirator mask to protect from breathing it in. 

Even so, you are better off spraying paints outside rather than inside the house unless it’s well ventilated.  Depending on where you live, the weather conditions may not be suitable for painting outdoors.  

Beyond this, the spray paint method was never the only hydro dipping method . There are other methods for hydro dipping, some meant for different materials, some are just different techniques for achieving different results.  The spray paint method is not necessarily the best or the most effective method. 

Can You Get the Same Results?

Not all hydro dipping methods are suitable for every kind of material.  Acrylic marbling is best on untreated wood or paper, nailpolish on ceramics, while the remaining methods can be used for just about anything.  

In each method, the effects should be similar to those of the spray paint method, except for the acrylic marbling method which will produce a coarser look.  The main differences you’ll see will be in paint adhesion and overall color vibrancy.  

Some methods require a primer base coat while others don’t.  Follow each one’s procedures accordingly, and you’ll end up with nice results.

Swirl Painting 

DipDoctr Hydro Dip Paint (Order Here)

We make our own no-spray-paint hydro dipping kit. Safe and easy to use, it works on porous materials such as fabric shoes, hats, shirts, totes, wood, unfinished ceramics, unfinished leather, and styrofoam. Check it out here: DipDoctr No-Spray-Paint Hydro Dipping Kit.

Acrylic Marbling 

acrylic paint hydro dipping
(Credit: FortheMakers

This is an easy variation of paper marbling, and involves dropping thinned acrylic paint onto the water’s surface.  All you need are some household items and paints to get started.  

SUGGESTED:  How to Hydro Dip with Acrylic Paint | No Spray Paint Required

The water is thickened with cornstarch, and cooled before the paints are introduced.  Every different color of paint is thinned separately, and flicked onto the water with a brush.  An unvarnished flat, thin wooden object is best to dip here but it should work for plastic too. 

Enamels and Borax 

enamel paint hydro dipping
(Credit: DeanSwirled)

This is a pro method, and hence, you can get pro results. In this method, you drop undiluted oil based enamel paint (Humbrol paints are a good choice) into warm, rested, borax water.  It will organically swirl. 

SUGGESTED:  Ultimate Guide to Swirl Painting | Borax Paint Dipping

Take an object that has been cleaned, degreased, and primed.  Slowly dip it at an angle and once submerged, push the rest of the paint aside with your free hand or a stirrer.  Take it out, let it completely dry (at least 48 hours) before applying a clear coat.

Purpose-Made Hydro Dip Paints 

You can use specially formulated hydro dip paints that require no additions to the water (such as borax or cornstarch).  These also don’t require thinning.  Just drop, dip, and done!  One choice is Marabu Easy Marble paints. 

Hydrographic Film

hydrographic film hydro dipping
(Credit: Hes Kicks

The hydrographic filim method, also known as hydrographics, is the original hydro dipping technique. It involves laying pre-printed, water soluble PVA film (“hydrographic film”) onto warm water.  

You will still have to use an aerosol activator to dissolve the film and activate the binding agents in the inks, but no spray paint is required so there is less mess and less fumes. 

SUGGESTED:  Water Transfer Printing At Home | How to Hydro Dip with Film

You then dip your cleaned, de-greased, primed object and watch the film wrap itself around the object.  Take it out, wash off the extra paint, apply a clear coat. 

shoe hydro dipped in film
(Credit: Hes Kicks


Surprisingly, nailpolish works great for hydro dipping.  

Pick up some metallic or neon colors for that extra shine.  Get close to the water surface and pour paint gently covering the whole surface in zig zag lines.  Use another color and do the same.  

nail polish for hydro dipping
(Credit: Cly Faker

Grab a toothpick, and delicately move the colors without breaking them.  This should result in a swirl pattern with the two or more colors intertwined to your liking.  Dip your object (clean and smooth) at an angle very slowly and pull it out at the same angle at the same speed.  

The nailpolish method is great if you are dipping ceramics or if you don’t want to buy additional materials for hydro dipping. But be careful: nail polish can still have toxic fumes and it will also stain!


That’s five fun ways to hydro dip without spray paint!  While spray painting is easy for beginners, some methods such as nailpolish, acrylic marbling, and purpose-made hydro dip paints are just as easy.  

Hydrographic film is the go to for precise patterns and any custom design you may want.  You can buy readymade hydrographic kits that come with pre-printed film and everything else you need such as a primer, activator, and clear coat.  You can also buy blank hydrographic film and print your own designs using a standard inkjet printer.  

Finally, give the enamel and borax method a try for out-of-this-world, amazing swirl patterns. 

No matter which method you choose, hydro dipping can take some practice. Have fun and get dipping! 

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