Troubleshooting your first few dips

WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 6,642Member, Moderator, Business Ninja El Moderator
This thread is intended to help you diagnose your own first few problems you might experience while starting out. Typically all this information is available to anyone willing to use the search feature, but this will be a crash course that can be brought up quickly as a reference.

For those who are kind enough to contribute here, try to keep the information as concise as possible, and limit it to the problem and solution.

This will be our first topic, as it is the most common. It is characterized by jagged holes, appearing randomly in your print where the base color shows through the print. These holes may not show up until the rinse stage, when you go to clean off the PVA from your dip. The film acting like it is still too solid while trying to dip through it can also be a tell tale sign. Underactivation is caused by not getting enough activator onto your film before you try to dip to it. The ink needs a solvent sprayed on to it to turn it back into a liquid, that can bite into the paint, and adhere correctly.

Some causes of underactivation are:
Your activator gun's material flow set too low
Use of aerosol activators (they don't throw a consistent, or wide enough pattern)
Your activator gun's pattern is not shaped correctly
Your activator passes are too quick
You are not making enough activator passes
You are holding the gun too high

Some solutions to underactivation:
Increase your material flow to your gun
Get a good HVLP or LVLP gun to spray your activator
Watch a video on how to set up your activator gun
Slow down the speed that you apply your activator
Change direction and use the "Tic Tac Toe" pattern when applying activator
Hold your gun at shoulder height, the air from the gun should not move the pattern.

Video References

Typical underactivation

Underactivation showing up after rinse

A film that requires more activator than most

Most of the dip looks good, but just a few spots that are bad

Wood grain patterns use alot of ink, so they need alot of activator


  • K2ConceptsK2Concepts Posts: 13,500Administrator El Jefe
    Props...but how will they find THIS topic if they don't use the search feature?...
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 6,642Member, Moderator, Business Ninja El Moderator
    Next on this thread...


    Perhaps explained best by Jim himself "OVERACTIVATION is just simply that...TOO MUCH activator...period...when your pattern slides off the paint like oil and water? Or the patterns ink starts to move and "tiger stripe"? You have simply laid down too much have created, in essence, a film of oil between the paint and the print...and the print can't use that chemical to bond into the paint because there is simply too much of the the print "floats" above the paint...

    OVERactivation is ONLY 2 things...pattern "opens up" or slides right off the part...sometimes with the paint...or "tiger striping" which is the pattern ink moving around on top of the paint...just enough activator to start the bonding process BUT too much for the print to "bite"...and that's it...just those 2 things for need to worry about soak times and such because you main culprit is just bad technique or a bad read on the film...lay down LESS activator...period...

    At times there will be so much activator that you will lift the paint that you applied to the part. Keep in mind, with the paints that are designed for this process, it is VERY hard to overactivate. In Ohio last year a group of people did some testing on 3-4 of the paints commonly available for this process. Each of the paints absorbed 4 passes of activator, some all the way up to 6 passes, there should be no logical reason anyone would put down that much activator.

    If you are using base coats like Rustoleum, Krylon, or an aerosol spray paint from a hardware store, you will strip that base right off the part. Those paints HATE activator, and will lift and leave a wrinkly mess all over your part.

    So here we go...

    Video Reference

    Severe Overactivation

    "Tiger Striping"

    "Oil and water" Sagging, and holes in the print

    Actual diagnosis of overactivation was outweighed 10 to 1 compared to underactivation.
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 6,642Member, Moderator, Business Ninja El Moderator
    I am going to clean this thread up later and delete unnecessary commentary and anything that would just confuse people, so if you guys have pics to add to this thread under each topic, feel free to contribute
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 6,642Member, Moderator, Business Ninja El Moderator
    I don't know anyone that activates a piece of film in one pass. Typically i see a 12" x 12" get 2 passes left to right and 2 forwards and back. If you are making one to two passes you are shooting yourself in the foot.
  • K2ConceptsK2Concepts Posts: 13,500Administrator El Jefe
    Uhmm...I activate a piece of film in 1 pass...
  • ShannonShannon Posts: 182Member ✭✭✭
    @WileECoyote this is a great post, thanks
  • waynetw77waynetw77 Posts: 6Member
    Very helpful for this newbie!
  • LibertymanLibertyman Posts: 963Member, Business Ninja ✭✭✭✭
    Nice job Trevor
  • getemkustomsgetemkustoms Posts: 77Member ✭✭
    good read. lots of good tips to follow
  • jclark44jclark44 Posts: 22Member
    Helpful.  Thank you   
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