A Dominant Lack of Presence

Hydro Dipping vs GunSkins

Hydro Dipping vs GunSkins

There is more than one way to skin a cat... er, gun that is.  We're going to look at two very popular methods of coating a rifle, shotgun, or pistol in camouflage. The first is called hydro dipping, which is a water-soluble film based process. The second method is using a GunSkins camouflage wrap kit. This involves a peel and stick application of high performance vinyl. Both methods offer a solution to complete concealment. But they are very different from each other when it comes to the Do-It-Yourself approach. It may be important to consider the pros and cons of each method if you are considering camouflage for your firearm.


Hydro Dipping has many names. It's also referred to as Hydrographics, Immersion Printing, or Water Transfer Printing. Whatever you may call it, it's clear that water is involved in this practice. This method of applying camouflage to surfaces is not limited to guns, it can be applied to any object as long as it's submersible. This includes plastic, fiberglass, wood, ceramic, and metal.

Hydro Dipping

The gun must first be cleaned and pre-treated. A base coat spray is applied to the gun to allow the graphic to stick to it with maximum adhesion. Next, the camouflage pattern design is laid to float on top of a large vat of water. The film is gravure printed, similar to the offset printing used for newspapers. Because the pattern is printed on water-soluble polyvinyl alcohol film, it can dissolve when sprayed with a chemical agent. This also activates the material for bonding.

At this point, the gun is lowered into the water, through the camouflage film. The pattern wraps around the surface of the gun. The gun may need to be dipped more than once to allow the entire surface to be coated. Lastly, remove the gun from the water and apply a coat of finishing solution to protect the newly dipped pattern. This creates a very professional looking, evenly distributed, camouflage coating that looks as if the gun were manufactured with the design from the very beginning. Every crevice, nut, and corner gets covered with camouflage.


GunSkins DIY Kit

GunSkins camouflage kits are made from a conformable high performance vinyl material. They are 100% waterproof and very durable. These do-it-yourself kits involve applying the pre-cut pieces to the surface of the weapon, then using heat to set them in place.

 GunSkins material doesn't just change the color of the surface, it adds a layer of material that will help take the wear and tear of every day use.  GunSkins will take that abuse, protect the gun, and even keep it from rusting. It protects the gun while the gun protects you.

Most kits include pre-cut pieces for popular types of firearms such as rifles, shotguns, pistols, and AR-15 rifles. For irregular shaped items the GunSkins material can be trimmed to fit.  Simply cut a large section of miscellaneous material from the kit template and fit it over the surface area you intend to wrap. Any excess material can be used for overlap or be trimmed away. Using a heat gun or blow dryer helps to make the material more flexible. After installing the GunSKin it is necessary to apply heat to the entire surface of the weapon to set the material. Press firmly on the surface with your hands to conform the material to the contours and recessed areas.


Hydro Dipping

Gun Skins

Cost: $100-400.

 Cost: $15-50.

Application Surfaces: Wood, plastic, metal, glass, composite... As long as the object is submersible.

Application Surfaces: Wood, plastic, metal, glass, composite...

Installation: Do it yourself. Requires specific equipment, chemicals and approximately 8 hrs.

Installation: Simple do it yourself install. Approximately 2 hrs

Permanent: Can be removed using professional bead blasting.

Removable: Has no affect on the surface of the weapon.

Finish: Durable matte clear coat.

Finish: Durable matte laminate.

Longevity: 10+ Years.

Longevity: 5+ Years.

Hydro dipping is not inferior to a vinyl kit, but it does involve a lot more equipment, time, and cost. In the time and price of covering a single gun in the hydro film material, it's possible to wrap two or three separate firearms in GunSkins camouflage wrap kits. Removing the coating can also be difficult, and may require blasting the gun and leave an effect of the surface. If you feel like there's one camouflage pattern that can be classified as the end all camo, then hydro dipping's permanent nature will work to your advantage. In contrast, however, GunSkins kits can be easily removed or layered and leave no effect on the surface of the gun. Therefore, new patterns can be applied over and over again as the situation calls for it.


We've had many customers who could not tell if the gun they were holding was wrapped in a GunSkins kit or hydro-dipped. When installed correctly, a GunSkin kit can be seamless, completely fitting the contours of the gun, and offer total protection for both you and the gun.

Hydro Dipped Reaper Black Pistol

Finished Hydro Dipped Pistol

Reaper Black Pistol Skin

Finished GunSkins Pistol

Hydro Dipping and GunSkins both enhance the surface of your gun for the better. Both require effort from the end user as is the nature of any do-it-yourself kit. Hydrographics is a relatively costly and complex process that is very permanent. With little room for error and a large learning curve this process is best left to the professionals. GunSkins offer a user friendly and forgiving installation process. They also provide and inexpensive way to provide a layer of protection for the surface of the weapon while still allowing the option for future removal.

That's Protection in Camouflage®

Posted on October 14 2014


  • Angel: February 05, 2018

    Are the gun wraps the same material as automotive wraps?

  • GunSkins: February 05, 2018

    Angel, the installation is very similar, but our product is better suited for small surfaces with more detail, like a firearm. Also, our material is heat activated.

  • Steve Dunham: March 12, 2018

    I’m assuming GunSkin will fill into the checkering of a rifles butt stock and forearm so that the factory checkering still offers grip in those areas? Is there any special technique to make sure the GunSkin forms well to factory checkering? Also, is the GunSkin material thin enough to NOT effect a free floated barrel that has been bedded by a Gunsmith?

  • GunSkins: March 12, 2018

    Great questions, Steve.

    GunSkins can be applied and pressed into the checkering on the stock. The material is heat stretch, which allows you to press down into the detail. It’s helpful to use a hand squeegee or piece of foam to really sink the material down into every contour and crevice.

    The vinyl is 3/10 mm thick. We’ve seen no issues installing on free floated barrels.

  • Montana Locke: April 09, 2018

    Is there any wear and tear from firing the firearm after applying the wrap?

  • GunSkins: April 10, 2018

    No, Montana, the vinyl will not wear and tear from firing the gun. The material is very durable, absolutely weatherproof, and will last you many years from daily use and abuse.

  • Petr: May 09, 2018

    Is it possible to work with my own immage yet? For instance up-load it and ha it printed by you? I am an gunsmith with need of appropriate images. Thanks for answer.

  • GunSkins: May 09, 2018

    I’m sorry, but we are not accepting customer uploads for printing custom kits.

  • Jet: November 29, 2018

    Have you guys had success wrapping the muzzle brake also? I would really like to have a seamless finish if possible.

  • GunSkins: November 29, 2018

    Jet, yes we have had success wrapping muzzle brakes on the end of the barrel. While it won’t be 100% seamless, we recommend having the overlap/seam on the bottom so it is out of sight.

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