By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
LUCAS -- Plunged into the depths of the water tank, the colorless cocktail shaker emerged from its artistic baptism with a camouflage pattern.
Barry Maupin, owner of Liquid Outlaw Hydrographics in Lucas, eyed his personal project as thick ink clumped on his hand. A few seconds in the murky waters transformed the shaker, but he spotted a flaw he would fix.
One side's design was distorted because it is harder to dip objects with depth, he said. The ink collects easier on flatter surfaces.
Many people who watch YouTube videos of dipping do not understand the extent of the work, Maupin said.
"They don't realize it's the sanding process, the priming, the painting, the dipping and then the clear coat," he said. "It's about a two or three day process."
Maupin dipped an outlet cover with ease. An autumn scene featuring a tree trunk and leaves was transferred seamlessly onto the faceplate. There are thousands of possible designs customers can request.
Many people might consider hydrographics more of a science than an art form.
Maupin determines the product's design by using a thin piece of film with an ink pattern. Placed on the surface of 90-degree water, the film is liquefied as the ink is released. Tape on the film's edges keep the ink in the shape of the pattern.
Maupin has 1-minute to blow out bubbles before he sprays an applicator chemical and dips the product into the ink.
The ink pattern binds to the object during the dip. The process is cheaper and faster than airbrushing, he said.
Maupin has dipped wheels, animal skulls, gun stocks and a welding helmet. His 4-year-old daughter, Braelyn, was able to dip her fingernails with her cuticles taped. Nearly anything can be dipped, but rubber is difficult because it can flex and crack the design.
The design option appeals to customers because they can customize the entire look of their product. For example, hydrographics can breathe new life into a used firearm.
"You can buy that gun and bring it to me and have it dipped for a couple hundred dollars, and it'd look brand new again," he said.
He began hydrographics in January after a friend approached him about decorating his gun. The job inspired him to pursue design techniques, and he built his own circulating tank for $3,000 after companies said one would cost him $10,000.
"I've always kind of been that way, raised on the farm," he said. "If we don't have something, we just build it."
Maupin has plans to further develop his workshop and install a device to replace the tape used on the film.
For more information on the business, visit facebook.com/LiquidOutlaw.