Date: Mon Aug  3, 1998

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Part 13

Part 13 ** How to make custom decals Thanks to Roberto Lionello <> for originally compliling this. [Q] Could you give me some general information about making decals
with a computer?
[A] (Don Schmitz 5/98) While there is quite a bit of good information in the following text, it has become a bit dated. Here is a quickie update on the state of do-it-yourself decal making in mid 1998: - Most folks haven't had much luck using inkjet printers to make decals. The inkjet printers are designed for paper that will absorb some amount of ink, and the various decal papers aren't near absorbent enough. Using an abrasive to roughen the decal paper first doesn't seem to help much, at least with the printers various people have tried. - Laser printers/copiers - both black-only and color - do a good job. If your markings aren't too demanding, you can get good results by printing on the recommended paper for high-quality images for your inkjet printer, then take the inkjet art-work to a copy shop and have it color-copied onto the decal paper. Word is that most copy shops are now willing to run the decal paper through their machines (a change from 2 years ago when most were worried about trashing their copier). Its probably a good idea to spray your laser-printed decals with a clear coat to protect the somewhat delicate toner. Also remember that the you have created one big continuous sheet of decal film - trim closely around your markings. - There is new sort of personal color printer made by "Alps" that uses a dry transfer ribbon instead of inkjet technology to produce similarly high quality images, and that can print directly onto decal film. Several r.m.s participants have used this type of printer to create decals, and report good results. You can see info on the ALPS MD-1000 printer at: See the below for a review from an actual ALPS user. - Blank decal paper is available from several sources - it is commonly used by railroad modelers and is availble through hobby shops that deal with the giant model railroad distributor "Walthers" (probably most of them). Walthers has a web page with serchable catalog at: Another ready source is MicroMark - you can request a catalog via their web page at: Pointers to a few other sources (though the info is getting old) are found near the bottom of this page. [A] (Norman Filer 5/98) [A review of the ALPS MD1000 printer for making decals.] Having purchased one of these a few months ago, I finally found the time to give it a good trial run. Since this is NOT an inkjet, nor a laser printer I hoped for good results. I wanted to really give it a good test, something that would have a wide variety of colors. I do only 1/72nd U.S. modern and a lot of Phantoms, so that seemed like a good place to start. I ended up with the Birmingham 35th anniversary RF-4C. It has a flag on the tail and huge white zig zags down each side. Also flags from all the countries that used the plane. To top it all off there are two emblems in the intakes. One side has a Phantom in front of a waving flag, the other side the spook taking a bow. all in all a really impressive A/C, with lots of color. I use Corel Draw to do artwork so laying it out on the computer was time consuming but not new to me. Probably took around 40-50 hours. I used white behind everything to try to make it more opaque. On this printer, you can print white. (also metallic silver and gold). The process requires that everything that will be printed white be on a separate file with all artwork in black. With Corel and most graphic design type software this is done on a separate layer. Copying the colored artwork to the "white" layer and filling with black usually gets the task done, and keeps it in register. All the other colors, including black, are printed in a normal fashion so do not require separate layers. So, how did it go and what did I end up with. The white areas came out about as opaque as one could expect. No significant bleed through of the gunship gray when they are applied. Keeping the registration between the white areas and the rest of the decal is not a problem because the paper never leaves the printer between passes. In fact it is possible to print the white with as many passes as you want. I tried to print it twice. This resulted in some excess white material laying on top of the decal. While it brushed right off, it is actually still in the rollers so getting to all the residue was not possible. These small particles could interfere with the next color pass. Since the colors are printed from cartridges that resembles an older carbon ribbon typewriter, each pass lays down a swath about .5 inches wide. Large color areas result in swathes of color with a slightly visible overlap. This is more noticeable with white than other colors. As with most all color printing, the cartridges are the primary colors and mix as required to get the colors needed. This is done with a very small dot pattern of each color in a separate pass. It lays down the Cyan (blue) in a couple of passes, then goes to Magenta (red) and then yellow. Final pass is the black stuff. This dot system results in a rather weak color saturation. The red has a very slight pinkish tint and it is hard to get a very dark blue. Yellow, even printed over white tends toward a pale color. The Corel Draw program has about a dozen different, industry standard color palettes to choose from. I have tried them all and getting really vivid color printing seems beyond reach. [Some follow up discussion on r.m.s suggested the saturation problem might be fixable via software tweeking - I'll update this if/when I find out.] In summary, I am really quite happy with it. I now have a means of making pretty decent decals and even silver and gold markings. The drawbacks are the "segmented" appearance of large areas of color and just a hint of paleness on some colors. Oh yeah, another drawback is the life of a ribbon is somewhat limited. They are rather difficult to find as not many places sell the ALPS line, and they run about $7-8 per ribbon. I purchase them direct from ALPS over the internet and their service is great. Perhaps I should also mention that the thing does not print very fast. Each color requires at least one pass through the printer, sometimes as many as three. This slowness, coupled with the cost of ribbons leads me to suggest not using it as an everyday printer. If you know how to use a good graphics program like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, have around $300 bucks to spend and are willing to play around a while I think this thing will do the job. I used Micro Marks 8.5X 11 decal paper and overcoated everything with Micro Scale's Decal film after printing. Since the printer lays down dry film, nothing is ever wet and as soon as the overcoat is dry you are ready to apply the stickers. [A] (Jennings Heilig 4/95) [Note that the rest of this info is somewhat dated, but there is quite a bit of useful info in here]. Being as how I do decal art using a computer for a living, let me shed a little light on this subject matter. First, using the computer is no different from doing decal layouts the old fashioned way, except it's much easier, faster, and produces better results. That said, if you have the ability to visualize what you want to produce and then have the abilities on the software of your choice (Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand in my case), then you can do your own decal art. That's the easy part. The hard part is defining what you mean by "decals". Traditionally, the decals that come in kits and about 90% of aftermarket decals are printed by the silkscreen method. This is known in printing circles as "spot color". This means that your drawing has to be constructed just like the actual decal ink. For example, a British roundel consists of a blue circle with the center punched out, white behind that, and a red dot in the center. What you have to construct to do silkscreen art is a blue circle that's hollow in the middle, a white circle of slightly greater diameter than the *inside* diameter of the blue circle (so that it lays completely underneath the blue), and then a red circle in the middle. This is a *very* simple example, but you get what I mean. Other methods of printing decals involve what's known as four color offset, or sometimes a process called "letterpress". Silkscreen decals are printed on a silkscreen "press" similar to what your local t-shirt maker uses. Of course, it's much more complex and fine-tuned than that, but the principle is the same. The four color or letterpress decals are printed on a traditional printing press with rollers, blankets, etc., just like your issue of FineScale Modeler. All that being said, if want to "do it yourself" you're going to run into a problem. The problem is that if you spend scads of time doing your art, you won't be able to get anyone to print it for you unless you want hundreds (or even thousands) of copies. All hope is not lost however, as you *can* get "one offs" done by two other methods. The first and best (and of course, most expensive) is to have custom dry transfers printed. There are several people who do this type of thing (hello Woody?), one of whom posts here regularly. The other method is to take your finished artwork to someone who has a really expensive color copier hooked up to a PC and have them run clear decal paper thru the copier. Color printers usually won't work, as they're not designed to print on anything besides regular paper. The color copier will generally print on decal film, but most people won't risk voiding their warranty by running decal paper thru it. If anyone has any more questions, let me know... [A] (Steve Brooks 3/95) I read about making decals with clear decal paper and copiers. So, I decided to try it with my laser printer. What really got me started is the release of a font for the Air Force in True Type format. This font is also available for you Mac users. While looking for all the stuff to make this project successful, I found that Walthers make a copier/laser safe decal paper, so I ordered some. I had a weekend project in progress so this would become the test site for home made decals. This kit is the Star Wars AT-AT. I thought it would look better with some decals. The first step is to decide on what you want to print. I us MS Publisher to print the decals. I set up one page with five guide lines from left to right and six from top to bottom. This allows me to make multiple passes on one sheet of decal paper by working in one grid at a time and not waste the decal paper. I work from the bottom grids to the top grids. This allows the paper to move through the printer without worrying about the set up. Next put your graphics in an unused grid and print on plain paper. Check for size and position on the decal paper. When it's right print onto the decal paper. If your printer has a flat path use that method, I do. The second step is to apply the decals to the model. I cut the decals out as close to the graphic as possible, dipped in water and set on the bench to soak. The kit had been prepared with a gloss coat of gull gray but and clear coat should work. The area for the decal was wetted with water and the decal applied. When in position, the decal was blotted down. I tried Micro set with good results and Solvoset with better results. There was no major wrinkles, the ink did not run, and dried smooth. The final step is the clear overcoat. I used future for the first coat. The coverage was not even. It seems that the ink repelled the future and left a blotchy appearance. I next tried Testors Dulcoat. The results were better but still not perfect. I expect the second coat will take care of the problem. Walthers decal paper comes in two sizes, 8.5x11 ($6.38) and 5x8 ($3.18) each package has four sheets. I used a LaserJet 4p to print my decals so test your own decals first. [A] (JGrease) I have made decals the following way: 1- I used CorelDraw3 to set up the design I wanted, then printed color copy onto regular 8.5 x 11 paper. 2- Took print and decal paper (Walthers 8.5 x 11 blank decal sheets) to copy store with Canon color laser copier. Gave both to clerk, explained which side of paper was up. 3- Got copies from clerk, paid, used decals on model car. The only catch is that either the car (or model) is white, or you mount the decal onto white decal paper then transfer the whole thing to your model. Its cheap (about .99 for everything I can fit on that page), and it works. If the copy store clerk sez no, find a place near an art school where they cater to copying onto different paper types. [A] (Michael Stucker 6/95) I recently made some custom decals on a color copier and thought I would share my experience with the rest of you. A couple years ago I picked up a 1/43 Verum diecast Porsche 917-10 Can-Am racer. It came with decals for some privateer but I wanted to do it as the Penske L&M car that won the 1972 Can-Am championship. But what to do about decals? About 6 months ago an acquaintance sent me a color copy of the decal sheet from the UMi 1/24 version of this car. Last month I finally got around to using it. I went to a A&E Products (a graphic arts company in Houston) to have the sheet shot down to 1/43 scale. The reduction factor used was 56%, the closest they could get, as opposed to a truer factor of 55.81395%. They used a Canon color copier. After shooting several copies on paper to get the colors right, I had them shoot three copies on decal film. The blank decal sheets I used were from Walther's. Its available from any decent model train shop. (If its not in stock, they can order it.) Get the 8.5"x11" not the 6"x9". The copying machine needs the sheet to be 8.5"x11". The price is $7.98 for 4 sheets. The colors on the decal sheet are a little transparent and white prints as clear. I was putting the decals on a white car so this was not a problem. Before using the decals I sprayed them with Krylon Workable Fixative to help hold the toner to the film. (The toner can not be properly fused to the decal as it is not porous as paper wood be.) I'm about 85% finished decalling the car and the decals look good. I have ruined a couple so it is good I shot 3 sets. I'll probably use up parts of two sets. Be careful not to fold the decals too sharpely (don't crease them) or the toner will flake off at that point. Do not use Solvaset on them. Microset seems to work well in helping the decal lay down in tough areas. It takes several applications, though. Price was $6.35 for three copies. (I think they meant to charge me more, though.) Someplace like Kinko's probably would have been cheaper but a graphic artist friend of mine suggested I use A&E. [A] (Pete Harlem 7/95) Here's another way to make decals on your computer. This way does not threaten the rollers and other expensive parts in your laser printer: 1) Draw what you want to have on a competant graphics program. For fine detail vector graphics are best with a laser printer of high resolution, however, you can do many, many things using a dot matrix printer and bit-mapped graphics. The larger the decal, the easier it will be. 2) In your drawing program flip the artwork over. 3) Print it onto paper at full size (1/48 or whatever). 4) Use a non water base glue, like rubber cement, to stick the printout to the back of a colored decal sheet. Obviously, the item you want should be cut off the paper first to keep the size down. 5) Using scissors, cut along the dotted line, so to speak, and you have one piece of your decal item. 6) Repeat for each piece you need, you have to do the registration for complicated decals, but the results can be as good as you are with a pair of sharp scissors. Pete Harlem [Q] Where can I get clear decal sheets? [A] (Mark Cart 4/95) I think you can get clear decal sheet through: Super Scale International, Inc. {Formerly Microscale} 2211 Mouton Dr., Carson City, NV 89706 [A] (Yves G. Blanchard 6/95) Airliners America/ATP 3014 Abelia Court San Jose, Ca 95121 1 (800) 321 1026 makes decal sheets for use with HP 550C injet printers. You have to dry the printout immediately with a hair dryer to stop the ink from forming globs. Then you clearcoat and apply like a normal decal. I paid $3.00 for an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet (stock AD7208). They have a type of decal sheet which goes in copying machine too. If any of you try this product, please share your experience. I am curious to know if it works with other inkjet printers, such as the Epson stylus color in 728 x 728 mode. [A] (John E Allen 7/95) I use the Xtradecal clear from Hannants in the UK. It can be photocopied and laser printed. Hannants 29-31 Trafalgar Street Lowestoft Suffolk NR32 2AT Tel: +44 (0)1502 565688 Fax: +44 (0)1502 500521 [Q] When I print my decal ink balls up on large areas! How can I avoid this? [A] (MaddMat100 6/95) Get a small amount of pumice powder from the pharmacy, and rub this around on the decal paper with a small sponge before attempting to print.(Blow off all of the remaining powder with compressed air... it's an abrasive that can really mess up your printer if you're not careful) This dulls the surface enough to give the ink a "tooth" to bite into. [Q] Water smears ink on my home made decals! How can I avoid this? [A] (MaddMat100 6/95) A coat of MicroScale's Superfilm, airbrushed on, stops this.
rec.models.scale FAQ, part 14

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