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Make your own Decals on an ink jet printer

Updated November 2004

There are now several companies either producing or importing decal paper that can be printed using a home computer and ink-jet printer.

The way it works is this: Create your decals using any computer graphics package. Print onto plain paper, to check alignment, etc. then print the decal sheet at the recommended settings, some experimentation may be needed to get a perfect print. Some of the types need to be sprayed with a fixative, often acrylic varnish.

The only thing to note is that an ink-jet cannot print in white, so most suppliers sell a white decal sheet for this. You have to be careful with this as any edges will show up as white.  A solution would be to print two layers, the first with the areas wanted in white and a second layer on transparent to overlay. The other way is to spray white on the area for the decal, masking as appropriate. You will have to experiment as it depends on the complexity of the design.

The Lasertran sheets are either white or clear depending on the varnish applied over them to seal them in.

The decal sheets I have tried are fairly thin and settled down very well with both Johnson's Klear (Future) and Humbrol Decal Set. They are not as thin as commercial decals but you are producing a unique decal. 

Dry rub downs

Crafty Computer Paper also do a dry rub down sheet. This is more complex to produce as you first have to print your design in reverse onto a clear carrier film. This is allowed to dry for 24 hours, then a self adhesive sheet is stick to it. Then the backing is peeled off to allow the decal to be rubbed down. Finally the clear sheet is peeled off. This leaves a slightly waxy coat over the decal, which needs to be left for a while to dry and harden. I was then able to give it a coat of Klear to finish it off. I found these useful but the end result is rather weak with pale colours. I printed a design with yellow lettering that is almost impossible to see on a silver backing. Once again you will need to experiment to find what works for you.

Conclusions

My initial feelings are that this is the solution that we have been waiting for a long time. Of course the decals are not limited to model making. What about custom decals for the kid's toys, etc? How about stained glass windows for a model church, or Christmas designs on bars of soap? I'm sure that you will be able to justify the expenditure for the occasional decal if you can use it for many other things. 

I have tried several types of the decal film. Some seem to have a very mottled finish where the water based ink bubbles up on large areas. The best I have found is the Lasertran film, but you need to experiment to find what works for your printer and the type of decal you want..

Sources

Club member Paul Fitzmaurice sells A4 size Lasertran Ink Jet Decal Paper through Little-cars.co.uk.

CraftyComputerPaper.co.uk sell several types of paper, including one that can be used to produce dry rub down decals. Most are in A5 and A4 sizes. Some are available in A3. They also do a range of specialist papers and products for craft work that may have uses in modelling. There are instructions on how to use them on their web site so you can see before you buy.

Hannants sell Experts Choice decal film from Bare-Metal Foil in sheets approx 11" x 8.5"/215mm x 280mm.

Steves miniatures also sell an Inkjet sheet and will produce decals for customers.

Last updated 20 January 2008


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