Minor/Repaint: Decal Creation and Application

Discussion in 'Radicons Customs' started by autobotx23, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. autobotx23

    autobotx23 Banned

    Jul 30, 2006
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    Decals are great for giving individuality to customs. Whether it be the standard Autobot or Decepticon shields, or racing type decals for Alternators, decals can make a standard paint job look realistic and truly customized. In this tutorial we will cover 4 types. Pre-Pressed Self Adhesive, Dry Transfer, Waterslide Pre-Pressed and Self Created.

    Pre-Pressed Self Adhesive:

    These are the type of decals that can be purchased from web sites such as Repro Labels.com. Because they are already pre cut and come with there own pre-applied adhesive, these are the easiest decals to use. It's simply a matter of deciding where to put them on your custom, peeling them off the backing paper, and putting them on. Apply pressure firmly and evenly, and BAM!! All set.

    Dry Transfer:

    Dry transfer decals are the next easiest to use. You can find these at various websites, or your local Hobby store with the Pinecar Derby Model kits. There are several drawbacks to Dry Transfers. They are not as well designed as the ones you will find at Reprolabels, and there is not a lot of variety in color schemes and styles. However, they are readily available in many markets and usually come under $8.00 for a set.

    First, make sure your custom has clear coat applied, as Dry Transfer decals best adhere to clear coat. To apply, find where you want to apply the decal on your custom. Then, line up the decal (which will be on the Transfer plastic) to the area where you want to apply the decal. The thin sheet of plastic that the decal rests on bends very easily , and since the decals are all close together on the sheet, you could bend another decal, which will damage it. So use caution. Using a Pencil (I use a mechanical pencil with no lead extended) rub the decal onto the surface of your custom. Use enough pressure so the the decal moved from the the transfer plastic, but not so much as to damage the decal or bend the transfer plastic. You may want to apply a coat of clear coat afterward, to give your custom paint job a uniform gloss appearance.

    Another con of Dry transfer decals is that once they are applied, that's it. You cannot reposition them. You can remove them by scratching them off, but you may remove some of the underlying paint you just put on. So, make sure you apply them patiently and they are the right decals for your project.

    Waterslide Pre-Pressed and Self Created Decals:

    These 2 decal types have almost exactly the same application process. They require the following materials:

    Testor's Decal Paper (Self created Decals)
    Testor's Decal Bonder (Self created Decals)
    Testor's Decal Set Solvent
    Exacto Knife
    Tweezers or (if you can acquire one) Hemostat
    Glass/ Bowl of Water
    Paper Towels

    First, make sure your custom has been sealed with gloss coat, or that you painted with a High Gloss paint. Decals attach the best to gloss coats. However, after they dry you can use whatever finish you like (Satin, Matte, etc). But for the application, a good gloss coat is your best bet.

    Self Created Decals are my favorite, as you can design and print out your own decals using design software. Adobe Illustrator/ Corel Draw have worked the best for me. You can also download various graphics software from the net (Testors.com, for example). If you can't aquire that kind of software, you can print various types of clip art and graphics using Windows Paint or Microsoft Office. Just be sure to measure your application area and scale your clip art properly for printing. Feel free to do a test print to check for color and size accuracy.

    After you have designed and printed your decals, you need to apply several coats of Decal Bonder. This will make sure that your color will not dissipate after they get wet during the application process. I normally go for 5 or 6 coats, and let them dry for 12 to 24 hours. Patience is a virtue with this step especially, as you will get really frustrated if the decal falls apart later on. A good rule of thumb is that if you aren't sure, bond them again. I've never over bonded my decals. Now you can use your Exacto knife to cut them out.

    The Pre-Pressed Waterslide decals need to be cut out, but not as close to the edge like Self Created Decals. The decals you create are printed on a white/clear decal paper, so you need to cut as close to the edge as possible, leaving only a white stroke around your design. After you begin too apply Pre-Pressed decals, the edges are clean, with no stroke from the decal paper remaining. Normally Pre-Pressed Water slide decals come with other model kits, like 1/72 scale military models, but on various websites and hobby shops you can find them for sale individually.

    Using your tweezers or hemostat, dip the decal in water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water and while holding them with the tweezers, apply the Decal Set to the area you wish to Decal. I use a paint brush, but anything will do, just try not to apply to much.

    Sit the decal directly onto the Decal Set. Using the edge of your Exacto, find a slightly raised edge and GENTLY slide the decal off the backing paper. You should still be holding onto the decal with the tweezers, and you can began to pull off the paper backing will sliding the decal in the Decal Set. While the decal is still wet, you can position exactly where you want to. I use a paintbrush or a Q-tip for this. Apply a small amount of Decal set on top of the decal. Using a paper towel, GENTLY removed any excess Decal Set. Let the decal dry, and apply your chosen sealer, and there you have it.

    I hope this was helpful. Don't get frustrated if you jack up the decals a few times. It's definitely a learned skill. But once you nail it, it's a great tool in your customizing arsenal.

    Autobot X 23

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  2. destrongerlupus

    destrongerlupus #MoreSawBoss

    Sep 1, 2006
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    Thanks for the guide!

    If nothing else it provided a moment of blissful nostalgia for me, I'd forgotten about the existence of dry-transfer decals, I used to play with them as a kid all the time, nothing productive, just enjoyed the pencil-rub-transfer magic of it all.

    I've been starting to toy around with using decoupage to do my labels, haven't gotten the technique down enough to give a verdict, but it does have the possibility of presenting a way to have decals that are durable, inexpensive, and virtually limitless in design.


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