Beyond Basics: Decoupage, Transformers, and You!

Discussion in 'Tutorials and How Tos' started by destrongerlupus, Jun 13, 2013.

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  1. destrongerlupus

    destrongerlupus Mangeloids

    Sep 1, 2006
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    [When] I was blogging, I [wrote] a whole article on [giving] Energon Steam Hammer a Minicon symbol that I cut out of a catalog (which was a nonsensical choice, but that wasn't the point).

    Fancy French Faction Symbols]

    When I was a kid, one of my earliest “mods” was to add Transformers faction symbols to non-Transformers robot toys. Well-meaning relatives bought the occasional Shogun Warrior or Go-Bot, and while I usually thought the toy was cool, I wasn’t happy unless they were sporting a faction-emblem (In retrospect, I wish I had been creative enough as a kid to find value in “neutrals,” but I digress).

    In that era before Reprolabels or the ability to print water-slide decals at home on your inkjet printer, my solution was a simple, if inelegant, one: I would cut the symbols out of the catalogs that were packed in with the toys and use invisible tape to affix the emblems. It was ugly, and decidedly non-permanent, but my child-self was onto something.

    In our world of print-media (and on-demand color printing) there’s an almost infinite supply of logos, symbols, and other decorations that you could cut out and attach to your toys for decoration. Scotch tape is a lousy way to affix these cut-outs, but if there was a better solution, it might be a lot quicker, easier, and cheaper than creating your own waterslides, and it might work better than most of the “sticker paper” that is readily available for the home-printer.

    You guessed it, there IS a solution. It’s called “decoupage.” That’s French for “to cut up.” It’s mostly used by crafty-moms to decorate switch-plates and the like, but there’s a lot of good robot building stuff in the craft aisle!

    I’m only going to cover the most basic technique here, but if you want to do more research there’s a million articles on the subject online, and you can accomplish all kinds of really compelling effects, including applying your “cut outs” to textured surfaces (like the sculpted body of a toy, for instance), and building up the finish so that the applied cut out feels seamless as compared to the surface it’s been applied to. [It’s] great stuff, [that’s] cheap and easy in the bargain! Let’s have a look:


    I started with some basic materials:

    Mod Podge is water-soluble adhesive/finish specially formulated for this kind of work. You can use regular white glue for a lot of decoupage applications but since we’re doing toys instead of scrap-books, I suggest spending the extra couple of bucks (I think that bottle cost me around $6) to get the real stuff.

    So our first step is to simply cut out the image we want to paste onto our figure. I cut out this Minicon emblem. Why? Because I needed an example, and I wanted to pick something that I DIDN’T have a million actual decals of:


    Next I sand the place I want to apply the cut-out. The idea here is to rough up the surface just a little to give the adhesive something to stick to:


    With the surface roughed up, I’ll now use my brush to spread a little of the Mod Podge on the toy:



    With the adhesive spread around, the next step is to apply the cut out to the toy; this is where the pointed-tool comes in handy (You want to keep your fingers out of the equation as much as possible, fingerprints are never our friend!):


    I also use a moistened brush to thin out the Mod Podge and spread it around a little more evenly. It’s perfectly fine to cover over the top of the cut-out or to spread the adhesive around the area, [and] it will dry completely clear:


    It dries after just a few minutes, and now it’s just a matter of building up layers. With a little time and a bit of patience, you can build up the area around the cut-out to create a totally smooth surface with the cut out essentially laminated into your figure:


    After the first few layers, I suggest working around the cut out and not going over the top of the paper-piece any more. Once it’s well adhered, you want to concentrate on building up the surrounding area so as to create a smooth surface:


    So Steam Hammer is now proud to be a Minicon! To do a good job, I’d need to add a lot more layers, and I should have taken more care to apply thin coats and avoid air-bubbles. [However,] even this quickie, slap-dash effort has yielded a good looking result. When I rub my finger across it, it actually feels more like the slight-raised area of a tampograph than like a sticker. With some more layers to blend it, even that subtle difference in surface texture could be worked away.

    A couple of quick notes about inkjet prints:

    Because the Mod Podge (or most other products that you can use this technique with) is water based, it can and will cause inkjet print-outs to bleed. There are a few easy fixes for this. You can use a spray fixative like the kind used for inkjet-waterslide decals (But that kind of defeats the cost-savings). You can spray your print out with hairspray (reportedly the cheaper the better). Or finally you could make a color-photocopy of your inkjet-print.

    There you have it. We’re blessed in this age of Internet commerce that there is a LOT of support for our art-form, so this is probably not an every-day technique. However, I know every once in a while I want to add a particular something to a custom, and there’s not always a ready-made decal or water-slide available. If that special-something happens to appear in a magazine, book, or even as an image on a webpage, this CAN be the road of least resistance to go from 2-D graphic to 3-D deco.

    Next week, silk-flower-arrangements as Beast Machines era Energon-weapons.

    I’m kidding!

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    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 15, 2013
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