Water Slide Decals

Discussion in 'Radicons Customs' started by frenzyrumble, Jan 7, 2009.

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  1. frenzyrumble

    frenzyrumble Banned

    Jun 7, 2007
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    Hey Radicons,

    I've gotten a lot of requests about what water slide decals are and how to use them.

    Well, to begin with, water slide decals are decals which slide off their backing and onto your custom. A variety of companies make the decal paper, however I prefer Testors Brand. You can check your local hobby shop, or find this stuff online, simply search "Water Slide Decal Paper" on ebay or wherever.

    It is important to note that there are 2 types of water slide decal paper.

    Clear Decal Sheets
    Clear is best for putting dark graphics or decals on a light surface. The clear decal paper is . . . clear . . . so any colors lighter than the color of the surface you are applying this to, will fade to almost invisible. For example, if you wanted to put a RED autobot symbol on an arm which is painted black, after application, you would see almost nothing.

    A good example for using clear is putting a BLACK symbol on any other color than black. Your reds/yellows/light colors will become translucent, therefore the color of the surface you are putting a clear decal on will effect the finished color on the decal. If you were to put a blue circle decal on a yellow decepticon wing, it will come out GREEN.

    Make sense?

    White Decal Sheet

    White is a universal sheet, but also heeds more work. You can print any color onto white (even leaving an area unprinted on will result in white) However there are several measures that are important to mastering using white decal paper correctly.

    I typically use white decal paper by using my graphic program and building the graphics to size. I run a TEST color swatch run of the color I am trying to match. It is important that the AREA AROUND your decal matches the color paint you've used EXACTLY.

    I print a swatch like this which has several shades of the same blue (This was for Hotspot's decals) if none of these match the blue on the actual custom, I run another set, until one matches dead on.


    Once I have the blue matched up, I float a solid box of that blue behind my graphics.


    Once printed it is important to COAT the decals with a finishing spray. I prefer a Krylon Clear coat called "Preserve It" which comes in an aerosol can. I cut away unused decal paper (for later prints) and I lightly mist the decals. Once that is dry, I spray a 2nd then a 3rd (20 minutes later). This prevents the ink from running and smearing. This is imperative to do, or you'll get smeary crappy graphics.

    When using white decal paper, you must keep in mind that although very thin, there will be an edge around your graphic. This can be painted and touched up once the decal is dry (next day)

    Applying the Water Slide Decal
    In the following example, I've used Clear Decal Paper.

    Before you begin . . . .
    Make sure the surface you are applying the decal to is dry, clean and free of dust. Put away all your paints and get out a nice clean slate to work on. I typically use dollar store notebooks for my palette, turn the page and I have a clean new palette!

    2. Prepare your tools needed. If applying decals to a glossy surface, I will use a jar of Testor's Gloss Clear (in a jar) as my bonding agent. If applying to a matte finished surface, I use Testor's Matte Clear Coat (also from a jar) In the following picture, you will see I have a clean nice brush, my decals (cut to size and ready to go) the wings of a seeker. To the side (not shown) I have a small ramekin (bowl) filled with luke warm water and a clean paper towel.


    3. I take my graphic (best to do one at a time until you get the hang of this) and drop it into the bowl of water. It needs to sit in here for about 5-10 seconds, dependent on the size. You will see the water soaking into the decal's backing, this is necessary.


    4. Using clean hands or tweezers, I remove the decals from the bowl of water and place them on a paper towel. It is important to make sure all the water falls off the decals and is absorbed into the paper towel. You might need to flip them a few times to get droplets of water off. The decals will need to set here for about 30 seconds, so get ready to move fast!


    5. I take the part which this decal is going onto and lay a thin coat of the Testor's clear coat in the area where it will lay. I make sure to get beyond the size of the graphic. It is very important to have this ENTIRE area painted with the clear coat. It is the GLUE that will permanently hold your decal into place. Although Water Slide decal sheets have a natural adhesive, my past experience have taught me that it doesn't hold well after time. A clear coat will bond the decal to your painted surface.


    6. Next, I pick up the decal off the paper towel using CLEAN fingers. The decal will now slide off it's backing with ease.


    7. I place the decal onto the end of my brush, so that it is easy to place and adjust to the exact location I want it. I eyeball it's location, then lay it onto the surface exactly where I want it to go.


    8. Next, using a brush with some clear coat still wet on it, I GENTLY work the label into it's spot brushing from the middle outwards. This pushes all the bubble and/or wrinkles to the edges. It is possible in this step to also slightly move the decal if it needs to be moved a hair or straightened out.


    9. Finally, I am sure to remove with the same brush any excess clear coat from on top of the decal. The wet brush used in the last step seals a top coat over your decal.

    Here's the final result!


    Yes, you need an ink jet printer. I use a Canon MP470, ideal for photo printing but also printed any lower quality.

    I might create another tutorial on the front end / designer process and printing of the decals.

    It's very different. I believe the setting solution only removes the adhesive from the front of the decal. I used it once, didn't like it at all, and the decal peeled up the next day on it's edges.

    Zildjain adds:

    (Thanks to frenzy_rumble for the article contribution and Ziljian for the additional help! ~Radicons Staff)

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    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2009
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