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Custom decals?

Discussion in 'General Figure Talk' started by Kimmo, Feb 9, 2019.

  1. Kimmo A Fixture

    Anybody have a good source for custom/homemade decals? Looking to get some lions done up for 2 shields and a flag in 54mm scale, not terribly large in size or amount and would like to keep costs down. This is what it would be based on if that's of any help, it's from Wikimedia so should be good as far as copyrights go.


    In a perfect world, I'd like the decal as is without the red shield, but could also work in two colour, or two part, or just the outline and figure out a stencil for the yellow and add the nail polish. I can also do the artwork providing a compatible format can be found.


  2. housecarl Moderator

  3. Kimmo A Fixture

  4. Warren SMITH A Fixture

    I believe you could get some blank decal sheet and print the lions or what ever else takes your fancy that way, then use them as stencils... :)
  5. yellowcat A Fixture

    You can get all kinds of decal paper including white (water slide or permanent adhesive) HERE
  6. Kimmo A Fixture

    Warren and Yellowcat, the problem with DIY decals is I don't have access to a decent printer. And the local quick print/copy places don't seem to want to run decal sheets through their printers/copiers. If there is someone around who would be willing to print me the black outlines only on clear decal sheet at a reasonably good resolution (for a fee of course), please shoot me a message.


  7. Mirofsoft A Fixture

    another solution perhaps
    Print it on plain thin paper at he requeste size
    turn the page, with a pencil fill the surface with the graphite
    put the paper on the shield, flag etc, drawing up
    with a pencil follow the detour, the graphite behind will leave a trace on the shield .... now direct on the shield reinforce the print with black china ink or a 0,1mm or even 0,05mm like Staedtler pigment liner 308 ... then fill in the colour you want

    or use photo edged heraldry from
    http://www.nimix.net/Heraldica medieval, romana y griega.htm
  8. Kimmo A Fixture

    Oooh, that's some interesting etch, cheers! However, not for this project. I had considered just cutting my own stencils, but those lines are going to be a real pain to do freehand, even with an ultra thin marker. Especially since I need to do three. The lions would be about 20 x 30mm maximum, so, not the easiest task.

  9. Mirofsoft A Fixture

    DSC01010 bis r.jpg
    Not a lion, but made with the above description 40 years ago Humbrol 54mm, on the shield and on the surcoat front and back
  10. Kimmo A Fixture

    Nice work, never said it couldn't be done, I'm just not going to drive myself mad doing it.

  11. Mirofsoft A Fixture

  12. Kimmo A Fixture

    Cheers again, I had gone over the Andrea options with my friend and nothing really stood out. I got in touch with Black Lion Decals and it looks like I'll be using them. Quite reasonable pricing if you ask me. I'll update when I get everything sorted out to let others know what you get and what it costs.

    Thanks for all the help

    Mirofsoft likes this.
  13. Kimmo A Fixture

    Finally got my decals sorted out and managed to do a bit of testing. I ended up ordering from Black Lion Decals (http://www.blackliondecals.nl/) as they had the best price I could find, by far. I'm happy enough with the decals, they aren't perfect in terms of crispness, but they are more than sufficient for my current needs. A break down on my thoughts...

    Price: Excellent when compared to other suppliers. Usually for decals there is a minimum order of 20+ local bucks, but in this case you only pay for the size of the sheet.

    Printing quality: For a home printer (assuming it's a home printer), not bad. Not the greatest, but acceptable and for certain applications may not even be a concern. For some colours you will see a dot matrix at extreme magnification. This will get muted under a clear coat, and may disappear entirely with a wash. As a bonus, they can print white.

    Decal film: Ultra thin. This is one of the thinner films I've worked with and lifts off the backing paper very easily after a 30 second soak. The entire sheet is film so you have to cut out individual decals.

    Delivery time and postage cost: Delivery time is going to be a bit of a problem for some I think. Because they offer partial sheets, this means you may have to wait until they get a full sized sheet to print, I ended up waiting a bit over a month. This wasn't a huge deal for me, but bear that in mind if you are in a hurry. Postage was very reasonable and sent letter post which took a few days in my case.

    Price: As mentioned, I'm happy enough. For a small sheet that measures 70 x 35 mm with multiple colours, the sheet cost was 7.50 euros. Not bad for custom work. They were also kind enough to do a bit of the fiddly work for me which others might have charged for.

    Now onto some photos. First, the sheet:


    And a crop


    The stencil text is supposed to look distressed. I have another project lined up that will need a bunch of stencil text and this is was a great way to do a test. The height of the text is 1mm, not too shabby if you ask me. There is a faint matrix of red on the yellow.

    I needed to do a test of the decals to see how the film reacts, and to test opacity. My test bed with a gloss coat showing the importance of properly cleaning your brushes when using blue. The folds and creases are perfect for this test.


    The decals went down nicely. You do have to be careful because they are ultra thin. I used Vallejo Decal Medium, which is a rather mild decal solution yet really works well, and everything snuggled down quite admirably. I didn't do a second application so there were a few tiny air bubbles and minor silvering. Impressive considering the folds and creases it had to adhere to. A gloss coat and then flat. A note on the flat coat(s), I tested out 3 different mattes: Vallejo Mecha (white side), Vallejo Model Color matte (left blue) and Green Stuff World Matt (right blue). I had always wanted to do a comparison...spoiler: the Green Stuff World is a touch flatter and brushes on a bit easier.


    And a crop


    As you can see, the film all but disappeared as did the red matrix, the opacity is excellent as well. It looks much nicer in situ, doesn't it?

    So to sum up, I can honestly say you will get your money's worth from Black Lion. You may have to wait, but if you need custom decals printed and are working on a budget, give them a shout.

    Mirofsoft likes this.
  14. Rob Brown Member

    I make my own decals for my main hobby, customizing sports figurines. it is actually easier than it seems. Decal paper in both white and clear is readily available and you just need a printer and softwear program, such as Photoshop or even GIMP (free ware). print on white paper and you can have white on the decal. print on clear and the color under is behind so you can paint white behind it. these are water slide so pretty easy to use.
    Mirofsoft likes this.
  15. harrytheheid A Fixture

    Hi Rob,
    My biggest frustration with home-made decals done on an inkjet printer is; how do you prevent them stretching when you're trying to get them into position? Especially the larger ones? I'm aware they should be applied to a gloss varnished finish, but do you just keep adding more layers of sealant before using them, or use soapy water under the decal to allow them to slide into place more easily? is there some other arcane secret I'm missing?
    Any advice will be eagerly tried out.
  16. Kimmo A Fixture

    I would have had them done this way if I had access to a printer. The local quick printing places won't do decal sheets and I don't have a printer myself. I use GIMP and Inkscape all the time for various modelling related stuff.

    Harry, not sure what you mean by stretching? Homemade or not, if your image is stretching, then there's a major problem with the decal. A water slide decal is merely an image printed onto a film, the ink and film will contour to any surface given the film is thin enough and/or if you use a decal softening medium. And the film is stuck onto backing paper which has an adhesive that activates with water, similar to the gum strip on an envelope. You're on the right track with how they should go down, if you google "applying water slide decals" you get tons of helpful videos and articles.

    Basically, you make sure you can get the decal down without damaging it or folding over on itself, that's the hardest part. Once down, tamp it with a cotton bud or makeup sponge to remove excess water and trapped bubbles and to get it pushed into folds (or brush on some water so it moves around more easily if you need to move it ), then apply a decal softener if there are lots of folds/creases/raised details and let that dry. You may need to repeat the softener process and poke tiny holes into raised decal areas so they snuggle down more readily, resist the urge to rush this stage. Once happy and the decals are dry, a gloss coat to seal and blend, then a matte or satin coat(s) as needed.

    It's an art and a science as there is a bit of variety to how decals behave depending on who made them. Some are very thick, some are very thin and everything in between. Some stick better, some won't come of the backing as easily as others. It can be a touch frustrating at times. When possible, test some of the sheet on a practice piece before going for it so you can see how things work or don't work, this really helps cut down on unpleasant surprises. This is one of those areas where experience is really the only way to truly learn. I might recommend picking up a sheet or two of decals, doesn't really matter what of, just something inexpensive or leftover from kits to play with and practice. Lots of spare decals up for grabs on ebay that can be had for a song.

  17. harrytheheid A Fixture

    Thanks for the response.
    I have the correct modelling decal paper, both clear and white, and it's for inkjet printers.

    Decal Paper.JPG

    I've experienced a lot of problems when trying to slide these into position, even on smooth plastic scale aircraft, and especially once you go above around 25mm x 25mm in area. The decals seem to "grab" onto the plastic at one end as I move them around, resulting in them stretching and deforming. I've tried floating them into place on a puddle of microsolv - perhaps that's the problem? I did check to make sure I wasn't using microset by mistake.
    The other point is; I believe the sealant you spray onto the newly-printed decal, (to prevent it bleeding on contact with water), provides significant additional strength for the decal film, thus preventing, or minimizing, this deforming effect when moved around on the model. Trouble is, these sealants all seem to be manufactured as aerosols - and the Royal Mail (UK) won't allow aerosols in international airmail, which is a bit of a pest to say the least. I did try to get my hands on some Microscale liquid decal film, (a whole 17ml bottle of the stuff, gasp), but that was a bust because apparently it's classed by Her Majesty's Royal Mail jobsworths as a "Hazardous Material".
    I've been considering using matte medium, or probably better - gloss medium - sprayed on with an airbrush to see if it works better as a sealant, rather than a couple of brushed-on coats of gloss varnish, which is what I've been using up 'til now. Perhaps it's the gloss varnish that's causing the problem - I dunno.
    I'd add that I've never had any insurmountable problems using decals supplied with plastic kits, well, not unless they're very old that is. But even very old examples generally just crumble and don't exhibit this "stretching" effect that I've seen when using home-made decals. It's either the microsolv or it's the sealant that's causing it, so I guess the easiest thing to do is try again without the microsolv and/or with a different sealant.
    Nap likes this.
  18. Kimmo A Fixture

    Ahh, that explains things a little more clearly...the adhesive is being a bit too aggressive for sure, I've had a few of those with kit supplied decals, not fun. Usually they just end up snapping or tearing rather than stretching though. I'd go with brushing some water over the decal area and maybe letting the decals soak a bit longer to weaken the adhesive, and don't add any softeners until you have the decal positioned and tamped down. The clear coat/sealant after printing is probably a good idea and some testing with other media is worth a look. I recall MicroMark has a brushable decal film and maybe Humbrol as well? Theoretically you could paint an image on gloss stock and then brush the liquid on and presto, a decal without an adhesive backing. They should help if you can grab a bottle, just a matter of getting it down thin enough. The gloss medium might be worth investigating as well as might acrylic glue or pva. A bit drastic those last options, but it may help to figure out where the problem is. One last option is to use Future (or similar acrylic floor polish), brush on the liquid, place the decal and brush some more on top and let cure. Some modelers swear by this method, but I'm hesitant to try it. Not easy to try and fix if the decal shifts while curing. At the end of the day, it could just be you have a naff batch of film, which does happen. And people wonder why professionally made decals cost a fair bit ;) There is a lot of trial and error with homemade stuff. That applies to all manner of concoctions, not just decals.

    harrytheheid likes this.
  19. Dafdat53 Member

    I have used Experts Choice Ink jet decal paper for a number of years now having tried, unsuccessfully, using other brands. The decals are printed on a standard HP ink jet printer for use on 1/24 truck models (airbrushed with Tamiya or Vallejo Acrylics) and the following is my method of printing and using home made decals.
    When designing your custom decals make sure that you include more than enough images on each sheet to allow for those that either decide to curl or tear.
    The printer standard settings are used.
    Once the sheet has been printed set it aside in a dust free environment and leave for at least 24hours.
    Coat the dried decal sheet with VERY thin coats of your preferred clear varnish. I prefer Tamiya Clear Acrylic X-22 through an airbrush at about 15psi. I usually lay down 3 or 4 coats depending on the size of the image(s). If any of the images are to be laid over curved surfaces then 3 coats are usually sufficient. It is essential that all of the ink surface is coated.
    Again set the varnished decal sheet aside in a dust free environment for at least 48 hours to make sure that the varnish is well and truly dry.
    Make sure that the area of the model over which any decal is to be laid is coated with your preferred clear gloss varnish. Again this should be left to dry thoroughly.
    Once the decals have all been applied the final preferred varnish surface (gloss or matt) can be applied.
    Experts Choice decal paper needs a good soak in warm/tepid water and the individual decals need to be trimmed as close as possible to the required image.
    When placing the individual decals it is helpful if you can flood the location with warm water but if the model surface is not horizontal then coating the area with something akin to Future (as suggested above) helps to float the decal into place. Once the decal is in place soak up excess liquid with the corner of a paper tissue.
    In any event be prepared for failures, remove the offending decal and try another decal.
    If the decal decides not to conform to any irregular surface such a panel lines I have used Microscale Sol but with care, don't flood the decal, and repeated applications are sometimes necessary.
    It's very much trial and error before you find the method and materials that suit you best.
    I hope that this helps?
    harrytheheid and Nap like this.
  20. harrytheheid A Fixture

    Aye, I've done home brewed beer as well....:LOL:....and the rice & raisin wine I made one time was white lightning; took a couple of days before my vision cleared after guzzling a bottle of that stuff!
    My old Grandad claimed he knew someone who had a still hidden away up some glen, but I don't know nuthin' about that, honest guvnor....:angelic:

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