Questions on custom decal making

Scratchbuilding, kitbashing, reposing and other modifications.
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Hossfly72
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Questions on custom decal making

Post by Hossfly72 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:37 pm

I know some of you do this for a living, some for a hobby, and some just to get what you need for one or the other or both. Here's the question: How do I get started and where do I look to find a step by step guide to the process of making my own custom decals? Is there a book or webpage?
Do I need a laser printer or will an ink jet work?
What resolution do they need to be printed at considering I do most all of my bashing in 1/2500?
What paper is best?
What inks or printers are best?
What graphics program is easiest to use for a beginner?
And what questions did I either forget to ask or not know enough to ask?
i don't know. I'm making it up as I go.

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MEATLOAFr
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by MEATLOAFr » Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:05 pm

Hossfly72 wrote:I know some of you do this for a living, some for a hobby, and some just to get what you need for one or the other or both. Here's the question: How do I get started and where do I look to find a step by step guide to the process of making my own custom decals? Is there a book or webpage?
Do I need a laser printer or will an ink jet work?
What resolution do they need to be printed at considering I do most all of my bashing in 1/2500?
What paper is best?
What inks or printers are best?
What graphics program is easiest to use for a beginner?
And what questions did I either forget to ask or not know enough to ask?
there isn't any real "step-by-step" guide, alot of trial and error (and asking questions when stumped)

Ink-jet or laser, doesn't really matter, just make sure to get the right paper for the printer you are using... ink-jets take an extra step of sealing with a clear coat before use, laser couls also use this step, but for teats you can skip it

1200x1200 resolution is good, but higher the better

decalpaper.com is a good supplier

ink type really isn't a problem, I use an Epson for ink-jet printing (less runny inks) but look around at printers, get one you like the way the colors look - and before purchase check cost of refill inks (online "knock-offs" can work just as well as name brand for 1/4th the price)

software... slippery area there, get some trails and find one you like to use. I use Corel draw X6 (found an upgrade for $25 dollars once, some work got it to install fully) some peole use Adobe Photoshop, also there are Inkscape.org and vectr.com/

just remember when sealing the decals, to not what type of clear coat you are using, if you sell them they could react (badly) with the clear coat the customer is using if they are different types
If the world ends tomorrow, it's ALL YOUR FAULT!!!

Custom Decals, and Vinyl Cutting services available
E-Mail direct to my [USERNAME] @ GMAIL account for Decals & Vinyl services

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NCC1966
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by NCC1966 » Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:23 pm

Here it is how I do this...

I start making my own decal arts with Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator. It is too much better than Photoshop or any other photo software because it's vector and not bitmap what means that you can scale it up/down freely without ANY loss of quality. The trick is to find online a scan of the decal sheet you are thinking to print, preferably already in the correct scale, so you import it to within your vector software (Corel, AI, whatever) and then start drawing everything from scratch using the scan as reference. It's a lot of work and it takes time but you will be rewarded at the end!

Anyway, at this point I already ordered online and received by mail the decal paper for laser printer. The reason I prefer laser printer is because a) printing quality is incomparably better; and b) I don't need to apply the protecting coat of clear spray.

Then I export my vectored work to PDF format in hi-resolution and bring it to an electronic printer service (I don't have a color laser printer and the shop charges me around $1 to print it) along with the proper paper. Before they send your file to the printer — and this is VERY important — you MUST tell them to check the option "Actual size". Why's that? Normally people do generic printing and have absolutely no idea about paper size and such, so the guys at the print service sets as default the option "Adjust to fit" or "Adjust to paper" or something like that, what means that the machine will enlarge or shrink the whole stuff to "fit" into the paper sheet. You absolutely do NOT want it because if it "fits" your decals in the sheet it means that the decals won't fit on your model later.

After that it's just to treat the printed sheet as any other regular decal sheet.

:)

NOTES:

1) An alternative to the long and tedious work of draw your decals is just to get a decent scan of the decals you are in need and print it directly. Suppose for instances that you have a very old model and the decals are unusable. You can try to find a scan online (not too easy) or ask for a friend here at AST to scan it for you and send you the file. But keep in mind that the output quality will be inferior to a vector work no matter what.

2) Although MEATLOAFr has mentioned to use 1200dpi of scan quality you should know that it is useless unless that you are going to print on a machine able to output in 1200dpi. Here in my town all the big color laser machines (Canon and Xerox) of the printer service I use won't print at a superior resolution of 600dpi so any scan resolution above this won't make any difference: all dots that surpass the maximum output of a printer machine is automatically discarded by its reaper. I work with professional printing (including offset) for almost 30 years and I know what I am talking about. Ask at your local print service what's the maximum resolution their machine prints and if they say it's 1200dpi THEN it worth to have a 1200dpi scan. Otherwise not. Of course I am talking of laser printers and cannot tell about inkjets because I don't use inkjets since I never saw an inkjet printing that I didn't find it like crap. IMO they are OK for amateur home printing but it's just that.

2) You MUST use the proper paper for the printer you are going to use. If you are going to print on laser you must buy paper for laser; the same for inkjet. Probably using a laser paper on an inkjet printer will only get you a bad quality; but using a inkjet paper on a laser printer can seriously damage the machine.

3) If you, like me, is going to bring your file to be printed in a print service ask them if they already don't have the proper paper. Perhaps you can save some hassle not having to buy it online. Also, don't forget to try your local stationary stores.

;)
Thanks,

Yan.

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MSgtUSAFRet
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by MSgtUSAFRet » Tue Jan 03, 2017 7:47 pm

Yan and Meatloafr have given some excellent advice on making the decals; most of the information I didn't know so - hurrah!

As far as using your own decals, I would like to offer a few tips of my own. I received a pdf file from Shaw for my AMT TOS Enterprise restoration and had to go get them printed on a quality laser printer. As recommended by my colleagues, I had laser decal paper for the laser printer.

1) After printing the decals, I took the extra precaution of spraying on a layer of Testors decal sealant. This traps the printed decals between the actual decal material and the sealant. While it is true the laser printed decal is "burned" on to the paper/material, it can flake off during application. I speak from experience. So I would recommend your choice of sealant over the top of the printed decal to prevent loss of detail during application. Again, as pointed out by Meatloafr, be sure you know the clear coat you are using to prevent a reaction with the decal sealant.

2) When trimming the decal for final application, leave a "handle", a bit of decal paper for handling the decal, on the piece. Before you place the decal in the water and using a new, sharp xacto blade, carefully cut through the decal material, not the paper underneath, between the "handle" and the actual decal. When the decal becomes wet and ready for application, the decal should easily separate from the handle material.


These are a couple of tips I have with non-OEM decals!

Hope these help! Good luck!

Steve

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Hossfly72
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by Hossfly72 » Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:03 pm

Awesome tips fellas! Thank you. I actually was looking through the decal bin at my local HobbyTown and found that they carry decal paper (both white and clear!) for laser and inkjet printers. Most of the images will be the same as a TOS Constitution class, but the name and N numbers will be the big hurdles for me. The shortcut would be to order a set of decals without a name or numbers and then order a set of numbers and letters to fit. 1/1000 scale would be so much easier than 1/2500, but I shall perservere and make what I can't find.
i don't know. I'm making it up as I go.

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NCC1966
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by NCC1966 » Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:40 pm

IMO models like TOS Enterprise doesn't worth the effort on making your own decals since you can find easily — and cheaply — several aftermarket options. I would let it for when you have special custom projects or when making "odd" ships that you may struggle to find the stuff. Otherwise just go with the off the shelf options!

I think that living in USA (like you do) is a bless for the modeler. You have the advantage on receive an order in a couple days with almost no shipping cost (domestic letter).

In my case, for instances, since I live in Brasil things are way more complicated! It's no rare that the shipping of a single sheet costs the half (or more) of the decals price to not mention that it may take weeks or even months to arrive!

:P
Thanks,

Yan.

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Hossfly72
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by Hossfly72 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:42 am

I bit the bullet and ordered some generic decals and numeral sheets. I didn't find any suitable grid decals, but both ships are pre-tos and the grid wasn't visible on my TV when I watched it as a child, so it will be absent on my builds.
I'll work on designing my own custom decals next time I suppose.. Yes, I'm being lazy, but I'm almost out of vacation time and I want to get these things done.
i don't know. I'm making it up as I go.

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NCC1966
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by NCC1966 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:15 am

I think it was a wise decision!

:thumbsup:
Thanks,

Yan.

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Hossfly72
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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by Hossfly72 » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:14 pm

The efficiency and speed of Federation Models is pretty awesome. The decals arrived this morning.
They also look pretty awesome. While I was ordering things though, I should have ordered a a boat from Bass Pro Shops.
It's raining so much I could use it to get out to my shop.
i don't know. I'm making it up as I go.

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Re: Questions on custom decal making

Post by NCC1966 » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:46 pm

Glad to know that everything was fine with your new decals!

:)
Thanks,

Yan.

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