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 Post subject: Creating Custom Decals
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:36 pm 
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This thread will discuss different methods of decal creation that I have experimented with while making various DLRR models. This is only my experience and I would welcome anyone’s comments or differing experience. The topics will be:

1) Original art creation
2) Paper Decals
3) Wet applied decals: commercial or homemade
4) Dry transfer decals (DecalPro method)
5) Silk Screening
6) Off set printing
7) Vinyl stickers

Original Art
To start with, I am not a graphic artist and not familiar with the programs that should be used to create this art. Programs such as Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator would be the ones that most people would use. I am familiar with CADD and so that is what I will show here. The approach would be similar no matter what you use.

I start with a scan of the locomotive from Steve’s book. This I enlarge to the size that I wish to model. This is a relative process. I have used the height of the cab as my reference in the past setting the height of the cab in the scanned image to the height of the model that I am kit bashing. This way the engine will look proportionate to the rolling stock. You could use the size of the drivers or any element of the original model that you wish to keep.

Next I import a photographic image that will be used as a basis for the artwork. The image is enlarged to the point that it would fit on the scanned image of the engine. If the photograph was taken straight on and there is not much “warping” of the image, it might be possible to trace as is. Often some correction has to be made to keep lines straight and arcs symmetrical. Now starts the laborious job of tracing the image line by line and arc by arc to create the artwork. Since all of the Disney fonts are custom, lettering is also traced as lines and arcs. If I can find a close font, I will use it.

I draw each color in a separate layer so that I can adjust them more easily and so that I can turn off the background color if I need to.

When the artwork is printable, always print it out and test it for size and color directly on your model. It is no fun to create great looking art that turns out not to fit properly on the model.

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Image


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Paper Decals
Once the artwork is created, you can simply print it on paper and apply it to the model if it seems appropriate. This obviously will not make a durable model and it will not be shiny, but if those issues are not important, this may be fine. It is fast and easy and resolution is always good if you have a quality printer. It helps if your model has natural places for the paper edges to die into. This Big Thunder #4 locomotive was done this way.

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Image

Wet Decals

Wet decals are the type that most people are familiar with. The image is printed on a clear film that is adhered to a paper backing. When the backing has water applied to it, the image may be slid off the paper and onto the model. I was introduced to a company that will create custom decals for you. He can produce the artwork or you can provide it. If you have them create the artwork, it will probably not be as carefully done as you might do yourself and could become quite pricy if you are a stickler for detail. My experience was that the decals I received looked like they were printed on a low resolution dot-matrix printer. I know that the provider of the decals thought that the quality was quite high. Maybe this could be a limitation of the method of making these one-off decals. A frequenter of this site has produced wet decals at home with good quality at a low price. He may want to chime in with his technique. Here is the nameplate on the Gurley utilizing a wet applied decal that is 1 ¾” long. You can see that the resolution is not fine. For many applications, this could be the way to go, but for this instance, I will look for another method.
Image


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:37 am 
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Dave,

If I were going to create artwork for decals for a model, I would use Photoshop - a program I have and use frequently. However, it costs about $600 these days and does much more than needed for the job at hand.

Another possibility is Photoshop Elements - cheaper ($90). I have an old version of it and just did some checking. The tools that I would use for this job are available in the that program.

Here's a general outline.

Find a clear copy of the artwork you want to put on your model. It does not have to be a straight-on shot. It could even be black and white.

Scan that image to your computer as a JPEG with very little compression or as a TIFF.

(I have found the help topics in version 2.0 of Photoshop Elements for the following steps and will include them in parenthesis in those steps. Since version 9.0 is available today, there may have been some changes.)

If the picture was not taken straight on, i.e., lines that should be parallel are not parallel, make them parallel (Skewing, distorting, and setting perspective or in this case, undoing perspective),

Make the picture the size you need (Changing image size and resolution). Be sure you check Constrain Proportions when you want to change width and height.

The next two steps replace freehand drawing.

Enlarge the picture on your monitor and select areas you want to print (Using the magic wand tool).

If the selections are not quite what you need, improve them (Using the lasso, polygonal lasso, and magnetic lasso tools).

When you are happy with your selection, find a picture on your computer that contains the color you want on the decal. Put that color in the selected areas (Using the Adobe Color Picker).

If there are multiple colors, do the above steps on the same picture for each color.

Copy the selected areas to a new file (forgot to get the help for this).

Print your decal.

I know that sounds much simpler than it really is, especially if you have never used Photoshop. I'll try to answer questions.

Maurie


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:26 am 
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Maurie S wrote:
Dave,

If I were going to create artwork for decals for a model, I would use Photoshop


I know that there are lots of ways to do this; many of them superior to the way I am doing it. There is an "old dog" factor here in that I just don't want to have to learn something that I know will be a frustrating experiance. I have Photoshop and have played with it a little, but am by no means proficient with it. If anyone does this work in a raster based program like "Paint" or "Photoshop" as opposed to a vector based program such as "Illustrator", "Draw" or a CADD program, it would be great to see the results.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:59 am 
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Dry Transfers
This method uses the system sold by DecalPro. I found it on the internet and ordered a starter kit and laminator. Here is a link if anyone wants to look further into it. Watch the video on placing full color images onto a dark background to see all the steps that I did here.

http://www.pulsarprofx.com/DecalPRO/Ver ... Works.html

A quick overview of this system is:
1) Print a reverse image of your artwork onto a special paper provided in the kit.
2) Fuse a white reflector background to the toner
3) Transfer the image onto a sheet of clear mylar
4) Flip the image by transferring it to another sheet of mylar
5) Apply a light coat of a special spray glue
6) Rub toner image onto the model.

This system has tremendous potential. The final product has no edge like a decal. It is as if the image were printed right on the model. If you screw up, you can always make more at home. The image is quite durable and does not scratch off easily. The down side is that it is more labor intensive and can have problems at each of the steps above. It is also hard to hold detail with lots of fine lines. It is also hard to hold whites (the absence of toner) within a color image. Note in the “3” below that the white outline has fallen out. It does do a great job if you want a solid white image. Just print it with black toner and apply his white reflector background. The tender graphic had problems because I went a little too light on the spray glue.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 11:52 am 
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Excellent discussion topic and how-to.
This is something I will need to do for some upcoming projects so it's perfect timing for me.
I assume on most of the methods you could also apply a coat of clear over it to help seal and protect the image?
Since you can get clear in either satin, semi-gloss or high gloss to add the desired effect.

Erick


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:20 pm 
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When Brian was printing decals using an Inkjet printer he had to seal the decal paper with a spray. I have always sprayed a clear coat over decals or dry transfers. but some times the decal has been clouded because the clear lifted the decal. I was able so save these by recoating with Walthers solvaset . Setting solutions help a lot but when using solvaset be careful it is a very aggressive solvent and straight lines can be come bent.

When applying decals I start with Micro set and Micro sol and if the decal just won't settle into the car texture I apply Solveset spareingly.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:29 pm 
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Jazzfan is right you have to seal decal paper before applying them to your models otherwise the ink runs. Most hobby shops sell the fixative for decal paper. To get that Disney shinny look I use high gloss automotive clear coat over my decals once they are applied to the model. I once ran out of fixative and used the High gloss clear on the decal paper and it worked fine cutting a step out of the process.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 3:18 pm 
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I have seen this decal film which claims to be printable by inkjet printer with out needing to seal the decal film after printing. I have not used it but may order some for the WDW loco's.

http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/266-P7


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:13 pm 
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Jazzfan that a cool product if it works. It would totally save time in my decal making process.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 6:05 pm 
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I have been experimenting with some new dry transfer methods. I called the manufacturer and he gave me some tips for the more unusual applications; white on dark background with paint all around and fine detail.

Here is a standard color image on dark background

Image

This turned out pretty good. I do not have to deal with white.

This next example has white letters. The method is to print black toner where you expect white or color to be. A special graphic was created for this.

Image

This then had a special white film added to it that sticks only to the toner.

Image

The page is then run through the printer again this time printing the color graphic. This way there is white where no toner is laid down.

Image

I modified the graphic so that as much paint would show as possible.
I let the dark red bleed over the white hoping that it would cover any misalignments and that the red toner on red paint would disappear.

Image

Here the graphic has been transferred to the carrier mylar and removed from the paper backing.

Image

The final result is not what I expected. The red toner on red paint turns almost black and is very visible. One step closer, but not there yet.
Image


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