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 stickersOriginal 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.
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.
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.