Equipment and supplies for making decals at home

husafreak Jan 6, 2021

  1. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    Hi, Jeff.
    I agree. It is hit or miss. I usually get mine at the Amherst Model Train Show in Springfield, MA. There are always one or two vendors with heaps of decals to look thru. I look for advertising and business decals mostly. For trains I look for passenger car or MOW decals. Passenger car decals are a good place to find loco-size heralds. Trucking decals are also good for smaller versions of n-scale loco decals. They are not perfect but I have finished a lot of projects with them that would otherwise still be waiting for the proper sized ones. Zee scale has always been about compromise. There just isn't the availability of the larger scales. N-scale comes in handy for thoughtful compromise. John B's Walther's n-scale printing factory is a good example. Jim
     
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  2. eaelec

    eaelec TrainBoard Member

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    This is what I use for white decal paper, made in Korea, costs about $20 for 20 sheets. One thing you need to be aware of is the film thickness, for Z scale you will need the thin film, its printed on the back of the package, see second photo.
    decal_paper.png
    decal_paper1.png
     
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  3. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    FYI: for folks with money, Epson Surecolor printers are capable of printing white and silver.
    They are production printers costing about $5k and a 30 day ink supply about $800. It’s the perfect printer for decals, backdrops from roll stock,etc. My issue was that I couldn’t.find the business to justify the expense. Look for a local print shop that has one . There many be other makes, but I haven’t run across any others.
     
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  4. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    Who knew that decal printing was such a costly venture. Certainly not me. Jim
     
  5. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    Jim,
    Is this really more expensive than buying three decades old printers and a 1000 ribbons?
    Printing white is a rare need, and these “inks” are truly opaque. But the printers I mentioned are really meant for a professional print shop. If I remember my calculations, they could do about 800 pages (8x10”) of decals and 1000 feet of 13” backdrops per with a month ink load.

    As far as doing white, I’ve had some success with a negative printing: paint the area of a model white and decal with clear lettering and a field matching the the rest of the car. Works reasonably well for car data which is frequently patched in so the field of the decal doesn’t need to match the model field exactly or letter boards.

    Mark
     
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  6. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I use Corel Draw to leach artwork from photos all the time. I can import a photo into Corel Draw, select the image then use the "convert bitmap to detailed logo" feature. While in the convert screen, there is a sub screen that lets you merge colors. Say the logo has 3 colors, red, white, and black, like an NP logo has. The converted bitmap to vector art image will have dozens of colors, but they will be light gray to whites, dark gray to blacks, and oranges to reds. Use the Merge Colors feature, and when you are done, you will have the correct 3 color logo in Vector format.

    Once in vector format, the image can be shrunk or grown, and stretched in X or Y, or rotated as needed to make it fit your model perfectly in any scale.
     
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  7. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    There is a cheaper solution, that I myself have tried, and it works well. Decal on Decal.

    Print your decal on white decal paper, by printing the car body color surrounding the white layer and trim close with an exacto blade, then print your color layer on clear decal film and cut out as usual. Apply layer one and let dry completely. Apply the clear color layer next, and quickly overlay. Then seal as normal with a gloss cote which will hide edges better than dull cote. You can dull cote later.
     
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  8. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    If I can get the Korean decal paper mentioned above then I will look for a Lazer printer. Then figure out the Corel Draw equivalent for use on a Mac. The physical act of laying down the decals wont be a problem. Roberts last comment about laying decals on a glossy surface is common practice with scale models and great advice. Most scale modelers will shoot a clear coat before applying decals as they stick to the surface better, using the various decal setting solutions, then a final dull coat. But I never used a coat of clear over the decals so I will have to try that.
     
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  9. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

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    I am planning on making my own decals, so this thread is helpful and timely!

    Scott
     
  10. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    The final clear causes the edges to disappear, although remain a thick see through gloss. A final shot of flat, takes away the depth of the clear.
     
  11. Curn

    Curn TrainBoard Member

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    I went ahead and bought a Ghost White Toner cartridge for my HP Laser printer. I have a HP Color LaserJet 100 M175nw printer, and they happened to make a cartridge that fits it, so I didn't need to buy a new printer. The only downside is this printer is a 600DPI printer for black and less for color. Newer low end color lasers are 1200DPI.

    This video captures the main process fairly well:


    The basic process of the white toner is you replace the black cartridge with the white one and print your white sections. Then you switch back to the black cartridge and send the page back through to print the black color layers. Page registration is non-existent, and with Z scale this is just not acceptable. For the second pass page registration you are basically dependent on how the printer grabs the paper. So you have to print two separate decals, a white backing and a black/color transparent decal, and then overlay them manually. It works. Below is a picture of a WP logo, with a example of the second pass registration error on the left, and a manually overplayed two decals on the right. This herald is only 2.75 mm tall for a sense of scale. I applied the decal on a orange Lego as a test. You can see the 2nd pass registration just isn't going to work for Z. But the manual overlay of two decals works well enough.

    DecalTest4.jpg

    I did find a way to print black and white in a single pass. This would be useful for number-boards, freight car data labels, and some heralds. The print cartilages have a chip on them that tells the printer what the cartridge is and counts use. So you can swap these chips, and place the white toner in the yellow toner spot. Then you set up your artwork where black is black and yellow is white. So the printer puts black down sharp first, and then color is placed on top, and is a bit sloppy. You normally don't notice as yellow is transparent. But with white toner, it looks bad because the white toner layer will overprint the black in some areas. So the solutions is to flip the artwork horizontally and apply the final decal it face down. Then you can print black on white and have fairly good results in a single pass printing.

    The artwork setup should look like this, Black is black, yellow is white, and flipped as it will be applied face down.. :
    Artwork.png


    And this is the result: Again, and 2.75mm herald for Z scale applied to a lego. The decal applied normally looks bad because the white has overprinted a little onto the black (left). But when the decal is applied face down (Right) the results are pretty good.

    DecalTest2.jpg

    I can only imaging with a 1200 DPI printer you might actually be able to make out the words. But a workable solution for me as I mostly need it for steam engines that have white only graphics. It's a smaller cartridge too so the buy in was $180 and now I can print white when I need too.

    I tried putting black in the yellow toner spot, but then black ins't as sharp because of the way the laser printer handles colors at a lower resolution.

    I'm using the Micromark Laser decal paper, and I'm drawing up vector artwork in Inkscape which is opensource/free. Inkscape doesn't support true CMYK printing be then neither does the HP printer drivers so no big deal.

    -Matt
     
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  12. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

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    Matt,

    Nice job! thanks for experimenting and sharing the results.

    Scott
     

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