custom decals - a helpful tip

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by nachoman, Dec 4, 2007.

  1. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    For those wishing to make custom white decals, I think I may have stumbled onto something useful. I am trying to make gold lettering to go onto green passenger cars. As others have suggested here, my intent is to print gold letters with a green background onto white decal paper. Ideally, the green background would be the same color green as the green paint I used on the car, and would blend perfectly and only the gold lettering would show through. Before I rushed out to buy white decal paper, I first needed to test to see if I could color match close enough for this to work. My first few attempts to do it by eye were miserable.

    I tried taking a digital picture of the passenger car with a digital camera, and copying the color from the image into decal background. That didn't work either. The colors in the digital image didn't match those on the car.

    Then I discovered this:
    It is the testors' paint catalog, showing all their paint colors. Did you know Floquil and Polly scale are testors brands too? I downloaded the catalog as a pdf, then found the color I used to paint the car. I then used a piece of software that came with my macintosh computer called "art directors toolkit" to examine the RGB data for the "paint chip" for that color. The output gave me the percentages of red, green, and blue for the color on the paint chip. I then went into my test decal background, and created a custom color with the RGB values I obtained. I then printed this on white paper as an experiment, and it matches the painted color of my passenger car quite closely.

    I haven't had time to test this on the white decal paper yet, but when I do I will be sure to post pictures of my results. For those of you using a PC, I am sure there is freewhere somwhere that will allow you to do the same thing as the "art directors toolkit". Try searching "color matching" on google.

  2. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    A good tip, Kevin, but I'm curious as to why you're using white decal film instead of clear. I would think that the white might throw off the colour match a bit, whereas clear would be the colour only, with no white to affect it. Of course, the colour of the backing paper may make the colour appear "off" while still on the sheet, but it should be right on when it's placed on the model.

  3. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I havent actually printed any decals yet, just a test on white paper. But clear won't work. Sure, the green will match great, but the gold letters won't show because the ink is not opaque. I plan on using the white paper in order to make the gold letters show up.

  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Thanks for the info, Kevin. That 'splains everythin'. ;):-D

  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Intriguing. I would have thought that Gold on clear would have been fine...But I've never tried it. I was only familiar with the problems associated with printing in white and how ink differs from paint.
  6. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    All colors from a printer are somewhat translucent. Even blue. Yellow will almost completely disappear against a dark background, and blue will change shades depending on what color the decal is being placed over. I've tried yellow over light gray and it didn't even look very good.

  7. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    That's what I meant by the difference between ink and paint. All ink from an ink jet printer is white ink is would have to be opaque like paint is (although not 100% opaque...especially when we were printing our living room red :curse:). But I never imagined that the translucence would cause such trouble...especially for gold. It does make sense. You've saved me huge headaches in the future over possibly printing certain decals here at being aware of such problems.
  8. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Yep, I ran into that problem trying to make orange letters. Too translucent. I decided to go with black instead and that worked fine with the Testors system.
  9. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    An update here -

    I bought the testors white decal paper, and the decal bonder solution. I printed the decals on my HP deskjet printer, with the setting for photo quality. The colors look sharp, and the lines are crisp. The only problem - the green color I matched is now much darker than it printed on plain white paper! On the white paper, it matched the paint color of the car very closely. On the decal paper, the green is just too "green". I don't know the way around this. I would like to test my colors out before wasting decal paper, and if the color that my printer prints on white paper is different than on the decal paper - I'm stumped. Perhaps it is a printer setting that is making the colors darker on the decal paper. Or maybe it has to do with the way the ink absorbs better into the plain white paper.

    Nonetheless, I tried cutting out the decals and applying them to the car to see if the color difference was very noticeable. I applied 3 coats of the decal bonder to the decal sheet prior to cutting out the decals. I cut as close to the letters as possible. I then applied one more light coat of bonder to the decals after they were cut out.

    When I placed the completed decals in the water - the ink began to run along the cut edges. Apparently, I did not seal the decals well enough after they were cut. I am going to seal the rest of them with two more coats of decal bonder after they have been cut from the sheet and try again.

  10. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Thanks for the update Kevin. As a Testors user I feel your pain! :)
    Good luck with the next trial!
  11. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    Could I draw from this that the testors decal system is not all that great?
  12. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I think once I learn the proper techniques, it will work fine. It may take some experimenting to get to that stage.

  13. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    After trying again, I think I may have discovered a problem. The instructions say to to dip the decal in water for no longer than 5 seconds, and then let sit until the glue softens. Well, i tried that, and the glue never softened. I waited about 15-20 minutes, then tried dipping the decal in the water for longer. Still no dice. Eventually, I left the decal in the water long enough that the ink began to run from the edges, yet the glue was still firm.

    The package comes with six individually wrapped decal sheets. I first used the one that came in the wrapper with the instruction sheet. I now notice the printing on the back of the sheet is different from the others. Perhaps this sheet is older stock, and causing me problems. I am going to try printing on one of the other sheets to see what happens.

  14. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    That's interesting. I've found from experience to take them at their word regarding the five seconds in the water. After that the image starts to run.
    I take the decal out of the water and let it sit on a paper towel. Sometimes if there is a lot of water on top of the decal I'll lightly dab it with the paper towel as well.
  15. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member

    Kevin, as a card modeler I deal with screen versus print disparities all the time. Here's a suggestion to save precious decal paper - make a "sample strip" something like the cards of color samples that paint stores provide.

    In your graphics application, make a series of green boxes just large enough to give your eye a reasonable color sample (maybe 1/2" x 1/2"). Make each box a different shade of green, each one progressively lighter. Label each box with the setting you used to get that green (e.g. "10% lighter", "20% lighter" ... whatever system your graphics apps uses). Then print out the row of squares and see which one comes closest to the desired results. Hopefully you can zero-in on the right shade while only wasting a 1/2" strip of decal paper.

    Another thought: when you say the color is "too green", do you really mean it's too dark ... or that it's too saturated? Color "saturation" (i.e. intensity, or depth) is different than "shade" (lightness/darkness). If the problem is that the green is too intense, print a series of test squares, each one increasingly "de-saturated" to home in on the right combination.

    Once you solve this for the green, the same solution may well apply to other colors.

    Good luck!
  16. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Good suggestions, ArtDecko. My original idea was to match colors using the paint chip provided by Testors and software I already have on my computer. Obviously that is not working :( I've played around with the settings on my printer, and I have gotten closer, but getting closer in color seems to sacrifice resolution of the image; it looks more grainy. I was trying to get around color matching by eye - as this is not an easy task for someone who has difficulty telling the difference between shades of color to begin with!

  17. CJTK1701

    CJTK1701 Banned

    Thanks for the tips. I'm working on a set of decals right now and really want to use brass, copper and silver in them!
  18. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    For gold, silver, and other metallic colours, there used to be a foil that would adhere to laserjet printed (i.e. toner, not ink) text and images. I don't know if it is still available, but might be useful in this discussion...?

    I'll post more info if I can find any...

    EDIT - Here's a link Gold Foil Transfer that not only decribes the foil, but also happens to have information about inkjet and laserjet decals.

  19. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Eggzachary. I tried printing light yellow lettering once on my printer onto Bell decal paper (clear) and it was so opaque, that it didn't even show up on the clear paper, but did on the white. I'd imagine it was the same problem Nach would have trying to print gold lettering on clear paper too. :eek:
  20. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Since I have finally gotten a day off work, I have had some time to fool with this.

    I tried fooling with printer settings, and I tried using a different sheet of paper. But I learned the problem I was having with the decal glue not dissolving had to do with the fact I was sealing the decals after they were cut from the larger sheet. I guess they need that cut edge to allow the water to soften the glue. Unfortunately, this means, that a tiny bit of ink will dissolve from each edge of the decal, exposing the white backing.

    I've given up on trying to match the color better. If it is up to me to do by eye, I am just going to get more and more frustrated trying to match colors. I do remember some things i learned as an artist - there are no "true" color pigments (no "true" red, blue, or yellow). If that were the case, the hardware store would only need the three primary colors plus black to mix paint. But look how many colors they use! The pigments that HP use in their ink are probably completely different than what testors use in their paint.

    The printer compromises by mixing "dots" of different colors close together in order to fool your eye. When looking at something from several inches away, things look fine. But look close up (as you would in a model railroad photo) and things look grainy. Even though I had my printer set to the maximum resolution, I can still see individual dots of color. Having a printer with higher resolution would help, as would using a color that is much closer to one of the ink colors.

    I did the best I could with the color, then sealed the decals and applied them to the car. They look okay, with the biggest problem being the thin white line that borders the decal where the ink dissolved. I used solvaset, and it still looks okay.

    I am going to try spraying the car with dullcote, then masking the letters of the decal so that I can spray the car color to hide the white edge of the decal and blend the decal into the paint better. With a little weathering, it may look acceptable. I'd take a few photos, but I think my camera is sitting on my desk at work!


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