Homemade Decals

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by Tad, Feb 11, 2005.

  1. Tad

    Tad Member

    I have to make my own decals, because two of the roads that I model are Southern shortlines and cars, locomotives and decals just aren't available for them. All of my AD&N equipment except for my boxcars and my Thrall All-Doors I have made the decals for. I did make the numbers to renumber my box cars.

    I bought the little Testors decal kit at the LHS. You get a demo program, a can of Testor's Decal Bonder, and a sheet of white and a sheet of clear decal paper in the box.

    It had the deal in the box that if you wanted the full Sure Thing Decal Maker program, you had to order it for $9.95. I did and I think it was worth it. It arrived in about a week. It's a pretty good program. You can scan images directly into it.

    You can use it to size images as you want and add text, too. I also use Paint Shop Pro to work on images and paste them back and forth between the two. I wish I had a better graphics program, but I work with what I have.

    I've used the Testors and the Micromark decal paper. I've had pretty good luck with both.

    As far as fonts go, I have found that most of the railroad ones you have to buy. I just experiment with fonts and sizes until I find something that is really close. If you have a specfic design, you can take the image into a paint program and work on it and then paste it as an object into the decal program. If you have a photo of what you need you can scan it in.

    I have an HP PSC750 printer/scanner/copier combo. I usually scan the car to get my background color as close as possile. I set my printer to print on Best quality and glossy photo paper. I always print out a test run on regular paper until I am satisfied with my design. Since I work in N scale, I usually make two sets of decals for each project on the same sheet in case I screw up a decal. I learned that I should do this the hard way after screwing up a few and having to make new sets.

    I let the decal sheet dry for a couple of hours after I make it. Then I spray the decals with Testors Decal Bonder and let that dry overnight.

    Make sure that you cut the top portion of the sheet with your decals on it off from the rest of the sheet before that you spray the sheet with the Decal Bonder. If you do this you can use the rest of the sheet for your next batch. If you do not do this you will ruin the rest of the sheet. With the Decal Bonder on it, the sheet will not absorb the ink when you print on it. I learned this the hard way, too.

    A light even coat of the Decal Bonder is all that is necessary. If you spray the Decal Bonder on too thick, it makes the decal too thick and stiff, then it won't let details show through.

    It's easy to spray on too much with a spray bomb. I shake it really well. I spray one pass each way while keeping the can moving. That is what I have found to work best.

    I dip the decal in warm water for 2-3 seconds and set it on a paper towel. I used the Badger's Decal Setting Solution on the car, Microset works well, too. After the decal has set for about 20-30 seconds I pick it up with a pair of tweezers and slide it off the backing onto the location where I want it with a soft brush. I usually use the soft brush or a quilting pin to position it exactly where I want it. Sometimes you may have to use the soft brush very gently to work out any tiny air bubbles that may be trapped underneath a large decal.

    If you need to use a decal softener on this type of decals, I have found that the Walther's Solvaset is too strong for them. It makes the decal shrivel up and the colors run. I have had much better results with the Badger's Decal Softening Solution and with Microsol.

    I usually let the decals dry overnight and then seal them with Dullcote.

    These are some example of some decals I have made.

    I made the stripes, numbers, and heralds on this AD&N switcher and the sign on the shop. These were actually the first ones I ever made.



    I also made the numbers for renumbering these AD&N boxcars, made the end numbers, too. I renumbered 10 of these cars.


    I made the decals for doing the "overpaint" on these AD&N woodchip hoppers. I saw an old AD&N woodhip hopper like this last year. I did five of these. This one isn't finished. I still have to blend in the edges with some weathering/drybrushing and seal it with dull coat. Sometimes you have to work on the edges a little when you are using white decal paper. You can use the base coat color of the car or the decal and drybrush the edge to blend it in.



    I had a difficult time colormatching on this car. I guess it will have to get weathered in the future.

    These are examples of my pulpwood racks that I made decals for.





    A few more.




    This is the decal kit that I bought:


    The Sure Thing Custom Decal Maker program can be ordered here:


    All usual disclaimers apply.

    I'm not a pro at this by any means and I am sure that there are others that have some more or better tips.

    Questions, feedback, comments, criticisms, suggestions, and additions are welcome.
  2. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Fantastic information Tad and a nice set of pics of your scheme to demonstrate. Its making me want to model my own road! :) Thanks for the links too.
  3. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    Nice work Tad. I tried making my decals some time ago with an old cannon ink jet printer. The paper was from micro-mark. They worked OK but not as good as yours. I now have a colour laser printer and have ordered the decal paper from micro-mark that will work with it.
    Thanks for the inspiration. Nice to see someone being successful with home made decals.
  4. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    Great work, Tad!

    Thanks for posting this.
  5. Sir_Prize

    Sir_Prize Member

    I picked up that "trial" Kit myself.
    From your work it looks like it will be just fine.

    Now to decide on what my Herald will be.... :rolleyes:
  6. Tad

    Tad Member

    Thanks, gentlemen.
  7. Tad

    Tad Member

    I finished these up today.

    A friend of mine came by the other day. He asked me how many of the pulpwood racks that I had. I told him that I had 19. The next time I saw him, he gave me one. He said it was the only one he had and it wasn't right for his layout, so he didn't run it. Now I have 20.


    A couple of Athearn bulkhead flats.



    A 33' hopper. This is the only one the AD&N had.

  8. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    When I see the fine work you have done Tad I can hardly wait for my decal paper to come.
  9. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    That's OK, the real railroads had a time of it, too. Great info, now I guess I gotta get off my duff and make my own. Hmmmm, I wonder whatta good herald for the Basic and Mostly Credible R.R. would look like.
  10. Kim Paynter

    Kim Paynter New Member

    Exellent thread Tad!!! It's post like this that make The Gauge GREAT.

  11. Tad

    Tad Member

    My latest homemade decal project.


    I did three of them.


    I made the decals using Testor's Sure Thing Decal maker, like I talked about above.


    I did these not to long back.

  12. ross31r

    ross31r Member

    well thats not fair - says solvetn based products cant be shipped outside the USA and i have been after something like this for ages!
  13. ross31r

    ross31r Member

    does anywhere in the UK sell something similar?
  14. Tad

    Tad Member


    If you are wanting the decal maker program, you can buy it without the the decal bonder by going here:


    As for the Decal Bonder, I do not know if or where it would be available in the UK.

    You could try ordering it from another online shop instead of direct. they may not have the same shipping restrictions.


    Or possibly your local hobby shop could order some.
  15. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    I noticed that the label on the can was written in both english and french. That should say something about its international availability.
  16. Chessie6459

    Chessie6459 Gauge Oldtimer

    Wow Tad, that sure does look nice. :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

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