I Hate Decals.

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by Cannonball, Feb 21, 2007.

  1. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I've been trying to make decals for some rolling stock I am converting to N&W. Well, making them hasn't really been a problem. However, applying them has been one big pain in the nether regions of my anatomy. As soon as I try to slide one off the backing, it wrinkles. If I manage to keep it smooth, it gets stuck to everything but the rolling stock and then it ends up wrinkled. I have yet to get one to actually stick to one of the cars I've repainted. In all likelyhood if I did manage to get one to stick, it would probably be crooked and look like my 4 year old daughter colored it on.

    How does anybody make these things work??? :curse:
  2. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    UGH...decals cant live with um,cant live with out um.LOL.but seriusly,what kind of paint are you using on your cars?is the surface dirty or screwed up somehow?ther are so many different factors its hard to tell without specifics.--josh
  3. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I'm using satin black Krylon Fusion paint for plastics. It shouldn't be dirty since I just painted them the night before I tried to do the decals. Surface is nice and flat.

    My biggest problem is just keeping the darn things from wrinkling when I slide them off the backing. It's like trying to hold onto liquid Jell-o. I'm about ready to just make stickers and live with it.
  4. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    And don't forget to turn the fan offsign1

    I know when I do decals this is almost always A reason that I screw up, the stupid fan is usally on and you can use your imagination on what happens after that :cry: :curse: :oops: :rolleyes: sign1 I HATE FANSsign1
  5. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    I've had good luck with my decaling so far. With Testors decals. what I do is this: I put the decal in the water for about 10 seconds, then set it on a paper towel for about 60 seconds more. (other brands may suggest different times then I offer here.) Then I take a straight pin, or the point of an exacto blade, and gently slide the decal just a tad, just enough so it leaves a tiny bit of paper without the decal film covering it. Grab that tiny piece of paper with tweezers and lift the decal/paper up.

    Now, put some water on the spot where the decal goes, or you could use some microscale micro-set. I've found the water works just fine. Still using the tweezers, set the edge of the decal about where it goes, then use the pin or blade point to hold the decal down to the surface while pulling the paper out from under it with the tweezers. Now the decal can be moved around a little to position it. A paper towel point can be used to soak up extra water around the edges, just don't touch the decal.

    Let it dry a bit. Then If you see any air bubbles under the decal, poke them with the pinpoint. Also, if the decal is going over rivets or uneven surfaces like door edges or whatever, you can poke that area with the pin also. Use microscale micro-sol to coat the decal and the edges. The itty bitty holes will allow the micro-sol to get under the decal in those spots and will make it snuggle down and conform to the surface irregularities. Let that dry.

    If one coat of micro-sol doesn't get it all snuggled down, or if there are still air bubbles, use the pin to poke more holes and put another coat of micro-sol on. Now, one warning, once the micro-sol goes on, do not try to move the decal, do not disturb it, because it will be very soft and will get messed up.

    Once it is all down and dried for a day, use some dullcoat over it, this will help hide the edges.

    Hope this helps. Although I am still fairly new, and haven't done a ton of decals, this technique has worked great for me.
  6. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Thanks, Gary. :)
  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I never used to like decalling, and have always preferred dry transfers. Necessity, however, has forced me to learn how to apply decals. Following the manufacturers suggestions is always a good idea. I use distilled water, available in most grocery stores, and generally follow that same procedure as Gary. Most decals are impossible to soak too long: sometimes I dip them, then let them sit on a sheet of glass, other times I just toss 'em in the water and leave them until the backing paper drops away. Once they come off the backing paper, I use tweezers to pick them up, then dip them in the water a couple of times to rinse off any excess residue, wiping them on the edge of the container between dips. I put a puddle of Micro Set onto the model, then plop the decal into place. After letting it sit for a few seconds, I use a clean hanky to blot most of the water and Micro Set from the area, slide the decal into its proper place, and blot again. After the entire car side has been decalled, I apply Walthers' Solvaset to all lettering, then set the car aside to dry. I'm working on a dozen cars right now, mostly rebuilt boxcars and reefers, so there's plenty to do while the Solvaset dries. When both sides of the car have been done in this manner, I go over the car using a jewellers loupe, looking for air bubbles or other flaws. A new X-Acto blade is used to slit these, or anywhere that raised details prevent the decal from seating properly. On "wood" cars, the decals are slit anywhere that they span a seam between "boards", then everything gets another application of Solvaset. Repeat this process until you're satisfied with the results.
    I honestly wasn't sure that these methods would work until I had tried them, but I'm quite pleased with the results. I've even started to use dry transfers on blank decal paper, for those difficult-to-get-at areas, like around grabirons or exterior bracing. Here are a couple of examples.



  8. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Wow. Great pics, Doc!
    I am going to give it one more shot and see how it goes.
    I honestly haven't even made it to the point of getting the decal on the d**** boxcar yet.
    Every time I get close, it wrinkles and sticks to it's self.

    If this next try doesn't work, I'm making stickers.
    I know they will look obvious but at least I won't give myself an ulcer over something that I'm supposed to be having fun with. ;)
  9. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    If the decal folds over on itself, try having more water laying on the spot where you're trying to place the decal. Many people like to slide the decal from the backing paper directly onto the model, which can be particularily useful for large decals. If I need to use this technique, I try to ensure that as little residue as possible remains on either the decal or the backing paper, as it's just more gunk that gets transferred onto the model. Often, if a decal flops over and sticks to itself, it's difficult to even know which side should be up! Unless it's a particularily fragile decal, the easiest way to unravel all the folds and wrinkles (Ew!! Sounds like an old guy havin' a bath!! :oops: ) is to place the decal on water, either on a sheet of glass, or in a saucer or glass. The water will prevent it from sticking to itself, and you can use tweezers to carefully separate the overlaps. And don't be afraid to keep adding water onto the model, in order to keep the surface wet: this will help to keep the decal from sticking, either to itself or to the wrong place on the car or locomotive that you're trying to letter. If you successfully get the decal where you want it, then it moves when you blot out the excess water, add more water before trying to reposition it; otherwise you may tear the decal.
    Hope you have better luck with your next attempt.

  10. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Try spraying a gloss coat onto the car before you apply the decal. Decals stick much better to a glossy surface than a flat surface. If you want a satin surface, spray the whole thing with Testors Dullcote after the decals have dried.
  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Good point, Dave. I assumed that the car had been sprayed with a gloss finish, but when I went back and re-read the original post, I see it's a satin finish. :oops: This is better than flat, but a bit more gloss would help. I prefer a semi-gloss finish for decalling: I just mix Dulcote and Gloscote about 50/50. Another thing that could be causing problems is that the paint is not fully cured. Floquil paint, which is what I usually use, is dry to the touch almost before you've finished painting. However, there are solvents coming off the surface for several days after that. Try placing a drop of lacquer thinner on a dry decal, and you'll see that the two are not compatible. Most decal manufacturers recommend that there be no noticeable paint odour coming from the item to be decalled. I usually try to wait a few days after painting before beginning on the lettering.

  12. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Lots of good advice here. You really can't soak a decal too long... the longer the better, IMHO. If you're using a setting solution, the adhesive is really redundant.

    I think your problem may be as the Doc pointed out, your surface isn't smooth enough, and you don't have enough water on it. Really what you want to do is either drop the decal straight onto the surface, or float it off the backing paper onto your model (I find fine-pointed tweezers or a sharp #11 Xacto blade good for this).

    Between the tweezers, the knife, and a couple of soft paint brushes (depending on the decal, I use fine-point or broad flat brushes) get it into position. Then wick away all the excess water with a paper towel, being careful not to disturb the decal. Once it's down you can apply your setting solution... just be sure not to touch the decal once you've applied it! Nothing so frustrating as smearing/stretching/tearing a decal you've just laboured to get in the right spot!
  13. jesso

    jesso Member

    I can't give much advice since my first decal experience was on Monday, but I can tell you the thing that saved me on several of the decals was having two toothpicks, If the decal folded over, I was able to use the toothpicks to get it unfolded. I was told the decals are less likely to rip against the wood versus the metal of the tweezers. Other than that, I soaked the decals, brushed on decal set on the model where the decal went, and more often than not, I was able to slide the decal around until I got it in place. The I would take the corner of a napkin and just lightly touch it to the decal and the liquid would pull up into the napkin. However, the greatest advice I was given and can give is this, EXTREME PATIENCE.
  14. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    OK.... here's another thing.
    Nobody told me until this thread that I needed setting solutions.
    I've always thought decals were supposed to be sticky on the back already. :confused:

    Still though, you are all assuming that I'm actually getting the decal anywhere near the boxcar before it wrinkles. This isn't the case. I haven't even applied the decals yet. I'm still trying to get them from the water to the boxcar. Although, stupid me, I have also been taking the entire decal off the backing and trying to move it with my fat fingers.

    This thread has been very informative.
  15. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    You could try 1 of 2 approaches: i) leave the decal on the backing paper and transfer it to the model soaking wet, then slide it off onto the model; or ii) soak it until it floats free of the backing, and then use a soft brush to transfer it from the water to the model.

    Given the trouble you're having, I'd suggest the 1st method. It works well for large, or odd-shaped decals.
  16. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    If you're usng Testor's decal paper the instructions don't mention using a setting solution.
    Mine stick just with a water soaking. These setting solutions work great on decals like Microscale though and really get the decal to fit into every little nook and cranny so it looks painted on.

    Yep, fingers won't do it. Use tweezers to put the decal in water and take it out. Other folks have mentioned various tools they use to apply it to the model. I've used the pin method sucessfully (most of the time!). When I printed up my custom decal sheets I made extras because I KNEW there'd be times I'd mis-apply a decal and get it badly folded up.
    Keep trying! You'll be happy when that first box car has the new road name!
  17. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Apologies to Cannonball for going slightly off topic, but the above spurred a question. I've just finished painting (airbrush) a wood caboose model I am building, and the finish is not glossy. Does this type of material / finish present decaling problems?
  18. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Good question.
    I've been thinking about getting an airbrush at some point so I'd like to hear the answer for this one as well.

    And thanks to everybody that's contributed so far.
    Y'all deserve a gold star on your report cards. :)
  19. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Is it a model of a wooden caboose, or a caboose model made of wood? :D

    It's the surface texture that's important, not the substance. So if you've used wood, you want it to be a) as smooth as possible; b) sealed for painting; c) finished with either a gloss paint or a flat paint covered in a gloss coat.

    The smoother the surface, the better adhesion you get with the decal. Once all the decals are down, shoot it with a clear flat coat, and it'll blend the edge of the decal into the finish, and give you the flat finish you're looking for.

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