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  #1  
Old 07-08-2007, 09:21 AM
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dr vanski dr vanski is offline
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Default Making Your Own Decals using the DrVanski Method

I started what I thought was going to be a short answer to a question on how to make decals in another thread, but ended up adding to it until I had a full blown tutorial. I thought I'd re-post that information here for anyone else interested in how to go about making their own decals.

The approach you take in making decals depends on the equipment available to you and the colour of the car you want to relivery. I'll try to show an overview of how I go about it. I have an HP Colour Laser printer, but you could use the same technique with an inkjet. I'm also going to assume that anyone reading this how-to has a working knowledge of an image editing application. I like to use Photoshop since that's what I use at work (I'm a video tape editor). I know it's not a realistic expectation for everyone to know Photoshop, but to include step-by-step what to do in Photoshop would take an even longer explanation than what I present here.

Generally, there are three types of cars that would get reliveried:
  1. silver, multicoloured, or metallic coloured cars
  2. cars of a solid colour
  3. white cars.
Silver Cars

Silver and multicoloured cars are tough to relivery unless you have an Alps printer. These printers allow you to print white as a colour on clear decal film. They use a technique called dye sublimation which deposits material onto a clear film. The advantage of this method is that it allows an opaque layer of white to be built up on clear films before other colours are applied. This technique can allow for complex fades of tranparency on the decals. There are Alps cartridges for the aforementioned white, as well as silver and gold metallics. If you don't have access to an Alps you can use off the shelf decals. The Monogram decals are a great starting point for metallic coloured cars if you live in an Alps-free zone. They have contingency sponsors available on their sheets as well as numbers and rondels. You can get these at your friendly neighbourhood SCI sponsors. Pattos in Australia offers hundreds of decal sets as well. I always shoot a few coats of Krylon clear on ready made decal sheets before applying them.

Solid Colour Cars

For a car that's a solid colour, I'll first photograph the car from different angles and make 1:1 printouts with the image partly ghosted out. I'll draw on that in pencil to get ideas.



The other thing you'll need to do is match the base colour of your printouts to the colour of your car. To do that, I printed out the Tamiya colour chart on decal paper to see how the colours reproduce.



It's a bummer to waste a sheet of paper on this, but it is a really important step. You need to know how colours will reproduce on your particular setup. It's best to do this with a sample of white decals with the white paper background. The blue papered decal paper won't help you calibrate your colours as everything will have a blue cast (from the backing paper - decals printed on blue backed decal film are fine). When you make printouts onto decal paper, tell your printer that you're printing transparencies. This setting in my printer's control panel seems to work best for me.

With your colour chart printout in hand, compare the colour on the chips to the colour of your car. Then use the colour picker in Photoshop to choose the colour closest to that of your car. The McLaren was a combo of Orange and Camel Yellow. You can use the transparent layer function in Photoshop to blend colours and print test shots on plain paper.

Once I've done my sketches and matched the base colour of the car I'll load the car images as a background in Photoshop and start pushing pixels.


Photoshop lets you turn layers on and off. I turn the background layer off when I'm ready to print and add my base colour as a background. I might also spend some time to rearrange all the decals in such a way as to more efficiently use each sheet of decal paper.



When you're working with paint or decals and ready to apply them, make sure your hands, work area and tools are really clean and free from oils.

Once I print the decals out, I spray the output with a layer of Krylon clear which is available at art supply stores. I'll let it dry for about fifteen minutes and apply another coat. I usually do 3 thin coats of the stuff applying each before the previous is totall dry. I like to get the acrylic soaking into the laser decal media and paper. The ink on the decal paper is really fragile, so anything I can do to bind it better is good. I've also had good results with Tamiya clear and Testors decal sealant.

I let my final coat of clear dry for an hour or so. When cutting the decals apart, cut with the blade of the scissor that you can see on the outside of each graphic being cut out. This will keep the pigment at the edge of the decal from flaking.

Once the decals are cut out, I dip them in water for 30 seconds (less for smaller decals), then set them on a paper towel to soak up excess water. While that's happening, I dab the area of the car about to receive a decal with Decal-Set. This helps the decal wrap around curved surfaces. By now the decal will have separated from the backing paper. I'll position the decal carefully with either tongs, a paintbrush or my finger, slide the backing paper out, and blot up any excess water. Once the decals dry I'll dab some Decal-Sol on to help them suck down into panel seams.









Once the car has dried I'll clean up any water stains and fingerprints and then brush on a three coats of Future acrylic floor polish with a sponge brush. This is done with the body off the chassis. I'll dab any accumulations of polish along the rocker panels. Future dries in about 15 minutes.

Here's another example of a car that has a solid colour paint scheme. You can see how I had to match the body colour with the printed background on white decal film.





Notice how the graphics are printed on the same colour as the area of the car they are going to be applied to.







The white lines are invisible when viewing the car on the track. It's interesting how photography exaggerates the smallest flaws. Decal Set helped Fernao's name settle down on that complex curve around the driver compartment. Decal Sol helped any bubbles lie flat.



White Cars

White cars are the easiest to do custom liveries for since the white of the decal paper matches a pure white car quite well. I'll often print a test shot on plain paper and cut the graphics out to see how they fit on the actual model they are destined for.



I had to shrink the size of the Martini logos, the roof #5, as well as paint in the holes and kill switch markings in the hood stripes for the final version of the Montini's decals. I used a scan of a couple of Pattos Martini Porsche liveries to stitch the Martini Monte Carlo livery together.



Some alternate liveries for my McLaren above on that sheet as well. I try to fill each printout so I don't waste any decal paper as it's a little pricey at $4 a sheet for the Bare Metal Foil stuff. Once I'm ready to apply the decals, I cut them all out and gather everything I'm going to need to apply them.



Check out the Future-istic shine on the Montini:



The the pigment on the area around the hood pins on the Montini kept flaking off the decal paper. Rather than pull off the decal, I just laid another exactly over top the first. The colours get really saturated when you do this. The third layer of decal finally held fast.

The most important thing about this whole process is patience - especially when applying your home made decals. Since you're printing your own, if you mess one up when you're applying it, you can always cut another from your printout and try again.

I hope this explanation of my approach helps readers create their own custom liveries.

DV

Last edited by dr vanski; 07-08-2007 at 02:44 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-08-2007, 01:29 PM
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Default Decalomania

Van,

Great step by step! I especially like the color calibration tip.

I've used the inexpensive Testors paper (for my GPR decals no less) and found the white to be a very optimistic title for the translucency of the film. How do you find the BMF version?

To save paper, I group my graphics at the top of a "computer page", print that section out - it prints at the top of a decal page, cut it off, and save the remaining section for further printing. This is on an inkjet printer. I'm not sure if a laser printer's fuser section would cause any trouble with repeated run throughs.

JT
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  #3  
Old 07-08-2007, 02:53 PM
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Fantastic write up Van!

I think that you're one of few that don't start off in a vector based program when making decals.
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  #4  
Old 07-08-2007, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JT Previa View Post
Van,

Great step by step! I especially like the color calibration tip.

I've used the inexpensive Testors paper (for my GPR decals no less) and found the white to be a very optimistic title for the translucency of the film. How do you find the BMF version?

To save paper, I group my graphics at the top of a "computer page", print that section out - it prints at the top of a decal page, cut it off, and save the remaining section for further printing. This is on an inkjet printer. I'm not sure if a laser printer's fuser section would cause any trouble with repeated run throughs.

JT
Hi JT,

I've got to say that I really like your custom livery work - so back at ya.

I was wasting a lot of paper by printing sheets that the base colour just didn't match on. I was all set to spend big bucks on calibration hardware and software for my monitors, scanner, and printer when it dawned on me to just print the Tamiya colour chart and start from there.

As far as the opacity of the Bare Metal Foil laser decal paper, it's pretty good. You can see a bit of the base colour through the white, but on the race track nobody will notice. If it looks good at arm's length it's good enough for me. The McLaren F1 GTR was done with the BMF paper so judge for yourself.

It's not a good idea to run the paper through for multiple passes on a laser printer. The last thing you want is to contaminate the rollers with excess pigment from one of your printouts.

I'm going to try a sample pack of some bulk decal film I've seen on the web. If the opacity of the white is good, I'll probably order a larger pack.

DV
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  #5  
Old 07-08-2007, 03:37 PM
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If there are any readers out there that don't have access to a graphics program, I've used PagePlus SE with some success. More like Pagemaker than Photoshop, but it has very good font control, layering, etc.

Van, imaginative job on the Martini Monte Carlo by the way. I saw it on the Nascar proxy forum and should have mentioned it then. A fun alternative to traditional Nascar graphics.

JT

PS What are you doing using Photoshop at work (titles and stills?), aren't you mostly driving Avid software?
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  #6  
Old 07-08-2007, 04:25 PM
clockworks clockworks is offline
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I live in the UK, and most of the US products aren't available here.

What's a good UK alternative to the usual decal-sealing laquers that are recommended (Krylon and ModelMaster)?
I've just bought some NASCAR decals (from Jim Heller), and these are sealed with ModelMaster clear. I'm looking for something that's safe to use over these, before the decals are applied to the car.

I normally use Microset and Microsol - does applying extra laquer reduce the efficacy of these setting liquids?
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  #7  
Old 07-08-2007, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JT Previa View Post
PS What are you doing using Photoshop at work (titles and stills?), aren't you mostly driving Avid software?
Mostly I use an Avid on PC at work. Photoshop is used to prepare graphics for importing into the Avid or After Effects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by clockworks View Post
I live in the UK, and most of the US products aren't available here.

What's a good UK alternative to the usual decal-sealing laquers that are recommended (Krylon and ModelMaster)?
I've just bought some NASCAR decals (from Jim Heller), and these are sealed with ModelMaster clear. I'm looking for something that's safe to use over these, before the decals are applied to the car.

I normally use Microset and Microsol - does applying extra laquer reduce the efficacy of these setting liquids?
You could try using Klear which is an acrylic floor polish similar to Future. Brush on 1 or 2 thin coats with a sponge brush. It dries very flat though you have to blot up any excess around the egdes of the sheet. I did notice a bit of yellowing on the Montini decals when the Future clear coat was applied. This was probably accentuated by the white background colour of the car. Alternatively, get some Tamiya clear coat and seal your decals with that. I've tried combinations of these methods with some success before going with the Krylon clear. I'm lucky that I have art supply stores and hobby stores not far from where I live.

The Micro Set/Sol works just as well with Future and all the other sealing products as far as my experience. The decals are still very thin even when they are coated with these products. Micro Sol blows me away every time. Check out the rondels on the hood of my McLaren. I did not expect the decals to lie down into that hood as well as they did. The side rondels were took to that surface quite well aslo.

DV

Last edited by dr vanski; 07-08-2007 at 04:51 PM.
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  #8  
Old 10-17-2007, 07:53 AM
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Default A few cars later...

...I've noticed a few things that I'd share with you guys.

I've had a couple cars lately that have yellowed a bit when using Future to clear coat. It's probably not enough to bother some people, but it bugged me when I saw it. This happened with white cars. I'm sticking with Tamiya clear spray from here on in. I've had really good experiences using Tamiya paints, and their clear spray is totally compatible with all their finishes.

I recently got in a batch of BEL decal paper and the stuff is the bomb! (ask you kids: that's good!) I did my first printouts on clear film for some names to be applied to cars as well as printing up some black stripes to be used as racer's tape. The BEL decal paper worked out great!


Racer's tape on the headlights of this car, as well as the 1's in the number 161.


Racer's tape holding down the square number 21.

The BEL paper has to soak a bit longer than usual (maybe 15s) and needs a little nudge to get free from the backing paper but settled onto the models' surface great using the usual Decal Set/Sol combo.

Keep on customizing,

Van

Last edited by dr vanski; 10-17-2007 at 08:48 AM.
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  #9  
Old 10-17-2007, 08:30 AM
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Good to see this article back in the spotlight. Time it was Stuck, methinks. Thanks for all the work, Van.
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  #10  
Old 11-03-2007, 07:26 PM
jesfour jesfour is offline
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Default This is great

Doc V. This is the first I'm seeing of this thread, the tips are great and I will definitely use them going forward. Thanks for sharing this.
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  #11  
Old 11-04-2007, 04:58 AM
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Hello Jes,

I'm glad to be of help.

Van
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  #12  
Old 11-04-2007, 06:47 AM
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Van, what decal stock did you use for the CPR class stickers? These decals are on thick blue paper backing, and appear to work very well. If I liked working on computers more than I do, I would be doing this kind of work myself. I sure appreciate the development work you have put into this.
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  #13  
Old 11-09-2007, 01:06 PM
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Hi Robert,

I'm pretty sure the CPR decals were printed on Bel Decal Paper for laser printers. Prior to that I used Bare Metal Foil decal paper which also worked out well for me.

My pleasure r.e. the R&D. Sometime I just get in the zone with designing a livery, or doing up a few cars. It's pretty rewarding when they come out well. I've screwed up enough sheets of decal paper so I figured it would be good if hobbyists had a few guidelines that might prevent them from doing the same and maybe save them a few $$$ and some frustration in the process.

Van
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  #14  
Old 12-19-2007, 09:23 PM
kji kji is offline
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Default But.....

I'm looking to purchase a new printer, and was looking for a thread about printing my own decals. You know Inkjet or Laser, paper choice, etc., and I came across this thread. You'll forgive me if I overlooked it, but why do you find it necessary to print the body color "behind" your decals? Why not use clear decal paper? I've seen a lot of home made decals and have never seen that. What's your theory?
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  #15  
Old 12-19-2007, 09:46 PM
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He is printing the colour behind the image so that he can have white and other light colours such as yellow on darker coloured cars. Unless you have an ALPS or equivalent printer, you cannot print white at all, nor light opaque colours. Clear decal paper works fine if you want to print black, or on light coloured cars certain other colours. White cars are of course the easiest.
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