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Decals 101

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Fine Clonier [MOD]

Joined: 05 Feb 2005
Location: In the Lab, Texas

PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2005 11:45 am    Post subject: Decals 101 Reply with quote

This is a cut and paste document, so please excuse the flow, but all the information is in there. Please refrain from posting in this thread unless it is a HOW TO Technique and you have done it quite a bit. If you have questions please start a new thread: Decals 101 - Questions

What do you need to know?

Ok, the easy question is to hang out or read the forum on FBTB or my forums: Minifig Customization Network

So summarize the high points of these two great resources I have cut and pastes parts of different threads below, if it doesn't follow exactly this is why.

To remove the current design from your figure you need a micro abrasive: Brasso, which is carried at most major walmart type stores.

I try not to use paint unless there is no other way, then the airbrush is king, however a cheap and nice alternative is Sharpie brand markers, but both Testors and Citadel paints work well and is seems to be completely personal preference between them. I use water slide decals that I print out with a specialized printer, however you can do the same thing with your inkjet. My printer prints in white, silver, and gold ink so it is a bit different. The only place that I know of to get waterslide paper, Decal Paper, is either a hobby store or online. I recommend http://www.tangopapadecals.com/page2.html If you don't need much get a sample pack, or you can try www.micromark.com and they have a sample pack as well.

Either you use a special printer like mine or you use white decal film. Yes they make it in white, but this requires you to print the torso color in the background areas and reguires really close color matches. check here for color matches: Color Guide These are close but not always exact for all printers and requires a bit of playing with the values.

Here is a minifig template in jpg format:

Creation and application of waterslide decals

Jared "Kaminoan" Burks

There are two types of graphics programs, raster and vector. Raster pictures are made of of tiny squares of color. Gif and Jpg the two main graphic formats of the web are raster image formats. When you zoom in, these images become blocky and pixilated. Vector formats are all mathematical. EPS, to some extent PNG and native formats like AI (Adobe Illustrator) or CDR (Corel Draw) are vector formats. When you zoom in on these, they stay sharp and clean because the same math applies at whatever the magnification. Vector graphics are used in illustration and design (Commercial Artwork), most home users, doing simple web graphics, drawing pictures, or photo editing don't have a need for them. However for the best results it is important that you create your designs in a vector art program. An option you might consider is trial version of the aforementioned programs, or Paint Shop Pro.

After selection of your art program and familiarization with that program you can begin creating designs with templates for the torso and legs found here: Minifig Blank: http://www.brickshelf.com/gallery/Kaminoan/SW-Minifig-Labels/minifig_blank.jpg

When creating art for use in the creation of decals it is important to remember the limitation of your printer. Most printers have difficulty in printing a line with a weight of less than 0.3 points (Line weight refers to line thickness). The point size I commonly use in 0.5-0.7. If I need a highlight or a really fine fold or something then I will go down to 0.4 and rarely to 0.3. I do this for several reasons: 1, I draw designs for the FBTB group and want them to have good results when printing (Various printer/color copier types); 2, I convert to jpg format (a lower resolution format for compression into a smaller file size for easy up and download from the net), this means I lose some details, and thus my details need to be bigger; and 3, I try to stay in a similar design scheme as the Lego artist.

Draw and color your design as you would like, remember you can use Legoís color palette for their brick colors, which can be found:

Official Lego Brick Color Values (Found on Lugnut)

And an independent assessment of the Lego palette can be found here:

Britdog Models' Lego Brick Color Values (Goggle Search)

How you color your design depends on the media that you are going to print. Options include waterslide decal paper, overhead transparencies, clear self-adhesive stickers, and paper. If you are printing on a clear media keep in mind that the torso color is going to show through and contribute to you design.

Before printing on any expensive media always print a test page. Print your designs out on a piece of scrap material or paper. Confirm your color choices, colors on your screen will not match exactly to printed colors. Confirm your details, you have been working on something very small and in a vector based program you can draw detail much too fine to print.

My specialty is waterslide decals; therefore I am going to discuss this technique. I print using a very specialized micro-dry printer; however, as most people have access to inkjet printers or color copies (Kinkoís, etc.) I am going to give instruction on creation of decals using these types of devices. You will need to purchase waterslide label paper from some vender; I use Micromark (www.micromark.com). If using an inkjet printer you need to order media specific for that device, however if you are printing your designs on a color copier, you will need waterslide paper for a laser printer. Print your designs out with the highest resolution possible for your printer (just like you did when performing your test print). Once printed be very careful not to handle the sheet of decals until the ink dries. After you have printed using an inkjet or color copier, you must overcoat the decals with clear spray paint, available at any home improvement store. Apply several thin coats and allow them to dry between applications. This will protect the ink from the water used in the decals application, even if you have waterproof ink in your inkjet printer, this is critical. Once printed cut the decals from the page and follow the manufactures instructions for application of your decals.

There are chemical kits that aid in the application of these types of decals. These kits help make the decal disappear when applied properly, thus making the design appear painted on rather than decal applied. They can be found at many hobby stores, I purchased mine from Micromark (www.micromark.com), however kit components can be found at Internet Trains (www.internettrains.com/bamopa.html). Follow the instructions that accompany the decal application kit for their use and check Fred Listís and Jim Bakerís sites for tricks with these kits.

Check the instruction sections on my website: www.fineclonier.com or RB website. I have found using a q-tip instead of a paint brush works better. I have step by step picture instructions on the site.

As for chemicals this is actually pretty accurate: http://www.ares-server.com/Ares/Ares.asp?MerchantID=RET01229&Action=Catalog&Type=Product&ID=82400 You can get a nice application without them (The q-tip really helps), and if you are only making one or two customs, I would skip them. If you are planing on making this a hobby, I would get the decal setting, decal softening, and satin from this kit. They can all be ordered independently. I have yet to use up my first kit.

However you only really need them when applying decals to Legs or arms. The torso and head it doesn't make that big a difference. I do recommend strongly the use of a clear sealent over the top of the decal. Clear gloss hobby paint works well.

Here is a part of Red Bean's site where he compares old fashion stickers to waterslide: http://redbeanstudio.net/decal.htm

However on re-reading this thread, I don't think that the author is looking for overcoat solutions, I think you need decal setting and decal softening solutions. Check this out: http://www.ares-server.com/Ares/Ares.asp?MerchantID=RET01229&Action=Catalog&Type=Product&ID=82400

These are the solutions used to make a decal look painted on instead of applied. However some of the same results are obtainable with good application technique. If you use a q-tip when applying decals that is moist (Not soaking wet) and roll over the top of the decal to remove all bubbles and the excess water, very nice results can be achieved. Now this will not work in all cases, for example R2 domes or Clone Helmets. These complex curves require the softening solution to really look nice. Oh and using the setting solution really reduces decal damaged when the decals are applied to the legs.

Any other questions?

As for overcoats there are many more including nail polish (yellows in sunlight, don't recommend), Future's floor wax (sworn by many model makers for protecting decals), Spray paint (messy), Airbrush (slightly better than spray paint), then liquid overcoats (I like Badger and apply in a similar manner to what Recluse Mage suggests, only I find a hair drier helps the process, helps give a smoother finish and removes any air bubbles that occur. The only draw back is you have to have any excess overcoat removed before you hit it with the hair drier.)

All the pricing and everything was in the link I provided, here it is again: http://www.ares-server.com/Ares/Ares.asp?MerchantID=RET01229&Action=Catalog&Type=Product&ID=82400

Well the set of 6 solutions in the kit is $15.40 + Shipping

All I actually use from the kit is:
Decal Setting Solution $2.40
Decal Softening Solution $2.40
Clear Satin $3.10 (I prefer it to the gloss)

$7.90 Total + Shipping (From Micromark there are other vendors and the price is always about the same. They can't ship this out of the US so if you are elsewhere in the world you will have to find a domestic vendor.)

I bought the kit and I have yet to use the whole thing and trust me, I have made a ton of figures.

Original Post: http://pub227.ezboard.com/fthefbtbcommunityfrm21.showMessage?topicID=89.topic

As far as sculpting I would refer you to Robert Tothiro Martin or Red Bean at MCN they are the best I have seen. To summarize the high points Super Sculpey III works well. Boil or hair drier it don't bake. It can be found at most hobby stores or even Walmart. For more information visit RB's site: http://www.redbeanstudio.net/





Decal sizes:

1.422 cm Wide
1.201 cm Tall

1.4 cm Wide
1.1 cm Tall

1.4 cm Wide
0.2 cm Tall


To remove the current design from your figure you need a micro abrasive: Brasso, which is carried at most major walmart type stores (Walmart, Target, Grocery stores, etc.).

Paper Towel

Step 1 - Put brass on paper towel.
Step 2 - rub minifig part vigorously against brass-ed paper towel. Apply more brasso if necessary.
Step 3 - Once original print is removed, was piece in soapy water and dry.

Jared "Kaminoan" Burks
Kaminoan's Fine Clonier Decals
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