How to Make your own Decals


If you have followed my restoration chapter you now have a good looking model but, is there something missing?

A lot of the Dinky models and others makes are finished off with graphics. These can be anything from a simple number on the side of a racing car to something really complex such as the Dinky 107 Stripey the Magic Mini Minor where the whole car is covered.

As I mentioned in the final chapter of the restoration series, the majority of decals are available commercially and, to be honest, it is probably worthwhile using these professionally printed decals where possible.

There are times though where the decals may not be available for a particular model or you may be adapting a model as a 'code 3' (a code 3 is a model that has been adapted or repainted into another colour scheme not made by the manufacturer.).
In this situation you could possibly make your own. This can be quite easily achieved using either waterslide decal paper or just plain label paper with a sticky backing and an inkjet printer.

What you will need

First of all a computer which, if you are reading this I presume you already have.
An Inkjet or laser printer.
This will obviously have to be able to do colour printing. The majority of inkjet printers will print onto the decal papers and these can be purchased from as little as £30 but the slightly more expensive ones (£40 - £70) will probably give better printing results.
Colour laser printers are more expensive to buy but they are dropping in price all the time and can now be purchased for just over £100. The colour cartridges will last a lot longer than an inkjet cartridge but they are more expensive to replace.

If you are going out to buy a printer I would certainly advise a colour laser as the print quality is a lot better than an inkjet and the printed decals will not need sealing like the inkjet ones do.

A vector graphics software program suitable for your computer system.
In order to design your own graphics for decals you will need the software program to it. A program such as Coral Draw, Coral Paint shop Pro, Serif Draw plus (free program) or Adobe Photo shop will meet these needs.
They will take a bit of getting used to so play around with them a bit to find their different features.

Decal Paper
You will also require the paper for printing on. Which one you need depends on what type of printer you have. Laser printers use a different type of paper to the inkjet printers and you cannot interchange them so buy laser decal paper if you have a laser printer and inkjet decal paper if you have an inkjet printer.
The paper also comes in 2 choices - white and clear.
The choice of paper depends on the actual decal being printed and the colours that the graphic uses.
Clear Paper
The clear paper is used when there is no white colouring in the graphic and also when a decal is being applied to a light coloured background.
White Paper
The white decal paper is used when there is some white in the graphic and when the decal is being applied to a dark background.
A word of warning - you CANNOT print pure white decals such as white lettering with either of these papers unless you have a special printer - I will talk about this later though.

The graphics to be printed
You can either draw your graphics from scratch using the chosen software program that you installed or you can use existing graphics - either 'as they come' or adapted using your graphics program.

If you have gathered all the necessary equipment and had a play with your software you are now ready to proceed to the next chapter and have a go at making some decals. If you want to find out more about printing White or metallic (gold & silver) decals read on further down this page Click here to proceed Making Your First Decal

Printing White graphics
As I mentioned previously, you cannot make pure white decals such as white lettering on either an inkjet or laser printer.
This is because of the way the printers work.
Both these types of printer work by laying down small particles of coloured ink. These inks are in colours of Magenta, Yellow, Blue and Black . The majority of inkjet printers use 2 ink cartridges - a colour one and a black one. (an exception to this is the more expensive Canon printers that actually use 4 or 6 separate colour cartridges but this is irrelevant really). Laser printers work the same way but usually have a separate cartridge for each of the 4 colours.
The colours that you print onto a page are made up of varying degrees of these coloured inks to get the colour required.
As normal printer paper is white there is no need to have a 'white' ink - the printer simply does not print anything and leaves the paper in its original form to show the white paper.
Expanding this to decal paper - especially the clear paper - when you print onto its surface you are printing onto a very thin clear film. (The white that you see on the paper is the backing paper) so, any parts of your graphic that are white on screen will not be printed by your printer so when you remove the white backing paper you will see through the clear sections that should be white.

In order to be able to print pure white lettering a different type of printer is used - these are manufactured by a company called ALPS which I believe has now been taken over and are being sold as OKI brand.
These printers are called a dye sublimation printer and work like the old dot matrix printers but use an ink cartridge.
These cartridges are available in various colours including white, gold and silver.
The problem is that they are quite difficult to get hold of as they are made in America and they are expensive - the cheapest being in the £300 - £400 price range - well out of the average modellers price range unless you will be printing an awful lot of decals.

The ALPS printers are also quite difficult to use and usually involve feeding the decal paper through the printer to print each separate colour - changing the ink cartridge each time. This can be very time consuming if printing off decals with a lot of different colours in them.

Now that you are aware of what you can and can't print out lets proceed to having a go - click here to continue