(From the Editor)

I use decals when I want a front-panel of my project to look as if it were commercially produced (ie. sharp!). Probably the simplest example of a "decal" is the sticky colored tape into which letters are pressed by the familiar selection device. That tape then is attached to the device to, perhaps, mark the meaning of a switch or which state does what. Using the information in the following articles should allow you to handle almost any type of situation. But YMMV :-)


(From Kristina Veirs)

Toner Transfer System by DynaArt Designs is a wet method for transferring laser prints for making printed circuit boards. I've used it for this purpose and the results were only so-so. The maker claims it can also be used for decals and faceplates. Although I've never used it for that purpose I think it would probably make good decals.

This material can be obtained from All Electronics, (818) 904-0524.

(From Anthony Tiscareno)

That is until I was able to get distributor come out and give a demo on "K-SUN"'s "Letter Quick" Electronic Lettering and Labeling System. It is designed around a standard QWERTY keyboard and uses a variety of cartridges to make 1/2" labels. After the demo 3 other departments also bought and we all figured that after about 4 months they paid for them- selves. The distributor I use is:

American Draftsource
1152 Marina Blvd.
San Leandro, CA 94577
(510) 352-8688

they should be able to direct you to a local distributor.

(From Ron Thompson)

3m Company makes a very nice product. It comes in two kinds, vinyl and aluminum and a variety of colors. We use the aluminum, usually black or blue background with alum. lettering. It is self-adhesive and after exposure to UV light (with artwork) gets a water based developer and is ready to use in minutes.For artwork we use clear mylar in the laser printer. Make a paper print first with hole punching marks, tape it on the front panel, punch holes, remove paper and stick on 3M material, then take an Exacto knife and trim the thin 3M stuff and cut out holes. There is an optional thin lexan material that can be applied to give more durability.

3M Dynamakrk II
3M Specialty Marking Systems Project
St. Paul, MN 55144-1000, USA

(From GaryM CVG)

Needed: Laser Printer, Scotch Magic Tape or equivalent:

  1. Generate text on Word Processor.
  2. Print text on regular paper.
  3. Apply strip of Magic tape directly over text on paper.
  4. Re-insert paper in laser printer to be over-printed.
  5. Print text again. This will put the text on top of the tape just applied.
  6. Carefully apply another strip of tape on the text area again. Be precise.
  7. Remove the top layer of tape just applied.
  8. Apply to front panel of equipment.
  9. Trim

The above procedure works. I use it all the time. What you get is a label with your choice of font and it's protected by the fact that the toner is on the "sticky" side of the tape.

Making [model] Decals

(From Matthew C. Sargent)

I Just read an article in Nuts & Volts (Don Lancaster's column, Sept '94) where he describes a special kind of paper that has a high temperature water soluble glue on it. You can print on it then spray three coats of clear lacquer over the toner. Let it dry, soak it in water and slide off the image like a regular decal. The source for this stuff is DynaArt Designs. 3535 Stillmeadow La., Lancaster CA 93536 (805)943-4746. I am going to order some of this stuff and see how it works. I will let you know as soon as I try it out.

(From Pete Foss)

I have made decals by printing with a color printer on transparency film. If you print the decal backwards you can put it on with 3M77 with the film on the outside and the ink on the inside. Major drawback: printing on clear film you have to either put it down over white or paint the back side of the decal with white paint (I haven't tried that yet).

(From Richard J. Bono)

I've had good luck with 'small' labels and my laser printer. What I did was purchase some "Avery laser printer labels", and run them through my laser printer. They work fine, seem to be 'sport' fuel proof (I use 10% nitro). They are available in different sizes. The surface of the labels is a matte finish (not glossy). I haven't tried spraying any kind of clear coat over them yet.

I know that there are some sources of this material in 8x10 inch sizes. That should allow you to make just about any decal that you want.

I forgot to mention that these are self-adhesive labels. Just peel and stick. I put my name, address, telephone and AMA number on them and use them to ID my models, transmitters, etc.

My first test with one of these was to place it on two models. One label was placed adjacent to my fuel fill valve (sure to get a lot of raw fuel on it). The other was placed in a location that was sure to get sprayed by the engine exhaust.

Both labels are still on my aircraft an show no problems (yet).

(From Steven Brooks) (of Tulsa Modelers Forum)

Well, I finally got the decals made. I thought I'd let everyone in on my experiences.

I read about making decals with clear decal paper and copiers. So, I decided to try it with my laser printer. What really got me started is the release of a font for the Air Force in True Type format. This font is also available for you Mac users. While looking for all the stuff to make this project successful, I found that Walthers make a copier/laser safe decal paper, so I ordered some.

I had a weekend project in progress so this would become the test site for home made decals. This kit is the Star Wars AT-AT. I thought it would look better with some decals.

The first step is to decide on what you want to print. I us MS Publisher to print the decals. I set up one page with five guide lines from left to right and six from top to bottom. This allows me to make multiple passes on one sheet of decal paper by working in one grid at a time and not waste the decal paper. I work from the bottom grids to the top grids. This allows the paper to move through the printer without worrying about the set up. Next put your graphics in an unused grid and print on plain paper. Check for size and position on the decal paper. When it's right print onto the decal paper. If your printer has a flat path use that method, I do.

The second step is to apply the decals to the model. I cut the decals out as close to the graphic as possible, dipped in water and set on the bench to soak. The kit had been prepared with a gloss coat of gull gray but and clear coat should work. The area for the decal was wetted with water and the decal applied. When in position, the decal was blotted down. I tried Micro set with good results and Solvoset with better results. There was no major wrinkles, the ink did not run, and dried smooth.

The final step is the clear overcoat. I used future for the first coat. The coverage was not even. It seems that the ink repelled the future and left a blotchy appearance. I next tried Testors Dulcoat. The results were better but still not perfect. I expect the second coat will take care of the problem.

Walthers decal paper comes in two sizes, 8.5x11 ($6.38) and 5x8 ($3.18) each package has four sheets.

I used a LaserJet 4p to print my decals so test your own decals first.


(From Mark Champion)

Check into Scotchcal from 3M. You do it all by exposing UV sensitive film with some kind of light (sunlamps, fluorescent, or UV). Then, you develop with the Scotchcal chemical and the result is a clear stick-on label. You can also get aluminum finish or colors. Looks very professional.

I switched from rub-ons to Scotchcal about 12 years ago.

(From Michael Covington)

AVERY CLEAR LASER LABELS. They look great and are available at any office supply store. About $40 for a lifetime supply (unfortunately the minimum purchase is a whole box).

(From Peter Sawatzky)

This may not be exactly what you're after, but I just ran across something in the "Gizmo News" section of Popular Electronics (Oct. 94, p67). Brother (the makers of the labeling systems that you can pick up for around $100 at Radio Shack, etc.) has just come up with the "P-Touch PC Labeling System" at $499. I haven't read the whole piece, but it looks like you can print up just about any label you can imagine, based on the examples they show. BTW the article also says the street price is around $250.

Brother International Corp.
200 Cottontail Lane
Somerset, NJ 08875-6714
Tel: 908-356-8880

(From David Stark)

Our organization has a commercially available label maker which would do what you're requiring: allow composition of the label on a PC, and then print out on the label maker a permanent label on special stock material. You can call me at (214) 995-6435 (Dallas, Tx) or send me an E-mail note for more information.

(From Rick Chinn)

You have several option:


(From Megan Halstead)

Check out GM Nameplate in Seattle WA, if you are interested in large, high- quality runs. They do that sort of thing for Hewlett-Packard, Fluke, & Many others.

GM Nameplate Inc
2040 15th W
Seattle WA 98119
Tel: (206) 284-2200

(From Ron Thompson)

The 3M company makes two kinds of material. The one we use most of the time is thin aluminum with a photosensitive coating that comes in several colors. The other is vinyl with several colors combinations. They are both self adhesive and get a UV exposure followed by a very pour on, wipe off developing. To make them more scratch resistant there is a thin lexan sheet that can be applied on top. The product name is Dynamark. We get it through a local art supply store.

(From Mark Forbes)

My favorite sources are these:

I don't have my file handy, so you'll have to call information for the numbers. San Jose is (408), Fremont is (510) and Seattle is (206).

Applying Decals

(From Bill Zuk)

Decals will usually come with model kits but you can purchase additional decals to make your model more realistic. Some decals are stick-on but most of them are water-slide decals which have to be attached with the following method:

  1. To apply a decal, the surface must have a smooth, glossy finished or painted surface. Spray or paint a gloss finish (a fast and easy method is to use acrylic floor wax) over the entire model to avoid uneven patches when a final gloss or flat finish is added later. Allow paint to dry thoroughly.

  2. For best results, decals should be applied so that they can dry horizontally; using a jig will allow the model to lie on its side.

  3. Cut each decal from the sheet as needed. Cut clear film away from design. Decals should be trimmed out as close to the printed area as possible or a section of clear border will be visible around the edge. Use decal setting agent which allows the decal to flow evenly over the model's surface to insure good results.Using tweezers, dip decal completely into water for about 10 seconds then remove and allow the decal adhesive to soften. About one minute should be sufficient.

  4. While adhesive is softening, use a soft, medium size brush, and wet the area where the decal is to be applied with a few drops of setting agent which helps eliminate tiny air bubbles.

  5. Holding the decal paper with tweezers, use the brush to slide the loosened decal onto the model.

  6. A decal setting solution can be applied to the decal and set the model aside for drying. After the decals have dried for several hours, carefully wipe the residue decal adhesive from the entire model using a damp, soft cloth.

  7. After the decals have dried for at least 24 hours, complete the model by spraying with either a flat or gloss paint depending upon the sheen of the finished project.

(From Anders Svennevik)

I disagree with #3 above: The clear film helps to keep the decal down, as it is thinner towards the edges. It also makes the decal less visible as you have a gradual transition (in thickness) from the edge to the decal design itself. Trimming decals increases the risk of them curling at the edges and makes them stand out more.

Also, I would add step 5.5: Use tissue paper, sponge or whatever is you favourite medium to:

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