Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Making your own decals

One of the guys on the DZC Forum asked me to give some pointers on how I put together the bespoke decals that I have been plastering all of my UCM miniatures with so I said I would put together a tutorial to point the way and here it is...

 A good paint job can really bring a miniature to life, especially if they are exceptionally well cast. We are lucky that the guys at Hawk War-games, the luminaries responsible for Dropzone Commander use the best tech available and continually roll off the production line paradigms of an ideal sculpt for painting!

One other thing that can really allow a miniature to pop though is the application of good decals. Sadly the resources for decals are not quite what we would wish them to be for the Science Fiction market place, let alone decals that are dedicated to Dropzone Commander.

Mountains of research needs to be done to find resources that can provide decals that meet as many of your requirements as possible... and even then you may need to go the extra mile and produce some of your own.

Here is how to go about doing it!

1. It obviously stands to reason that if you don't want to commission a company to make decals for you, you will need to print off your own at home so there are a couple of things that you need to know.

There are two types of Waterslide Decal Paper available currently; White and Clear. Ink Jet printers do not print White and Yellow is touch and go so you need to be careful about what you choose to print on.

If you have any icons that have white contained in them then you will need to put them onto White transfer paper BUT the whole page is white so when you want to soak them in water you will have to cut them from the rest of the sheet following the decal border exactly. If you have no white on the decal then you can put them onto the Clear decal sheet and there is no need to be quite so rigorous on the decal edge cutting depending on where you cut it.

2. I was specifically asked about how I was reproducing the UCM logo on the decals so I thought I would use it as the example which we follow.

The Game deck has a great UCM logo on the back and it was this that I scanned and imported into Illustrator. Anybody that knows me also knows that I have a real hard on for the French Indochina War (or the First Vietnam War) as well and there are no decals available anywhere to represent this period so I decided to compile a couple of sheets of decals that would give me a bank of Indochina decals along with the limited amount of UCM decals I would need.

3. I collected together a load of images for the things I would need such as the Red Hazard triangles that you commonly see under cockpits, Aircraft Nose Art and the UCM icon at three different sizes as well.

Once these were all scaled properly, with the largest UCM logo being 8mm and the smallest being 2mm I went for a print off.

4. Unfortunately as you can see from the image above, the black on the printout didn't cure properly, although I suspect that this is because I use an Inkjet Printer and not a Laser Jet. I didn't want to waste the paper or the ink on a third attempt however so I decided to use what I had as a paint template on the actual miniature itself. This would inevitably not be as crisp as the detail on a decal but it would have to do.

5. Ink Jets being what they are, are not water resistant so once the decal sheet is printed off it needs to have a layer of a flexible gloss varnish put onto it to protect it from the water soaking. I use Liquitex which is recommended by many people that make their own decals.

This varnish scared the hell out of me when I very first used it on a miniature because it has a milky consistency... until it dries crystal clear! LOL

6. Home produced decal sheets are a lot thicker than commercially produced decals which means they stand out from the model noticeably and the smaller the scale the prominent this becomes, as well as being less pliable in relation to the surface architecture of the model. 

Under normal circumstances this could result in decals which are ugly and which will most likely lift from the model at some point in the future. There is however, a solution.

Microscale Industries produce Micro Set for decal application onto flat surfaces and Micro Sol for applying decals to uneven surfaces. 

Let me just say for the record These solutions are amazing!

Firstly you place a layer of Micro Sol (or Set) onto the miniature itself where the decal is to be applied.

Once you have the decal off of the paper and its on the brush (or whatever else you use) place it onto the miniature and position it as quickly as you can. Don't hang around on this part as the Micro Sol will start melting the decal and it will distort and fold.

Once you have it positioned over the position tamp off the excess water with a cotton bud (or your weapon of choice) and place another layer of Micro Sol (or Set) over the top.

If you have used Micro Sol you will see after a minute that the decal starts to droop into the architecture over which it lays. Assist by gently tamping down with a soft brush.

Leave for 10 minutes and voila! Fixed, moulded and rock solid.

You can see here an example of a Danger triangle and the Cockpit art.

Where the UCM logos are concerned all that I did was choose my finest brushes and basically paint the same colours over the top. I also have a micro fine brush which through unexplained events has developed a micro hooked tip which facilitates the painting of letters and numbers perfectly. 

Its not perfect but then this is an army that is not painted for close up scrutiny, but one that impresses from about a metre away!

There you have it. Any questions just ask....

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