It is an experience seen by many hobbyists. You have got the computer 3D printer package operational; you’ve finished your first custom made, bespoken model, a tank, aircraft, train, car or Sci-fi Ship; you paint it the right way and are starting to feel good about the results. And you realize you need to apply some fine detail that paint cannot achieve. Your model would be perfect if it only had the military, transport, sci-fi insignia. What do we do?
The solution is printing your own decals. Just a few short years ago this was impossible unless you wanted to pay a fortune and have them silk screened. But now anyone with a decent laser printer on their computer can print decals, either their own design from a graphics program or something scanned from another source.
You only need a few basic computer components to make your own decals. The computer itself needs to be powerful enough to run a photo-editing or drawing software at a reasonable speed. But that is pretty easy even with a basic computer these days. The software programmes tend to fall into two categories – vector based and raster based. Vector based programmes produce graphics based on equations, you define a circle and colour and the programme creates it. Raster based work with pixels, editing photos or working like Microsoft paint. Either of the software systems can be used to make images for printing as decals.
Scanners can be useful for creating decals. But with model work these are used to make reference images rather than the final image. We use a software programme to create a final images based on the scan. Hence, high resolution scans are not usually necessary.
All sorts of scale models, from model trains to original Sci-Fi creations, benefit from model decals. Make sure to use thin decal paper when the model surface has intricate 3D detail as the fine decal will bend and adapt to the surface detail more easily then thicker waterslide decals. And consider blue backing decal paper which helps if the decals images are white; white decals are much easier to see on blue backing than white or clear backing paper.
You can buy waterslide decal paper online and print your own decals.