There are two types of water-slide decals: the kind that are made to be fired in a kiln (called ceramic decals) and the kind that we make on our computers and print ourselves.
I have used the fired-on kind for years. I have found that for decorative purposes on miniatures, they work just fine unfired. They may be kiln fired to 015 to 017. But for many miniature and craft purposes, they may be applied and sealed.
TO PRINT YOUR OWN DECALS WITH YOUR COMPUTER
Use your own artwork, photos, or drawings. Experiment with the settings on your particular printer. Usually setting it for “Best Mode-Photo Paper-Glossy” or something similar works well. The different settings control the amount of ink that goes onto the paper. Print onto the glossy side of the decal paper.
As soon as the ink is completely dry after printing, apply several thin coats of Krylon Crystal Clear varnish spray. It is better to use several thin coats, rather than one heavy coat, to keep it from developing any runs. But it must be thoroughly sealed all the way to the edges to keep the ink from washing off or smearing. (If you apply too heavily, it makes it difficult to apply the decal because it becomes too stiff.)
Krylon Crystal Clear varnish spray can be purchased at craft and hobby shops, hardware store, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and similar stores.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me and I will do my best to help with your problem.
TO APPLY CERAMIC (Water Slide) DECALS:
Decals can be applied to most any surface. However, they work best on something with a glossy surface. If necessary, apply a glossy finish to your piece and allow to dry before decaling.
Cut as close as possible to the image on the decal. Using tweezers or your fingers, dip decal in warm water until it releases for the backing. This usually takes from 10 to 30 seconds, depending on the type of decal. As soon as you feel it loosen for the backing, remove it from the water. Lay it on a paper towel to rest for about a minute.
I wet the area where the decal will go with a bit of water. Then carefully transfer the decal to your piece, using tweezers or a small soft brush. Nudge it with the brush into the exact position. Use the brush to gently push any air bubbles out from under it. Then gently blot any excess moisture with a soft cloth. Old t-shirt material or kleenex works well. Allow to dry. Then spray or brush on Krylon crystal clear varnish again. I believe Krylon makes a matte spray varnish also, if you want that finish. (I prefer the spray varnish whenever possible because I think it goes on smoother than a brush-on sealer.)
EXTRA TIPS I HAVE LEARNED
If you are working with a very irregular surface, try warming your piece before applying the decal. Then use warm water to soak the decal. Allow at least a minute for the decal to “rest” before trying to apply.
If you find the decal doesn’t slide easily, hold it back in the water for a second or two. Don’t let it stay in the water long enough for it to float off the backing and come to the top. It will wash all the adhesive from it. If it should happen, and the decal doesn’t adhere well, put a drop of white craft glue on the back of the decal. Apply as usual.
For those who do lots of decals or work with irregular surfaces - you may want to try a decal softener. But use with caution!! It does have its purpose and works great for many applications, but if you aren't careful, it will soften too much and damage the decal. Follow the directions closely for the brand you are using.
Badger brand makes a decal softener and decal set. Testors brand also makes a similar product. Sometimes these can be found locally at craft or model train shops. The best place to order them online is Micro-Mark. They also sell excellent decal paper for your ink jet printer, in case you want to try your hand at creating your own. You will find a link to their website on my links page.
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636-358-3633 afternoons or evenings