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First time with decals

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slogfilet

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Finishing up my Big Daddy, and for the first time, I'm actually making it look like it does on the package (usually, I just paint a solid color... *yawwwn*)

How do I seal the decals without jeopardizing the rest of my finish? I'm a little nervous about using a clear coat.

I'd like to get the whole thing nice and shiny with Finesse-It, then apply the (waterslide) decals. If I were to then coat the whole thing with Future, would that enhance or diminish all the hard work I did getting a nice finish with the Finesse-It?
 
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RangerStl

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I know there will be various answers, but I have always had good luck with Testor's gloss clear applied during dry weather. It also helps to warm the can in warm tap water before spraying.

The worst part about Testor's is that it will yellow with time.

Krylon clear frosted on me because I laid it on too thick. Others use polymer finishes like Nu-finish and such to seal the decals.

I'm sure several opinions will be rolling in soon.

N
 

NjCo

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I'd like to get the whole thing nice and shiny with Finesse-It, then apply the (waterslide) decals. If I were to then coat the whole thing with Future, would that enhance or diminish all the hard work I did getting a nice finish with the Finesse-It?
Decals can be finicky enough that they won't work well on a rough surface so anything you do to smooth out your finish prior to applying your decals should help make the process go smoother. There are several products from Microscale that will help you get the decals down on your rocket intact without going to all the trouble of getting a super smooth finish before hand. They can be found here:

http://www.microscale.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=FINPROD

If you've never applied Future to a rocket it does give you a nice smooth high gloss finish that looks great. It's also thick enough that it will hide minor imperfections in your finish.
 

MarkII

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If you've never applied Future to a rocket it does give you a nice smooth high gloss finish that looks great. It's also thick enough that it will hide minor imperfections in your finish.
A K A acrylic floor finish. Testor's imparts a slight yellow cast to the decal, but otherwise it works well. Acrylic floor finish will remain colorless and crystal clear, though, so it is the preferred coating. Do not use Krylon Clear; it reacts badly with the decal material.

Pick up some Microscale Liquid Decal Film from your local hobby shop. Use a foam brush to apply a couple of coats of it (an hour or so apart) to the decals and let them dry completely before you use them; it will really strengthen them and make them easier to handle and apply.

Do not touch the underside of the decal with your fingers if you need to handle it; the oil in your skin will create a fingerprint, which can sometimes show up as a cloudy area in the decal.

Use a small (#1) soft paintbrush dipped in water if you need to pick up the decal or move it around after putting it on the model, and be gentle with it.

Don't panic. :D

If you "paint" the area with water right before sliding the decal onto it, you will be able to move it around much more easily. But it will also take the decal longer to snug down and adhere to the surface, though. In the meantime, it will be quite mobile and may slide out of place and need to be repositioned.

If the decal folds over onto itself, use the wet tip of the brush to very gently unfold it so that it lays flat again.

If the decal adheres in the wrong position just after you slide it on and it won't move, "paint" it with a little bit of the water, especially around the edges. That will usually get it to float so that you can position it.

If you get air bubbles under the decal (which is very likely) and the decal is still very "wet," you can often push them toward the edge and out with the wet tip of the paintbrush. But don't work too hard at this, because you can damage the decal if you brush the surface too many times. If you still have air bubbles, wait until the decal is completely dry, and then pop them with a small pin or very fine needle. When you apply the acrylic finish, it will flow in and fill up the bubble spaces, making them almost invisible.

Use a corner of a dry paper towel to blot or wick the excess water off the decal after you get it into the right position. Touch it very lightly with the corner so that you don't accidentally push it out of position.

After you have applied all of the decals, allow them to dry overnight or longer. Then use a foam brush to paint them with a couple of coats of the acrylic floor finish to protect them.

MarkII
 
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Micromeister

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Agree with just about everything MarkII just posted particularly the part about not panicing.
Take your time. you'll be able to fix just about any problem you run into if you do not panic.

Marks suggestion about the soft bristle brush is a good one and you should also have a fairly stiff bristle brush as well to help with those occasional fold overs that sometimes happen. a good set of flat tip very thin blade tweezers is also a big plus for handling both large and small decals.

A couple other tips:
prepare the area AROUND where your going to be applying decals to your model. it should be cleaned before hand to remove dust and other junk that might be picked up by the decal, you or the model during the application process.

have your dipping "COLD" water container or pan. I like to use an old ice cube tray bottom as it's long and flat allowing longer strips to lay flat in the bottom during soaking.
fold a paper towel in half and lay it beside the dipping pan.
dip your decals for 15 to 20 seconds then remove with the tweezers and lay on the paper towel letting it rest for about an extra minute. the towel sops up some of the excess water, while the rest time allows the water soluable adhesive to release completely from the backing paper.

Keep a 1/4 sheet of paper towel, folded into a sort of mop sitting in the dip water. This can be used to pre-wet the part of the model about to recieve the decal in a single swipe.
Using the tweezers and a moist finger gentle position the decal on the backing sheet so that about 1/4" is overhanging. place the decal edge at a point you think you want the decal to start and gentle apply a little pressure with the brush or corner of the moist paper towel as you slide the backing from beneath the rest of the decal in a smooth fluid move. Once down you'll be able to move the decal around some with the brush or wet paper towel corner. but try to get the positioning as close as you can from the start. a small adjustment is easy, large ones can be quite hard. Once you have the decal exactly where you want, the moist paper towel can be used to gently dab away and remove any excess water. Move on to the next decal. After all have been applied, leave the model undisturbed at least overnight.

Many insist on putting stuff over their decals believing it "protects" them. In most cases this is not really true. "real Silk Screen printed decals" are Paint on clear Paint. Once appled to our Painted models they are Paint on paint on paint. A couple good coats of just about any quality Auto wax will "protect" them better then most overcoats. Microscale liquid decal clear is an exception. While I don't use it that often it is an excellent product with an alcohol base that dries almost instantly without streaks or runs. Another is Future Acrylic floor finish. A Third that has to be applied with a bit more caution is Krylon UV reisistant clear.
Personally I don't use any of the above very often. I've learned over the years all these products harden over time. Once they harden they are subject to damage due to bumps and rubbing during handleing and transport. Just the act of rubbing against each other can cause these finishes to fine off taking some of the underlying decal with it.
I prefer to use only a good automotive wax or better yet a polymer that bonds with the paint of both decal and model. NU-Finish polymer is such a material. Since I stopped using all forms of "Clear coats" I haven't lost nearly as many decals from handling and transport damage. If I need the models to shine a little more I can reapply NU-Finish without buildup, yellowing or other problems.
Future shouldn't dull or diminish all the work you've done with Finessit-II, it's just not necessary;) If you want to apply Future is perfectly OK, but understand you will be reapplying it at some point down the road.
Hope this helps.
 
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slogfilet

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Thanks for such great help! That's exactly what I needed.

I started final surface prep last night... the local paint shop was out of Finesse-It, so I pulled out the Turtle Wax Polishing Compound I had tried a while back. I learned a valuable lesson: patience. Previously, I had put the stuff aside because it didn't give me a glossy finish... well, turns out I was being lazy. Or at least impatient. With very light pressure, and several episodes of Big Bang Theory, it started to really shine.

I actually have some Nu-Finish in the garage, I'll have to give that a try. I guess I was thinking that the decal protectant layer would need to "build up" to cover the edges. But if it's just "paint on paint on paint," then I guess it makes sense.

Thanks again... I'll be sure to post pics for critique (or praise... you never know.)


PS - I kinda lied, this isn't my first time with decals. When I was 8, I put several waterslide decals on a model of a 1969 Corvette, and they looked like crap. I suppose I've grown some patience since then.
 

MarkII

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have your dipping "COLD" water container or pan. I like to use an old ice cube tray bottom as it's long and flat allowing longer strips to lay flat in the bottom during soaking.
I have always read that water-slide decals were to be dipped in lukewarm water in order to loosen them from their backing. But it doesn't matter - lukewarm water gets cold really fast when it is sitting out around here. :rolleyes:

Using the tweezers and a moist finger gentle position the decal on the backing sheet so that about 1/4" is overhanging.
I'm a bit reluctant reluctant to handle soft water-slide decals with a hard metal tool, even a very smooth one that is designed especially for that purpose (decal tweezers). Using a small soft bristle brush just seems to be a bit safer to me, but I suppose it's a personal preference. The soft bristles handle the decal just fine. I don't know what you would want a stiff bristle brush for, though.

but try to get the positioning as close as you can from the start. a small adjustment is easy, large ones can be quite hard.
I couldn't agree more.

Many insist on putting stuff over their decals believing it "protects" them. In most cases this is not really true. "real Silk Screen printed decals" are Paint on clear Paint. Once appled to our Painted models they are Paint on paint on paint.
Nearly all of the decals that I use are reproductions from Excelsior that have been produced with an Alps printer. The image is not quite as hard and durable as it would be if it had been screen printed. They are excellent quality decals, though, and I am delighted to have them. The coating I described is recommended by Excelsior. I have not experienced any damage to any decals that have been overcoated.

Screen printing ink is not technically "paint," although some types can closely resemble it.

As I recall from my model-building days, decals applied to painted styrene models are generally quite durable without the need for overcoating. But then, styrene doesn't absorb humidity, and styrene models do not undergo the same stresses that a model rocket does. Nevertheless, I would expect that decals that have been applied to hard, stiff and smooth surfaces in a model rocket will hold up very well. Unfortunately, many of the surfaces that receive decals on a model rocket are not quite as dimensionally stable as molded styrene. Because of this, after some time and use water-slide decals on model rockets can eventually crack or fine off in parts; it's just due to the nature of the material that we use, which become the substrates for them. Coating them can help to delay this process, especially for decals that have been Alps-printed. As has been discussed, there are a few different types of coatings that can be used, but I don't think that leaving decals (especially Alps-printed) uncoated on a model rocket that is made primarily out of paper and wood would be such a good idea, unless I was keeping the rocket in a display case and never flying it.

I can't say whether the same would be true for screen-printed decals, though, because I have hardly ever used any. Back in another lifetime I was a printer in a screen printing shop that produced, among other things, assorted shapes and sizes of decals, but I have rarely had the opportunity to use them on model rockets.

Vinyl decals (real ones, not stickers) are reputedly very durable, but it is not practical (or even perhaps possible) to make vinyl decals for rocket airframes that are smaller than about 3" to 4" in diameter.

MarkII
 

Micromeister

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I have always read that water-slide decals were to be dipped in lukewarm water in order to loosen them from their backing. But it doesn't matter - lukewarm water gets cold really fast when it is sitting out around here. :rolleyes:

I'm a bit reluctant reluctant to handle soft water-slide decals with a hard metal tool, even a very smooth one that is designed especially for that purpose (decal tweezers). Using a small soft bristle brush just seems to be a bit safer to me, but I suppose it's a personal preference. The soft bristles handle the decal just fine. I don't know what you would want a stiff bristle brush for, though.

I couldn't agree more.

Nearly all of the decals that I use are reproductions from Excelsior that have been produced with an Alps printer. The image is not quite as hard and durable as it would be if it had been screen printed. They are excellent quality decals, though, and I am delighted to have them. The coating I described is recommended by Excelsior. I have not experienced any damage to any decals that have been overcoated.

Screen printing ink is not technically "paint," although some types can closely resemble it.

As I recall from my model-building days, decals applied to painted styrene models are generally quite durable without the need for overcoating. But then, styrene doesn't absorb humidity, and styrene models do not undergo the same stresses that a model rocket does. Nevertheless, I would expect that decals that have been applied to hard, stiff and smooth surfaces in a model rocket will hold up very well. Unfortunately, many of the surfaces that receive decals on a model rocket are not quite as dimensionally stable as molded styrene. Because of this, after some time and use water-slide decals on model rockets can eventually crack or fine off in parts; it's just due to the nature of the material that we use, which become the substrates for them. Coating them can help to delay this process, especially for decals that have been Alps-printed. As has been discussed, there are a few different types of coatings that can be used, but I don't think that leaving decals (especially Alps-printed) uncoated on a model rocket that is made primarily out of paper and wood would be such a good idea, unless I was keeping the rocket in a display case and never flying it.

I can't say whether the same would be true for screen-printed decals, though, because I have hardly ever used any. Back in another lifetime I was a printer in a screen printing shop that produced, among other things, assorted shapes and sizes of decals, but I have rarely had the opportunity to use them on model rockets.

Vinyl decals (real ones, not stickers) are reputedly very durable, but it is not practical (or even perhaps possible) to make vinyl decals for rocket airframes that are smaller than about 3" to 4" in diameter.

MarkII
Mark: you shouldn't be handleing wet decals with your bare hands period. Yes I know we all do, but the oils on our fingers can cause adhesion problems. Smooth flat blade tweezers is by far the best and safest way to "Handle" trimmed wet decals of all sizes. while it is absolutely ture we don't want to have the metal on printed portions if we can its as safe as any other method if your worried about cracking the decal surface? As for the soft bristle brush: its fine for some things but a stiff badger hair brush will quickly help you unfold the worst jumbled decal without undue lifting of the paint film off the model. Too soft bristle or too much water can remove the fine adhesive from the underside of the film and your saved decal will never adhear to the surface again. its best to learn to use all the tools at our disposal.

Nearly all the decals i'm applying these days are my own ALPS Printed decals. If yours were produced on prepared decal papers...Which Excelsiors were, Than they are printed on silkscreed Decal Clear or a similar clear or white base coating. While it is true Alps Dry Transfer ink is weaker then good Old Nazdar Silkscreen inks they are or should have been over coated with another layer of Clean something by the decal printer. I personally overcoat decals NOW with Krylon matte, then gloss UV resistant clear. That's right a least two coats instead of Nazdar Decal Clear. So you see we are still Paint on paint on paint, OK to be accurate Ink on ink on Paint LOL!!. Mark: I'm currently in the sign Business, I know the difference between paints and inks, in this particular instance its of no real importance.

We are not leaving the decals be they silkscreened or Alps printed decals uncoated. They have already been coated with at least one layer of sometype clear or they will fall apart when dipped in water. Adding additional layer of clear as I mentioned in the earlier post only add to the flaking as the clear coatings as they age and brittle. Instead of adding something thats going to add to the decline of the application it makes much more sense to really protect them with a good wax or better yet bonding agent polymer. Future Floor Finish to some degree does this but I'm not convinced about its long term aging. Nu-finish polymer on the other hand bonds onto & into the paint and dry transfer ink truely protecting the surface of the decal from the abrasion and brittleness associated with most of the other coatings as the age.
As for longevity I can only attest to the 2+ decades of time I've used the above products on all types of models, models of Plastic, Styrene, phenolic, cardstock, Standard mod-roc building stuff and all types of wood. They simply don't break down as badly as under all the different clear coating I've tried over the years. The ONLY exception to this is REAL Urethane 3part Topcoat/clear coat systems. But I don't advocate the use of Automotive paint systems for our MODEL rockets as they are both far TOOO expensive and super hazardous to our health.

Why would you say producing real vinyl decals for smaller models is not practical? Its done all the time. I regurlarly use hand cut vinyl graphics on models in BT-5,20,50 and larger, I do have some I use on a couple micro models as well. Larger is of coarse easier but For custome cut names, flames and other graphics some of the thinner .002" and 003" thick vinyls work very well for just about any size model (Most 3M, Arlon, Calon, and some Oracal colors to name just a few Brands). On smaller models sometimes hand cutting, and the point of an X-acto are required to release them from the backing sheet but with overlay transfer tapes it's actually almost as easy to do vinyl decals as cut frisket painting stencils for these models. I think one of the guys still on this forum has a tabletop vinyl cutting machine that's out of this world. Not saying everyone would or should spend 600 bucks on a vinyl cutter, but they are out there if your so inclinded;)
 
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MarkII

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Mark: you shouldn't be handleing wet decals with your bare hands period. Yes I know we all do, but the oils on our fingers can cause adhesion problems.
http://www.rocketryforum.com/showpost.php?p=57482&postcount=4

Read the third paragraph of that post.

I also said that using the soft bristle brush was a personal preference (over using decal tweezers). I don't know, it works for me. I think that it's a perfectly suitable alternative.

MarkII
 

Micromeister

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10-4 Mark;
Didn't say it wasn't, just that ya might want to give some of the other tools a try, it's all about making life a little easier.
 

slogfilet

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It actually went pretty well... the decals were a bit more durable than I was expecting. After letting them dry 24 hours, I put on a coast of Nu-Finish.

You'll notice I haven't painted the tip... once I've found a good method for painting tips, I'll probably go back and do that (there's a thread around here somewhere related to that...)

Well, here it is... my 38mm fiberglassed Big Daddy. I used this rocket as my "learning" model... 'glass is overkill, but I thought it would be fun to learn on something smaller. I hadn't used decals before, so I thought I'd give it a try. I tried some new finishing techniques and took a lot more time than I usually do... it really paid off, though there are a few minor issues here and there.

PS - I'll probably go in with a fine brush and paint the upper edge of the body tube grey. The red really sticks out.

DSC08333-2.jpg
 
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MarkII

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I think the Big Daddy looks great AND I am lovin' the raccoon avatars!
Thanks.

:D :D :D

MarkII

Let me just reach through this fence and say....




...DUDE!
 
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snrkl

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FWIW I figured out something interesting tonight - after killing 3 or 4 decals with corners that folded under while repositioning that I just could not untangle, I started rounding all the corners when I was cutting them out..

well, it worked, not a single tangle after that...
 

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