How can I "toughen up" homemade decals?

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Dec 14, 2010
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I purchased some decals from TangoPapa for a clone of the old 1970's Estes Renegade. I tried to apply them tonight, and they were EXTREMELY fragile. I'm used to working with fragile homemade decals, and I've had no problems with other T/P decals I have ordered in the past, but this was ridiculous, it was impossible to get the decals onto the rocket without tearing.:( Is there anything I can apply to the decals while they are still on the page, prior to wetting, that will toughen them up? The decal sheet from T/P had several sets, and I kept one complete set in reserve, so I'm hoping there might be something different I can do with the last set.
Thanks in advance!
John Murrill
Sure there is!

Got this tip from JimZ.

"Microscale Liquid Decal Film", about $2 a bottle and lasts a long time!

Just brush it on with a "clean!" brush. don't worry about brush marks they go away as it great!

Makes 'em really tuff!

I have to second this. I have an ALPS printer of my own, and the liquid decal film is THE stuff to use. Without it, the decals can scratch eaily.
I'll 'third' this advice....

Microscale Decal Film is the way to go. It dries within 15-20 minutes and makes the decals MUCH easier to work with....not just a little bit easier....a LOT easier....I'm talking night and day difference.

You can order on-line at if your local hobby shop doesn't carry it.

You must use the decal film with Tango Papa's decals. MicroScale is actually recommended by TangoPapa.

Here's an excerpt from the "Thank you" / instructions page that he sends out with all his decals.

"...apply a topcoat before using the decals. You can use a clear coat or decal film (MicroScale makes this). I like using decal film since it is less expensive, very easy to apply a complete coating, and can be used indoors. You apply the decal film by using a foam brush and simply paint the film on or you can use an airbrush. Once this is allowed to dry, the decals can be used. An added advantage of using decal film is that it makes the decals slightly thicker and easier to handle. And, since it is real decal film, when you use setting solutions to snug the decals down, the film lets you do so."

From personal experience with his decals (I'm sure he has well over $200 of my money :eek: ) the MicroScale decal film is absolutely the way to go. I use a foam brush as described. I haven't found a way of "cleaning" the foam brush after using it, so I just get the cheapies for about $0.75 apiece and throw them away after use.

I recommend applying the decal film thick. Generally speaking, the more generous you are with the decal film, the easier your decals will be to handle without wrinkles or tears.
I recently got this Custom Decal Kit (made by Testors) from Walmart for around $6.00. It includes decal paper, software and Decal Bonder Spray. First if you thinking about buying to make custom decals it's a joke the software gives you premade decals and directs you to the website to upgrade to a better software in order to make my own custom ones (you get what you pay for).

I got off track what I was trying to get to is the decal bonder in the directions it actually says to use the spray to get the ink to cohere and is a sense toughen up. So if your interested I can direct you to the website to order the bonder.
I use Future Floor Polish on my Tango Papa decals before applying them, and then on the rocket as a clear coat.

Does anyone have experience with both Microscale and Future to give me a comparison?

You can't beat Future on price, availability, ease of application, smell, etc., but if Microscale protects the decals better then it would be worth the money.
On my first Red Max clone I covered the Tango Papa decals with Future polish. I put it on fairly thick, but it didn't seem to help much...the decals were still very fragile. I tore the big skull and crossbones decal and had to mess with it a bit to even get it close to looking presentable.

The second Red Max clone I built I used Microscale decal film and it was MUCH easier to work with. (another set of Tango Papa decals) Night and Day difference.....

In other words...I would only recommend the Microscale film. I still use Future polish to cover the whole rocket when done.

My Dos centavos!
Testors dull coat can be sprayed directly over tango papa's or any Alps printed decal without fear of destroying the decal. Once the dull coat is dry, Testors gloss clear, Krylon #1306 workable fixatif can be directly applied to bring be the gloss.
Krylon Crystal Clear #1301 should NEVER BE USED DIRECTLY on any Alps printed decal, and only be used in very light passing coats with at least 3miuntes between coats on testors dull coat set decals to prevent crinkling/crazing of the prepared decal.
Microscale liqiuid decal film also works very well, if you don't mind an occassional brush mark and/or a possible stray brush hair or two. it is good stuff!
Another matte clear that seems to do a decent "sparyed application job is Krylon Matte clear #1311. Again it must be done in fairly light coats, but unlesss really applied in a thick wet coat hasn't crinckled or crazed any of my Alps printed decals.
Thanks for the info. I'll order some Microscale film and save the Future for coating the finished rockets.
if you are doing INKJET decals (NOT ALPS!) then Krylon Clear works great. Much better than Testors Dull cote - I put about 5-6 thin coats of the Krylon Clear on my inkjet decals and they are plenty tough! I used Testors Dull Cote on the first couple sets of decals I printed and it worked but its not nearly as rugged as the Krylon and the decals tore easily. I also set my inkjet printer (HP 3650) to lay the ink on heavy (not all printers have this setting). I have also found that setting the 'paper type' to premium glossy photo paper gives me better decals.
First which of the 6 or 8 Krylon clears are you talking about? If it's 1301 crystal clear you are dodging a bullet ever time you use it....Especially on inkjet printed decals. Try Krylons 1306 workable Fixatif instead, you'll be able to apply one or two coats without having to worry about crinkle or carzing of your decals. Since your applying 5 or 6 coats, That tells me you have already destroyed a decal or two working with 1301. The thinners are just to strong an agent for use over decal without a lot of luck and extreme application care. for ease of use especially for new decal printers, I strongly recommend Krylon 1306 workable Fixatif or Matte clear 1311 for inkjet decals, if the testors dull coat is too expensive for the budget.
micromister - thanks for the info. I must tell you that I have been using this Krylon on my decals for several rockets now with absolutely no problems at all. I am not sure what the product number is but I know it is not fixatif. The only decals I've ruined were some that I did with Testors Dull Cote. In those cases the decals crinkled and then almost fell apart when I applied them.
I'll look when I get home tonight to see what Krylon clear I have.

Micromister - I wanted to get back to this post because making decals is confusing as it is.
I do use the Krylon 1301 and have for several sets of decals without any problems whatsoever.

My luck with the 1301 clear paint may be due to the combination of materials I am using.

I use an HP 3650 printer with HP ink and Testor's Decal Paper.
I had initially tried Testor's Dull Cote as a protective coat over the decals but my results were mixed. Sometimes the decals would 'craze' and other times the black inl would bleed out some purple color around the edges. The decals were also very fragile.

Once I started using the Krylon 1301 those problems went away and I had a much tougher decal.

I think this just goes to show the value of experimenting to find the right combination that works for you.