A View from Broadway


By Ken Burdick

Yes Folks, it's true.

Whatever happened to decals? You remember. Those little water activated artsy things we'd stick on our models without a second thought. They seem to be part of a bygone era and were replace with “new and improved” peel and stick pieces of flypaper with high res pictures that would rarely be placed exactly where we wanted them. Other methods were/are, to send off graphics and have an expensive knife machine cut out single color shapes and so on. The stunt community has made fantastic graphics and still leads the way. But what about me? The guy who has virtually no skills and only wants a decal?

Let's Explore

The decal issue came up recently, when the Rein Man and I decided to build our stupid carrier planes. There is nothing wrong with either plane, in fact, they are totally cool, but the challenges were more than the ol' BBB was used to. When it came time to get decals for the otherwise great looking Flying Tigers P-40 Warhawk, the Rein Man tried a few ideas.

1. OPW. (other peoples work)

Contacting a local artist and modeler, Jeff set about to have decals made for the teeth, eye, and other accoutrements that the P-40 is known for. The graphics were fairly easy and could be located around the Internet. Making the decal with conventional equipment was to become the challenge.

Ink-Jets, and Lasers, and Tigers
(oh my!)

The first true decals were tried with an inkjet printer, and while the graphics were good enough, they could not be coated with any sort of protective lacquer, dope or anything that was tried. The results were the same, a runny mess. I have to take this on faith as I never saw the ruined attempts but the artist is a fine modeler. Different papers and even a laser jet was tried before the Rein Man called a halt to the project. What to do now?

There's More Than One Way To Peel A Banana

Jeff found the solution to his problem in Hong Kong via the Internet. He purchased two complete sets of what looked to be the right size decals for a Flying Tiger P-40 Warhawk.

But wait! What about me?

My graphics were different and involved something a bit less conventional than a ww2 model. I had decided on one of my favorite cartoon characters in two different layouts. They are available on the Internet, but the resolution may be a bit low for the three inch height I had envisioned. Besides, we still had not solved the runny color decal thing.

Enter Fred

I am fortunate enough to work with some highly skilled people in my profession, one of whom is Fred.

Fred is the graphics artist where I work, I approached him with the problem. “That?' he said, “That's a problem?” I said it was for me, so first he told me where to get the paper. Decalpaper.com was my first stop via instruction from Fred, “Be sure to get the laser jet paper” he called out as went back to more important things. I opened the link, found the paper and ordered a box for about $20.00. This was going to be cool! The decal paper was water activated and on the site, they showed applying a logo to coffee mugs and coating it with some spray lacquer. It arrived in about a week and I was all set to have Fred make my decals. (Talk about other people's work!) I sent him my files of the characters I wanted and knew the deal was done.

What I know you can hold in a Thimble

Well ... it turns out that the graphics I chose were not adequate to blow up. Fred being a great guy, traced around each one with an artist's mouse in a program called Adobe Flash (professional program) it converts the image to a Vector file. This was pretty labor intensive and requires skill, but Fred claims it's easy and a similar thing can be done using Photo shop but it won't be a vector file. Me, being unaware of what I had even asked him to do was obliviously waiting for the little things to appear . I was certain the only thing needed was to load my graphic, size it, and presto, a decal! A week later, Fred showed me the final product. It was perfect. He later explained how he was able to do it and showed me the program. My graphic can now scale from micro size to poster size with no change in resolution.

-- Kenny-b

Photos show the cartoon character decals, made on laser printer using the Decalpaper.com paper, applied on two airplanes. Ken Burdick photos.

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This page was upated May 11, 2011