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How to Make Custom Waterslide Decals - UPDATED

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Blog entry by David posted 02-12-2007 11:09 PM 90668 reads 48 times favorited 33 comments Add to Favorites Watch

How to Make Custom Waterslide Decals

This Waterlide Decal Tutorial is available as a PDF download on my website

Materials List

• Clear or White 8.5×11 waterslide paper
• Deft Gloss Clear Lacquer
• Brayer Roller
• Paper Towels
• Bowl with clean water

SOURCES FOR DECAL PAPER WATERSLIDE PAPER

MicroMark
BelDecal

1. Make decal design on your favorite graphic application.
I use a Mac based system so I will share the details of how I do things, however, you can do this on any computer with whatever application you feel most comfortable. For most of my decal work I use Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop Elements. I have also used my digital scanner and camera to import a particular image or graphical element. In this example I made a decal commemorating the artist that would be painting the front of my cherry blanket chest. I usually print a draft copy on white paper and trim to size to test the fit on the finished piece.

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This is a photo showing the basic suppiles

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Speedball Rubber Brayer – I used to use a small pastry roller until my wife thought I should have my own roller!

QUICK TIP The decal sheets are 8.5×11. I try to make more than one decal during each run to minimize waste of the decal sheets. I just use the computer application to layout a number of images the sheet allowing room for final trimming. Mistakes do happen, so often I will make a duplicate image on the sheet or make two final prints so I have an extra if needed.

2. Print Deca Design on Photo Paperl
When I am happy with the layout I make a final print on glossy photo paper or bright white heavy bond paper.

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This is the layout I used on my last project

3. Copy Decal Design On Decal Paper
Take this print and a small supply of decal paper to your favorite print shop. I use Kinkos for all my printing needs. If your intended decal is color you will need to use a color copier, otherwise use the black and white copy machine. Pay attention to orientation of the original and the print side of the decal sheet. This varies from machine to machine. I always use the “bypass tray” because the decal sheet is heavy and there is a risk of jamming the feed rollers.

QUICK TIP The decal sheet supplier I use provides a thin tissue protection sheet on each decal sheet. Be sure to remove this sheet before printing your decal.

4. Seal the Decal
Spray 2 or 3 thin coats of Deft Gloss Clear Lacquer on the printed decal sheet. This protects the image, and more importantly, provides a bit of extra stiffness to the finished decal, making the waterslide application easier.

5. Soak the decal in clean water for a few minutes.

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QUICK TIP I usually try to hold the decal to prevent curling when placing it in water

6. Lightly wet the surface where you intend to apply the decal.
Wetting the surface makes it easier to gently adjust the position of the decal. For wood projects, I apply decals after the first coat of clear finish. The idea is that subsequent layers of finish will protect the applied decal. The decal ends up being buried in the layers of finish. The edges are barely perceptible after the last coat of finish.

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You can see water beading up on this piece of scrap cherry plywood with sanding sealer and one coat of lacquer

7. Slide the Decal on to the Project
Gently slide approximately 1/3 of the decal off the edge of the paper backing and position on your work piece. Gently hold that edge while slowly sliding the backing paper from the decal.

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Here I have just begun to slide the decal off the backing paper

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Decal being postioned on the work piece

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Sliding the backing paper out from under the decal – it helps to steady the opposite edge.

I applied this decal crooked on purpose to show how easy it is to reposition – just be gentle!

8. Check Final Position of Decal
At this point your decal is on your work piece floating on a thin film of water. Make any last minute position adjustments before using a brayer roller to squeeze water from under the decal.

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Be gentle – decals are fragile!

9. Use paper towel to gently blot any remaining water from the decal surface and your work piece.

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Gently blot excess water with a paper towel

10. Allow the decal to thoroughly dry overnight before applying the remaining coats of finish.

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Decal application complete – just let it dry before finishing – made with White Decal Paper – this is shown as a contrast to using Clear Decal Paper (examples of clear decals below).

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Larger decals on my last cherry blanket chest – these are made with Clear Decal Paper

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Smaller decals on my son’s Boy Scout Neckerchief slide

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A lorger decal on a blanket chest sold at my children’s school auction

Hope this is helpful. I have used this technique many times with great success. Finishes I have used include shellac, lacquer, acrylic, and polyurethane.

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com



33 comments so far

View oscorner's profile

oscorner

4564 posts in 2977 days


#1 posted 02-12-2007 11:34 PM

I never thought of using decals, but yours make the project look so much more professional. How well do they hold up once you put a finish over them? Is there any finishes that you know of that will mess with the decals? How many coats of finish do you normally put? Thanks for sharing this information.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2805 days


#2 posted 02-12-2007 11:39 PM

They are very durable. I do not know of any finish that would damage the decal. You need to make sure that whatever finish you spray to stabilize the decal before sliding it off the paper backer is compatible with the finish you will use for the rest of the project. On my cherry chest I believe there were two coats of shellac and 4 coats of wipe-on poly. As always, its best to practice on some scrap material.

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2981 days


#3 posted 02-13-2007 02:59 AM

One more idem to put on my to do list. Thanks David good info!

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 2994 days


#4 posted 02-13-2007 03:40 AM

Fantastic… I agree with Oscorner on the “professional” bit.
So the subsequent finishes turn whatever is left of the paper clear? Wow!

Thanks for sharing this. It’s right up my alley.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2805 days


#5 posted 02-13-2007 03:47 AM

Actually, there are two kinds pf decal paper. One is clear and the other is opaque white. I used white in the blog to show both options and now realize I did not do a good job clarifying that point. I usually use the clear decal because I like to see the wood. The white would be good for a small makers label tucked away somewhere inconspicuous. The decals are very thin and after a coat or two of finish you can not feel them. My apologies for the confusion!

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 2994 days


#6 posted 02-13-2007 06:17 AM

No prob, thanks for the clarification. I checked their website quickly, and was overwhelmed with what they have to offer, and not enough info about what some of the products are. I’ll need to go back when I have a little more time on my hands. At least I’ll know to specify a packet of clear in my first order.

I had an art director tell me about something similar to this, using painters medium and a image from a magazine, where you apply many very, very thin layers over the image, soak it, and gently rub it off the back of the thin “decal” and apply it to the paper or whatever with the same medium. THe image isn’t perfect, but workable, and a cool effect (or so I am told). I tried this once with complete and total failure.

I think this will make up for that, and then some. And I’d expect a packet of the paper to last a good long time. Does it only work with laser printers (toner) color or b/w?
I have access to both at work, and presume that Ink Jet wouldn’t work with this.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2805 days


#7 posted 02-13-2007 07:30 AM

Scott – I tried a number of other methods before settling on this process. There are both inkjet and laser papers. I tried the inkjet paper thinking I’d be able to do everything here at home. It did not work as advertised – the ink ran because of the water. I tried a number of different sealers with out success. The begining pack of paper will last a goo bit of time.

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View scottb's profile

scottb

3648 posts in 2994 days


#8 posted 02-15-2007 10:12 PM

Thanks again, I’ll definately take advantage of your learning process, and will share what I come up with.

I’m not surprised that the ink jet wasn’t as successful, I’ve emulated watercolor paintings by printing photos onto canvas paper through my inkjet, and hitting it with a wet brush.

I’m very excited to try the waterslide, as this is the most obvious way to combine my graphic design background with woodworking. I’ve had several projects as mere notations in sketchbooks, waiting for the day I could either feed wood through my printer, or get my carving or painting skills up to par with my imagination. Depsite the Fine Arts minor that accompanied my BS in GD, I’m better with type than paint.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- http://blanchardcreative.etsy.com -- http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2805 days


#9 posted 02-17-2007 09:21 AM

Scott – keep me up to date. I like this process but it is a work in progress – if you know what I mean. Looking forward to your experiences and teaching.

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6651 posts in 2646 days


#10 posted 09-19-2007 01:52 AM

Hi David;

Great information, Thank you.

Glad to see your more than just another pretty face.LOL

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6651 posts in 2646 days


#11 posted 09-19-2007 01:59 AM

Hi David,

Question for you. On our Ezee-Feed units we use a printed label over the machine paint. Do you think this application will work over the machine paint, with a couple coats of Deft to protect them?

Thanks,

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2805 days


#12 posted 09-19-2007 02:35 AM

Lee -

Thanks! As you know, I admire your work so a compliment from you goes a log way! I have reviewed your website and have considered purchasing an outfeed table for my saw – nice piece of equipment! Are you going to be at the Portland Woodshow in October?

Absolutely, the decals would be a great idea. Actually, send me a PM with your snail amil address as I have a couple of ideas for you. I also need access to a high resolution copy of your logo . . .

Best Regards,
David

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View Soliton's profile

Soliton

5 posts in 2521 days


#13 posted 11-06-2007 02:47 PM

Hello everyone, n00b here..

Just thought I would let you know that I was making custom decals back in 1980 for motorcycle paint jobs.

Spray a heavy coat of clear lacquer on a glossy magazine, album cover or whatever, let it dry thoroughly and then soak the paper in water until you can gently rub the paper off the back side. After that is done you can apply and seal the decal just as you outline in the article. I used catalyzed polyurethane enamel clear coat over my lacquer base color coat and decal. Enamel goes over lacquer very well, lacquer will usually not go over enamel.

I’m about to find out if you can do this with a color laser printer since I have found a used Minolta model for a very good price.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2827 days


#14 posted 11-06-2007 02:51 PM

NOW you tell me … after I spent a month trying to find a way to make a decal without paying $30 to have the specialty paper shipped to Canada!!!

let us know re: laser printer

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2805 days


#15 posted 11-06-2007 04:30 PM

Mike (from PM) -

The BelDecal site is working. I added anther site I used recently (MicroMark).

Good Luck! Let me know if you need help.

David

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

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