Saturday, September 03, 2011

Review: Testor's Clear Decal Paper

I ran across some Testor's clear decal stock at Hobby Lobby.  It purportedly is intended to be used with a 'Decal System', which includes clear bonder and some software.  I decided to try it and use what I have: Graphics programs, HP dot matrix printer, Krylon clear coat, and Future Shine.

My roughed-out decals all had a white background, which defeats the purpose of the clear decal stock.  I only have GIMP on my netbook and, while it handles transparency, it couldn't export this option to a bitmap (jpg, etc).  I was happy to find out that my old copy of Paint Shop Pro handles this function nicely.  The Testor's decals are 5.5" x 8.5" and my images printed nicely when the printer was set for 5" x 8" note cards.

The following are my observations.

Some people have reported that the colors on their decals were transparent.  I printed mine from an HP with Costco ink refills. The colors looked fantastic on the white sheet, however, I could see what those reviewers were talking about.  When applied, black was completely opaque, dark blue was fine, red was somewhat translucent, and yellow was even more so.  The saving grace on this project is that silver makes a nice light background so the colors still look pretty good.  White would, of course, work well, but these probably wouldn't look good when applied over a dark color.

I had also read that the ink on the Testor's decals would run and that they were brittle.  I applied 3 coats of Krylon matte clear coat and didn't have these problems. The color on one decal came off after repeated repositioning.  However, I don't consider this a color problem in itself.  This statement should be clearer as you read on.

The main problem that I saw was that the edges of the decals tend to roll and are hard to keep down. I have seen this with the home made decals on some garage kits.  I regrouped and decided to try to add a coat of Future Shine prior to application.  This helped a lot but didn't completely solve the problem.

The final issue is that the decals don't adhere well in general.  I followed the instructions supplied with the decals - dip in water for 5 seconds and set aside on a towel.  This procedure seemed to work well but they just don't stick down.  I found that coating the applied decals with more Future Shine seemed to help hold them down.   I had to keep pushing the edges down while the Future Shine set.  On the decal whose color lifted, I has pushed the edges down with a finger nail. The Future Shine stuck to my nail and the decal lifted.  It took a lot of manipulation to get it back down, and it wasn't in great shape afterwards.  So, the root problem is the adhesion problem coupled with my use of Future Shine.

On some of the latter applications, I applied a coat of clear nail polish as the decals set.  This holds them down very well but reacts with the decal, leaving a rough edge.

I am admittedly not an adept decal person and this was my first attempt at making my own. The end result is far from perfect but I am not unhappy with them.  I hope this reviews provides enough information about this product.  I may pick up some of the Testor's bonder for my next set of decals.  This won't affect the basic curling and adhesion issues, however, maybe it can be used to glue them down without the edges being damaged.

Comments are welcome!