Inkjet or laser printer? which is the better choice for printing decals? I've read that colours on inkjit printed decals fade after one year or two, is it true? I've some modelling projects that needs custom decals, can you suggest me what to do? (excuse me for my english, I'm italian) Pietro
Inkjet colours are not completely light-fast and will eventually fade - how quickly will depend upon the brand of ink. I have no idea about laser printers, as I do not own one.
I have tried printing my own decals on inkjet-compatible decal film with only limited success. The results are too transparent to use when applied to surfaces that are anything other than white or silver. I now use aftermarket codes and markings for my aircraft and print only the serials myself (black print is okay when applied to any colour surface).
I have tried some Bubblejet decals, and they are still fine after two years, but the model is not in the sun either. Most vere dark colour on light background. Main problem is they need several thin layers of clear in order to survive the water to set them on the model. Some problems could be solved with the white by using a white film as baskground or to print on. But my guess is that laser printed decals are easier as they can stand the water without the clear. Also the opasity may be better.
Neither option is really a 100% successful alternative to professionally printed decals.
The problem with inkjet printing is that it will fade after a year or two. Also, many types of "inkjet decal paper" will have issues with the ink "pooling" into tiny dots on large solid images after it's printed despite the manufacturer's claim of the paper being fully inkjet compatible.
Laserjet is a bit better but the printing tends to easily "crack" or flake off the paper even when a coat or two of some kind of sealant is sprayed on the paper, especially during decal application to a part. This is especially a problem when applying a decal to a curved surface. Also, colors aren't quite as vibrant as the better inkjet printers.
My experience with both methods has been using a HP Color Laserjet 2500N and a Epson Photo Stylus 200.
Interestingly, the old low cost ALPs rudimentary dye-sub printers often produced the best overall results but those kind of printers are no longer produced by ALPs.
There is a third option, which I use. I have a black and white laser, which I use for black decals. But I have never been satisified with the quality of inkjet papers for printouts from my color inkjet. I have tried various papers, various treatments, but I always end up with a slightly mottled or crazed appearance to them when I print on them with my inkjet printer.
So what I do for color decals is to print out on regular bond paper with my inkjet, and take the printout and the decal paper (regular laser/copier decal paper) to my local Kinkos to run in their copy machine. I really like the stuff I get from Micro Mark, and it even says laser/copier on the back, which may be why my local Kinkos has been willing to use this stuff in their machines. I understand some Kinkos will not. You may have to look around to find one that will.
Color laser printers continue to drop in price, and I am sure in a year or two I will get a color laser printer just to be able to print decals.
I have a good supply of Alps cartridges and working Alps printers and hope to keep at least one in service for many years yet.
I'll do custom printing from printer-ready vector artwork or high-resolution _monotone_ bitmaps, or will redraw high-resolution scans as vector art. The former isn't too expensive but the latter can be substantially higher depending on how much time I have to put into them. Contact me at the email address below if interested.
My advice: don't buy a printer, but let someone else print your decal designs on an Alps or OKI printer. You get excellent quality fade-proof decals for reasonable cost. I have a page about the subject:
I guess it can be intimidating, but the rewards are good! At the end of the page you will find a list of custom printers. In Italy you have Luca Beato who can print decals for you.
Rob de Bie ha scritto: > My advice: don't buy a printer, but let someone else print your decal
Thank you Rob and all the modellers who helped me to understand that only old Alps printer or better silkscreen printing produce good quality decals, so I will not waste my monet buying a laser printer as I was going to do. I know that in Italy Luca Beato can print decals with Alps printers; I sent him several e-mails on the last two or three years but he NEVER would reply one! I wonder if Alps/Oki printers will be avaliable one more time...I live in Sicily and we use to say "manna, cumanna e vacci tu" that if literaly translated (I hope!) sonds like: send someone (to do something), order to someone and make it by yourself! Pietro
The page shows 30 more custom printers, so you have plenty of alternatives!
You can probably still buy the equivalent OKI DP-5000 in Europe, although they are no longer exported to Europe I believe. HCR and Hofax used to sell them until recently:
But search around, locate the Italian importer, you may find one.
If you have serious plans to buy one, subscribe to the Alps and Alpsdecal mailing lists!! The messages will give you a good idea of the various problems you will have running the printer. This is one difficult printer! But the results can be excellent.
I chose not to buy one (had several opportunities) and instead I let others print my artwork. It's FAR more economical for my limited decal plans.
I've used inkjet, ALPS and laser printers to make decals. The ALPS decals win, simply because the printer can print white and metallic colors and it can realign the paper accurately, allowing for well registered overprinting.
That said, it's not hard to see why ALPS got out of the printer market - the driver and the printer itself are not very good.
Inkjet decals will fade, the inks are translucent and the inkjet decal films are thicker and harder to use than decal paper for laser and ALPS printers (like the excellent paper sold by Tango Papa).
Laser printers can make fairly opaque decals, with some effort, but you still can't print in white.
There's one promising method that allows you to make white decals on laser printers called DecalPro:
It requires a color laser printer for color decals and it's a bit more involved than the other methods, but at least you're not stuck with an obsolete printer and dwindling supplies. You could also use the materials and method to make photoetched parts and printed circuit boards.
First of all, anyone who checks out the DecalPro site should be sure to watch the video so they fully understand the process.
I ordered the transfer paper and have been doing some experimenting as time allows. This paper is not the ordinary decal paper most people are familiar with. This paper has no film on it. It is coated with dextrin which is a starch that easily washes off.
Since the three copy centers near me refuse to run any decal paper through their copiers, my first experiments were done using permanent ink markers. So far I've done this;
1- After marking the DealPro paper, I put a piece of 2u mylar over it and used an iron with as much pressure as I could press on it. The iron was hot, but not all the way to the highest heat. Then I soaked the paper and the mylar came off. The markings transferred to the mylar. The transfer on the mylar was a little bit weaker, but not by much.
2 - I made a decal and this might be of interest to those who like to experiment. After marking the DecalPro paper, I gave it three coats of Future with about 30 minutes drying time between coats. Then I soaked it and slid the Future decal off onto a piece of dry paper. The dry paper kept me from seeing if I could re-position the decal. Next I will try this method using Minwax's Polycrylic. I mentioned Polycrylic in my Nov.
15 post titled DIY Future Decals.
I'll scan my test and put it on the photo binary page.
I've used various toner transfer methods to make printed circuit boards and photoetched parts for years (close to 20!).
For most of that time, I used an iron. An iron will do an adequate job of transfering the artwork, but the level of frustration and the low yields (poor/incomplete transfers) are just not worth it.
Buy a laminator! It really makes all the difference in the results. Not only is the heat and pressure far more consistent and even than with an iron, it only takes a few seconds to make the transfer.
The 9" laminator that Pulsar is adequate for decals, but the next model up (around $100 at Staples) will work even better, since it gets hotter than the 9" and works great if you ever want to make photoetched brass parts. Either laminator will be an improvement over an iron.