I letter a lot of my equipment using dry transfers. I use Clover House
mostly, but have also used some Campbell Road and Komar stuff. Clover
House makes letter sets up to 3/16" (or maybe 1/4"). Does anyone know of
a good source of letters a size or two larger than that? I am looking for
letters for the sides of coal tenders, and want them a little larger.
Woodland Scenics makes sets in several colors. I just used their set
#MG702 Roman R.R. White to letter some On30 engines. This set comes in
1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, and 5/16", letters only, no numbers. C-D-S
Dry Transfers also has colored alphabet sets, but I don't recall what
sizes they come in, but there are (or were) larger sizes around 1/4".
You might "cheat" a bit and get them for a larger scale... an S-scale set
might be "large" in HO scale. There have been times that I wanted to make
highway billboards and did so by using larger scale decals and dry letter
You might try an art supply store....not the chains such as Michael's,
Ben Franklin, etc., but a really good one, usually a one-of-a-kind-er.
They sell brands such as Letraset, etc.
Only thing is, many of these art supply retailers are NOT restocking
Letraset (etc.) as most of the stuff was being used for layout work
(not model railroad, but things such as display advertising, etc.) and
nowadays much of that is done on computers.
Very true. I stopped in an art supply store a few months ago and asked about
the availability of dry transfer lettering. I was told that almost everything
(Letraset, Chartpak, etc.) is either no longer made or only made in a few sizes
and styles. It's amazing when you look at how large their catalogs used to be!
Computers really have put those businesses out of business.
I have never used dry transfers. What are the advantages over decals? What
are is the downside of dry transfers? Who are the big makers of them?
For me the worst part of building anything is the decals. Maybe I should try
Dry transfers are not available in the wide variety that decals are. They
are, for the most part, available for lettering buildings. I have used
Woodland Scenics dry transfers on buildings, and their color and quality
make them irresistible for "painting" signs in windows and on exterior
On irregular surfaces, Dry Transfers are not ideal. With decals, you can use
a softening agent to get the material to snuggle down into crevices or
around protrusions. They are the best for rolling stock and motive power.
Also, with decals, you can "float" the decal around a bit until you get it in
the correct position. With dry transfers, you pretty much have to have the
carrier sheet in the right position before burnishing or rubbing them onto the
surface. Sometimes that can be difficult.
You can easily remove the dry transfer if you get it in the wrong spot (using a
piece of tape) but you may not always have another letter to replace it with if
you have a small sheet of lettering. Some companies don't give you any/many
spare letters in case you make a mistake.
They have their advantages & disadvantages just like anything else that you
For me, it is easier to get the dry transfer sheet in the exact position
that I'd like for it to be. But you only get one shot... once you begin the
transfer process, there is no going back.
Multi-layered dry transfers tend to be a bit troublesome as well. You need
to burnish each layer carefully and sometimes even apply a coat of some kind
of sealer like Dullcote between layers.
I think that dry transfers tend to be more opaque than decals. This has its
Dry transfers will easily test the adhesion of your paint. On more than one
occasion, I've had paint stick to the dry transfer instead of the dry
transfer sticking to the paint! : (
Finally, dry transfer making is becoming a lost art. I'm aware of at least
some of the few dry transfer makers left out there having troubles in
finding shops to do their printing.
That is not very surprising.
20 years ago, we used a KROY lettering machine to make labels for most
everything. (Blue Prints, SilkScreens, Parts bins... Etc.)
More recently, (Different job) we had a hand-held labeler produced by
brother for labeling all of the servers/storage. Today, you can buy a PC
label printer (USB)for $80! (Takes up to a 1" wide label tape) I have used
this to make new road numbers for my coal fleet and other cars. Labels for
Light switches, Control panels... Etc. You do not have a ton of color
choices, but any image that I can get into my PC, I can make into a label.
Black on clear or white on clear is what I use the most of, but I am partial
to Gold on black. :-)
If I ever do a custom road, I will probably use the labeler for most of my
I take it the color choices are limited by the inks contained in the label
maker? I was very disappointed after I had bought a Canon Photo Printer to
find that it had no white ink cartridge. That pretty much limited me to
yellow decals for rolling stock.
How does the clear material look on? Does it snuggle down into crevices? Can
you treat it with a product like Solvaset?
That is true, the color choices are limited by your "ink" in the labeler.
you have a tape color, and you have a letter color. That is why I was
thinking of a Gold on Black for a logo/image.
In a high lighting environment, you can see a reflection off the label
depending on what angle you are observing the car from. I have used it
mainly on smooth sided coal cars/gondolas/hoppers. Now that I am looking, I
cannot find a wood-sided express reefer that I have done this too. A test
strip on an Express Reefer will lay down partially into the grooves if I use
a dental probe to push it in. The tape itself is about like the clear box
packing tape if you have ever used that. Personally, I cannot see that much
of a difference when looking at it from 12" away. YMMV.
Rather than trying to exactly match a letter/number size and font that is
somewhere between 8 and 9 points. I found that replacing the entire car
number makes a better looking number than when I just replaced one or two
Well Frank, I have a suggestion, but it requires you use more ink in your
Why not start with a coloured background and "NOT" print the letters?
What I mean is in your graphics software, create the image with a solid
colour background and then place the white letters on it.
When printed, you will get a coloured rectangle with white letters.
If you select a light grey background, the decal will look like a weathered