Modeling with Microscale
In the March 2010 issue of the "High Green" I explained how to create your own custom TrimFilm colors utilizing enamel paints and painting over clear or any other color trim film to better match to a target color. In order to further advance the topic, I'm going to look at a problem that custom decal printers have come into. A few solutions exist to get around the issue at hand. Let's first examine the problem and work out a few approaches to getting around it.
The scope of this piece isn't about HOW to print your own decals. The target for this article are those already printing their own decals that have run into printing a field of black with white lettering showing through the black background. What is experienced when trying to print a black box with white or colored characters in it, the black chips and flakes around the trimmed edge of the black revealing the white decal film below.
To get around this, a better understanding of why this is happening. Toner and ink from consumer type printers isn't formulated to fully adhere to the inks used by Microscale that are printed to decal paper. When the clear liquid decal film is used, it behaves much like a laminate, sealing the printed area water proofing it.
Since the toner isn't truly adhered to the decal surface, it is completely reliant on a seal being created around the printed area. This is much like using a laminating machine to attach two pages together. There is no direct bond between them, the seal happens around the laminated objects. As you my be familiar, once you cut all the clear lamination off, there is no physical way to keep the objects stuck together. Those that have printed their own decals are probably familiar with trying to print black on white TrimFilm. Coting it with Liquid Decal Film MI-12 to seal the printed areas. When attempting to trim the printed object to the black, the toner along the trimmed edge will lift and flake off since there is no longer a physical seal to the edge of the black field to the white TrimFilm decal surface.
The best way to print the objects with a black field is to break the application into two parts. First you will need to lay down on the model a white backup, cut to the same shape but cut a little smaller. The second application will be the clear TrimFilm that has your custom printed objects on them.
As you get familiar with this method, it will allow for more complex printing with white backup. I have in the past printed a cut line on the white TrimFilm to assist my accuracy when cutting my white shape to lay on the model first. Attempts to line up the two components on the model will be much easier and less subject to "dead reckoning".
I have also in the past for custom number boards on locomotives, printed a backwards image on clear decal film then following the March 2010 article, painted the white over the backwards image then sealed it with MI-12 Liquid Decal Film. This method works if the modeler absolutely needs to keep the application to one layer.
Further information on custom printing your own decals have been covered in the model railroad press. One of my personal favorites is Rick Sutton's on the subject. Available for viewing on TrainLife here: