Make Your Own Decals

So there are a few of my followers that want to know how to make their own decals. This post will inform you on how I make my decals when a need arises. In my opinion, I would take stock decals over homemade. Unless you have a high quality printer (I do not), the results won’t be the best. However, even a basic printer will get you by.
So to start off, what decals are you wanting to make/design. For the YA-10, I scanned the entire stock decal sheet to my computer. I made it into a PDF file and printed straight from that. There was no sizing to do whatsoever. If you have a design program, your options increase on your capabilities. You can make your chosen design and scale it down to size. I use the basic Paint program that came with my computer. If I make my own designs, it’s usually limited to some nose art or a bureau number. I haven’t delved too far into this process. You can also find an image or logo online that you want to use and save it as an image to your computer. Open it up in your design program and size it down.
When it comes to sizing, I make multiple images that are different sizes. Print that out on a plain white sheet of paper and decide which size fits best. Hold it up to your kit and compare the various size options. Once you have chosen the right size, it’s time to print on decal paper.
When it comes time to print, there are two decal paper options. Clear paper is just like a stock sheet of decals. When you cut them out, the film is clear. White decal paper is as you would guess….white. Most computers do not print the color white so this would be the option to go with if you have that need. The downside to this selection is that you have to be 100% accurate when cutting your decals out. Any overhang of a missed cut and you will have a white border. So trim well when using this option. I have always gone with clear. Testors makes both options and quite honestly, that is all I have ever seen being sold. I am sure there are other makers out there that work just the same if not better. The Testors paper is smaller than a standard size sheet of paper so you will need to adjust your printer to accept the smaller sheets. Once you have that corrected, go ahead and print your decals out.
This is by far the easiest part of the process. Click print. Or print preview if you want to check out how they will lay out. After I print them out, I let them sit for a day to completely dry. After they are completely dry, I spray them with Testors decal bonder. It is available in a rattle can and also comes in a decal maker kit. Don’t waste your money on the kit unless it’s your only option. The provided cd is useless. I have also heard of clear gloss being used to seal them in but I have not tried it. Use it at your own risk. Once you give it a good spray with the bonder, let them sit another day to dry. After that, you are ready to start using your creation.
That is the gist of what I do for my decals. I am quite positive that there is a better way to do it and I am open to your suggestions. I hope this will help you out or give you the courage to try it. Any questions?


21 thoughts on “Make Your Own Decals

  1. Thanks. Very helpful.

    I have read on the Internet that Testors decal sheets were not that good.
    For now I am sticking with your opinion.


  2. I found this review…

    Terrible decal paper. First the packaging is deceptive, does not indicate they are half sheets. Instead of selling less full sheets than more full sheets, they let me think they were selling 8×10. The decal i printed got the usual fixative and wait time. As been experience using decals, Testors clear edges curl as they clear is applied. I had to try it again. had to sand the entire job again. Its better to use Papilio Clear Inkjet Decal since the edges of there decals do not curl under application of clear coat. Testors! save your money for Papilio.


  3. I have just scanned the decal sheet of a vintage 1960s Monogram Mosquito. The decals are falling apart.
    I use a 1200 dpi settings and I am using Paint to modify the red YP-A to make it a white YP-G for Eugene Gagnon’s plane. I have all the information for that airplane, serial number and all.

    The model kit belongs to Jacques Gagnon, Eugene’s nephew. He had it in a old cardboard box in the back of a closet. I told him I could build it and give it back as a gift.

    I guess I will have to keep my promise. There is also a story behind the old carboard box. I guess you can’t wait to read it.


    • Stay tuned aviationstrails… I will write about my experience on my blog about my forgotten hobby once I get the decal sheets I have ordered.

      As a footnote
      Yesterday I used Paint and printed test printouts to get the right scale as amateur airplanes explained on this post.
      Making your own decals can become addictive.


  4. Never even knew that you could make your own decals. Fascinating. I could take an F-111 model and convert it to an RAF Lakenheath F-111F by basically making an “LN” decal for the vertical stabilzer.


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