Saturday, 12 March 2016

Making De-Cals.....Image Transfer The Very, Very Easy Way.

Work has continued on Gamage's Doll Shop and I have been busy making up these doll size kits by Jane Harrop. They are in fact 1/24th and 1/48th scale kits, which are the perfect size for 1/12th scale childrens' toys.
I have painted them in a mixture of vintage colours and now have the tiny beds to dress. 
I have also lined the counter and shelf unit with matching wallpaper. I didn't use the insets that came with the kits as they were not a matching shade and I wanted the furniture to blend into the room as there will be so much going on with all the dolls. I have also put up a few wall shelves using some fretwork I discovered in my stash.
I have quite a few shops in my collection and one of the problems I have come across is creating the necessary signs and lettering. This led me to investigate all sorts of methods involving transferring images. I collected a lot of tutorials that can be found on my Pinterest board and have tried many of them but found I couldn't really get the colouring of depth quite right. 
I then began looking at work by various artisans and realised that not only were their methods much crisper than mine they also seemed able to image transfer quite complicated custom patterns and designs.
This led me to discover de-cals and even better than de-cals to buy, de-cal paper for ink jet printers. I found a site called Crafty Computer Paper that sold ten sheets for £6.99, which is not cheap but seemed to be the right product. The lovely Julie of Little Bits and Pieces very kindly confirmed that this was the de-cal paper she used on her furniture so I bought a pack of white and a pack of clear.
The instructions are incredibly straight forward and I have been playing this week.
I have produced both signage and images to decorate the tiny furniture and am so impressed with the results. Try not to spray your sheets and then leave them on the floor to dry when you have dogs with muddy paws though!! 
As the paper works out at 69p a sheet I did my best to fill a whole page to its limit by adjusting all the margin widths. I also ran a test page to make sure all my lettering was the right sizes before finally using the de-cal paper. You also have to seal your images with an acrylic spray to make sure the ink doesn't run when you dunk your images in water. I bought the Keen Spray from the same site as I am a lazy shopper but I am sure there are lots of other products that would do the same job.
Adding the images to the furniture was a piece of cake although I did leave my sheets to dry overnight just to make sure they dried thoroughly. I also have to admit to a complete mess up with my first attempt.
There are two types of paper, clear and white, the clear paper is what you need for lettering as the de-cal once removed from its backing is....clear. Whereas the white paper is designed for full images like pictures because when the decal is removed from its backing any blank spaces will show through....white.
I of course used white on my first print out which meant all of the lettering couldn't be used and some of the images were impossible to cut out intricately enough to avoid the white edges showing.  
So, second attempt and a day later I have been able to test out the clear sheets for the lettering. This phrase was painted over the door of the original Gamage's department store so it had to find a place in my shop. 
This is the lower section of the large shop unit and this decal has been applied to the back wall. You do not have to glue them on, they slide off the backing, once soaked in water for about 20 seconds. and then all you have to do is place them where you want.
Once I was in the swing I began applying them to the front of the shop.
I have used as many details as I could find linking back to this favourite childhood shop.
Lastly I applied the name which was the biggest of the de-cal strips and breathed a sigh of relief as it went on perfectly. Phew!! To make sure the de-cal doesn't stick too quickly and to allow you to adjust its position it is recommended that you wet the surface of the object you want the de-cal to stick to. This means it will slide into place and can be moved around with ease.
Easy peasey, lemon squeezey!!
You do of course get a slightly glossy finish from the de-cal and if you look very carefully there is a very fine line around the lettering which is why it is important to cut as close as possible to the lettering or image. I will add an extra coat of varnish once the shop is finished anyway for extra protection so this doesn't cause too much of a problem. I might even go for a satin finish to see if this dulls down the gloss.
I would definitely recommend this product it is a super way to personalise our miniature scenes. I understand that this de-cal technique has been used for years by train and model enthusiasts and of course you can buy tons of water slide nail decals on Ebay already printed and ready to use.
The best thing about this paper though is that it allows for the printing of whatever design you choose which is perfect for miniature shops.
Happy printing!!


  1. Gamages in London never used an apostrophe in their name

    1. So much for my research. Well my Gamage's has an apostrophe now and it will have to stay but thank you for letting me know.

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