“How To” Project- Decal Info from a Professional

-“How-To” Project-

Decal Information from a Professional; including How-to Wrap Decals

by Kustom Rides


Waterslide Decal Paper

♦ Using your inkjet, laser or thermal printer, you can create your own waterslide decals with this paper.

♦ You can take nearly any picture or design and turn it into a decal.

♦ The decals may be applied to most non-porous surfaces, including: Metal, glass, ceramic, wood, and some plastics. If you are using inkjet paper and want to decal over plastic, you will have to be careful when spraying clear coat over the surface. You can prepare plastic by first airbrushing acrylic clear before spraying on the clear coat.

♦ The decorative decals that you make bring more life to any object you choose.

♦ Make sure you choose the right size and type paper for your particular printer. Different printers handle different paper.

Printing Instructions

Design your decals using any graphics software program. You want the decal to be just as large or larger than the area it is going on. Then reduce during the printing process.

If you need to calculate the shrinkage, here is the formula: To reduce a 3.5-inch wide decal to a 0.5 inch area, 0.5 ÷ 3.5 = 14.28%.

Remember to take away any protective coating on the decal paper, and feed it into your printer so the glossy side gets the image. Also make sure the paper is straight, with no bends or curves.

Printer settings: You should try to print as high a resolution as your printer will allow. The decal paper, in the case of inkjet printers, may have “bleeding” ink or beading up from too much ink. On laser printers, the highest resolution should result in the best product. Usually you will want to set your printer to “Photo Paper” at high resolution. However, you may need to select “Transparency” as your setting. Each printer has a different way of designating ink density or toner density.

Print out your image and cut a square around the image. If you are using INKJET paper, you will want to spray the image until it is glossy with acrylic clear coat. You can get this at a hardware store or hardware section. Spray in a well ventilated area like an open garage. Get glossy clear, such as Krylon Crystal Clear or Premium Decor. Make sure the image is covered with clear.
Place the inkjet or laser paper with the image into room temperature or lukewarm water for about 30-60 seconds. Larger pieces take longer. You can carefully test if the decal is ready by trying to slide it off the paper. If the decal does not seem to slide off, it may peel off carefully.

Slide the decal on to the clean surface you want. You should slide the paper backing from under the decal film while keeping the image in place. Then carefully smooth out any bubbles that appear under the decal. If some become trapped, use a tiny pin to puncture the film and press out the air bubble.

Let your decal dry for at least an hour, but not more than 12 hours. If you are using laser decal paper, you are done but you may want to complete the next step. With the clear spray give the decaled area a light coat. Let dry, usually 30 minutes to an hour. Then spray another coat, this time until it is glossy. Be careful not to spray so much that the acrylic runs. Let dry. Then you may wish to add additional coats so it looks good to you. Be careful when applying more than five coats.

Additional Instructions

This decal paper is best suited for print densities up to 1,440 dpi. This is the highest setting on most inkjet and laser printers. Some printers can print higher, at 2,880 dpi. This paper will have a difficult time holding on to that much ink, although we have been able to accomplish it. If you find that your ink is bleeding (color runs), there are some solutions:

  1. Decrease the density or saturation of your print setting. Try using the “Transparency” setting instead of Photo.
  2. After the image is printed, VERY quickly spray just enough clear coat, like Krylon Crystal Clear, to seal the ink before it runs. After the image is dry, spray some more clear coat until the paper has a gloss shine.
  3. Turn off your printer and give it a rest. Temperature can also affect how the ink lays down.
  4. Try another sheet. Sometimes decal paper can be damaged by the elements.


Air may get under your decals, and this needs to be fixed, especially with clear decal paper. Do your best to press every air bubble from under the paper. For any that are left, you can poke a hole in them with a pin and press out the air.


One of the main problems with decal paper is the edge it produces, especially with white decal paper, which is thicker. It is very important to make sure your edges do not come up while you are clear coating. Make sure they are flat against the surface when you begin to spray. Spray a little at first. If any edges come up, press them down with a toothpick and wait for them to dry before spraying again.

How To Wrap Decals

“Micro Set” from Micro-scale Industries is the best helper application, along with a resilient decal paper like Papilio. With those two products you can do this:

After clear coating with Krylon and drying for 30 minutes, the decal was cut and placed in water. Then the ’56 Ford was liberally coated with Micro Set. Slide the decal on top of the car, and quickly cut the back slits and little ones up front. This is required because there will be excess decal when wrapping over 3 dimensions. It is like a V-cut so the sides and back meet at the back edges.

This takes time, so with a swab keep the decal moist with the Micro Set. The idea is to get it down quickly and with your fingers press out all those air pockets. The Micro Set will make the decal film pliable and help it adhere to surfaces at the same time.

NOTE: Here is a more process, where the entire car is basically covered by decal:

After the decal has been pressed down and all the excess decal has been snipped away so there is little or no overlap, and the bubbles are pressed out, begin applying Micro Sol with a swab or brush. This is optional and is used for the difficult surfaces. This product will help the decal lay down better on the surface. Also, if there are any bubbles that you can’t get out, use this product on top of them, prick the bubble with a pin and lay on some more Micro Sol. It will fill in the bubble.

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