By John Lester - images & text © 2000
To make decals, one needs blank decal sheets, which are just paper with a special film that slides off the paper backing when it gets wet. One can paint a design directly on them, or use a computer printer or photocopier to transfer a design. "Traditional" decal papers are too smooth and glossy for inkjet printers, however; the ink just beads up in most cases, smearing everywhere. ALPS Micro Dry and the various laser printers are the only ones that can be used with this type of paper, since they don't use liquid inks. For most modelers, though, it's just not economical to by a special printer with special print cartridges just for the occasional decals.
Along comes Micro Format to the rescue. The company, which specializes in different types of inkjet-compatible papers, has a new product called SuperCal that allows one to make waterslide decals on an inkjet. The system has two parts: specially coated paper that the ink can adhere to, and a spray-on clear fixative. Clear and white paper is available in several sizes, as are cans of the fixative. One can also buy a "kit", which is what I did.What You Get
The kit contains five sheets of 8.5" x 5" clear decal paper and one can (slightly larger than a Testor's spray can) of clear fixative. Instructions are provided, but consist of nothing more useful than:
Not a whole heck of a lot for my $20 plus shipping, especially considering that I can get ten or so blank 9" x 11" traditional sheets at the hobby shop for the same price, and double that from various on-line sources.However ....
This is the only decal paper I can use with an inkjet. And, to be honest, it's not bad stuff at all. I tested one 1" x 1" image with my HP 850C printer, set at 600 DPI resolution. Absolutely no problems, and the image looks sharp on the paper. It also does not have any of the little crosses or dots that one often gets with an ALPS or color laser. I let it dry for a few minutes (as I normally do when printing to regular paper), and was subsequently unable to smear the ink just by handling. So far, so good.
On a whim, I took the stuff to the office and tested the paper with both an ALPS MD-1000 and an OKIDATA 8 color laser printer. Again, there were no problems running the paper through the printers, and the test images looked fine when printed. I also tried undercoating the image with white using the ALPS. With normal decal sheet, the white from this printer often does not lay down very well. It stuck to the SuperCal better, though still flaking off in spots.Conclusions
If you do not have access to an ALPS or color laser (or color photocopier) , then give this stuff a try. It's more expensive than the usual decal papers .... but then the usual stuff requires more investment in hardware. The only concerns I can see are that one can't print a white background with any of the inkjets I know of - and without a solid background, your decals may be translucent (to the point where background colors, especially camouflage patterns, show through). Of course, you can use MicroFormat's white decal sheets to get around that - or simply make two copies of each image, and place one over the other for increased opacity.
Many thanks to my wallet for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized? Contact us!
This page copyright © 2000 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 6 December 2000.