mkeller234

Tutorial
How to: DIY decals

51 posts in this topic

I've recently come out of my Lego "dark age" and started rebuilding some of my old sets. I was never one to keep sets together very long, so naturally i've lost a lot of stickers. One of my other hobbies is classic bicycles, which often share the dilema of missing or damaged art. This method for producing decals was taught to me by a clever artist on a popular bicycle forum, so he really deserves any and all credit.

This method is simple and inexpensive and much of the materials are common. I assume the trickiest part for most people will be producing the art. I happen to have Adobe Illustrator at home, so I am able to create my own vector art files. I believe other cheap, maybe even free software exists. Sometimes high quality art can also be found as images on the web.

On to the step-by-step:

1) Produce the art. Use a laser printer and any cheap printer paper. Laser printing is key... if you don't have one, you could try any of the copy shops around. As mentioned, I used Adobe Illustrator. I am replacing the decals for 6594 Gas Transit.

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DSC04389 by mkeller234, on Flickr

2) Cover the art with packaging tape.

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DSC04390 by mkeller234, on Flickr

3) Burnish the tape onto the image. I use scissor handles and rub over the tape surface. You will be able to see which areas have bonded well. It doesn't take much effort.

12107277965_350d61cbaa_b.jpg

DSC04391 by mkeller234, on Flickr

4) Cut the decals out. The closer, the better. I usually follow the shape of the art, but it doesn't really matter.

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DSC04392 by mkeller234, on Flickr

5) Submerge in water

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DSC04393 by mkeller234, on Flickr

6) Once the paper is saturated, it can be rubbed away with light pressure from your thumb. Remove as much paper as possible.

12107682244_a3383bfc5d_b.jpg

DSC04394 by mkeller234, on Flickr

As you can see, the decals are clear. This is both a blessing and a curse. I happen to be positioning these over white bricks, so the colors will look nice. For use with dark bricks, you will need to either paint the back with white paint, or find a printer that can print white (ALPS).

12107683404_ffa30e4894_b.jpg

DSC04395 by mkeller234, on Flickr

7) Place the decals on your model. These decals are very forgiving and can be slid around easily. They stick on their own without glue. Make sure you allow them to dry completely before really handling them.

8) Admire your work!

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DSC04399 by mkeller234, on Flickr

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DSC04398 by mkeller234, on Flickr

Ahhh... the teeth marks of my youth.

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DSC04400 by mkeller234, on Flickr

Lego trucks sure have changed since I was young. I love the detail in these new models!

12107691774_a4961ace00_b.jpg

DSC04401 by mkeller234, on Flickr

Edited by Rufus

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Welcome to EB mkeller234!

Thats a really good way to make decals, I think I'll give it a go sometime.

Thanks! I've really enjoyed the awesome reviews on this site.

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Wow - I've been trying to salvage the old stickers on this exact set. I'm going to give this a try.

Let me know if you want the art. I will send it to you for free.

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Thanks for sharing this technique. It looks like a simple way to get good looking stickers.

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Did you know you can get self adhesive clear acetate for laser printers now? Might simplify the process a little!

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Did you know you can get self adhesive clear acetate for laser printers now? Might simplify the process a little!

Yes, but this is free since I always have packaging tape.

Edited by mkeller234

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Very useful tutorial! :thumbup: I will move this to the MCW where decal production lives.

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Let me know if you want the art. I will send it to you for free.

You have mail...

I bought a lot of very dirty and yellowed LEGO online for very little money with the intention of seeing whether I could restore any of the sets by cleaning and un-yellowing the parts. This Octan tanker was one of the complete sets I was able to pull from the lot.

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I wonder if you used that T shirt transfer paper, you might be able to transfer just the ink and make your own 'printed blocks'?

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T-shirt transfer paper would not work since you need heat to apply it on the surface. That`s not good for our bricks.

The technique sounds nice :-)

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T-shirt transfer paper would not work since you need heat to apply it on the surface. That`s not good for our bricks.

The technique sounds nice :-)

You think an iron would melt/damage the bricks?

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You think an iron would melt/damage the bricks?

This about lego + candles

bricks.stackexchange.com/questions/547/how-much-heat-can-lego-bricks-withstand

So i think this applies to lego aswell. Only possibility would be to have transfer sheets that work at low temeratures (like 60-70°C).

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I have silk screen materials. Has anyone ever tried a really fine mesh to print on blocks? I'm not personally interested in doing that, but may someone is?

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Great post. I think I remember doing something similar with magazines to create slides for slide projectors. This was way a long time ago.

This looks like a very viable and easy to manage solution. Does it matter how "old" the print is? As in, does it work better when the printing is fresh-fresh (within minutes) or older - hours or days? Just wondering as I also used to do the transfers of old photo-copiers using lacquer thinner - these had to be relatively new to transfer effectively (This was paper to paper transfer for art school).

I've been wanting to make some custom minifigs but have had just enough logistical barriers (like ordering the decal paper) to keep me from doing it. I'm staring at a laser printer and roll of packaging tape right now...so no excuses!

I'm totally excited. Thanks again for the post!

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This about lego + candles

bricks.stackexchange.com/questions/547/how-much-heat-can-lego-bricks-withstand

So i think this applies to lego aswell. Only possibility would be to have transfer sheets that work at low temeratures (like 60-70°C).

According to that link ABS plastic can withstand temperatures up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit (and starts melting at 221)? After doing a quick google search it looks like iron heaters can get over 200F, but generally the only fabric setting that would even remotely harm a Lego piece is the 100% cotton one which is around 190 degrees. The other settings are well under the 176 degrees (acrylic setting, nylon/silk, rayon, cotton blend, wool). Couldn't you just get transfers made for other fabrics like mkeller points out, or try to do a transfer on one of the other cloth settings?

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According to that link ABS plastic can withstand temperatures up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit (and starts melting at 221)? After doing a quick google search it looks like iron heaters can get over 200F, but generally the only fabric setting that would even remotely harm a Lego piece is the 100% cotton one which is around 190 degrees. The other settings are well under the 176 degrees (acrylic setting, nylon/silk, rayon, cotton blend, wool). Couldn't you just get transfers made for other fabrics like mkeller points out, or try to do a transfer on one of the other cloth settings?

German Interwebs says that Iron-Settings are between ~110°C (Silk) and ~220°C (~230 - ~430 F). According to wikipedia ABS gets soft from 80°C on.

From my own experience with removing keychains from minifigs I know that hot water (~70-75°C) can already damage your figs if you move the legs/arms/head to much.

But like said...prove me that I´m wrong ;)

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Awesome, thanks for sharing

Need to try this out sometimes, I use laser and cheap paper when making my decals but didn´t know one remove the paper like that.

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