Transfer (aka decals) are great, but let’s face it: you can’t get everything you might like, and the price you pay for a tiny sheet of them is a bit of a joke. I know people who’ve spent £50 on shield transfers for an army. Wouldn’t it be great if you could put any design you wanted onto a transfer, and print out a hundred of them for about £1?
Companies generally charge about £3-4 for a tiny sheet that might do 20 figures. Even for 20th century vehicles they often split the insignia you need over several sheets. Take a WW2 British vehicle, you’ll probably need big stars, serial numbers, tac signs, division markings and a bridging disk. Often all of these will be on separate sheets, which is madness. It’s not hard to spend £30 on decals for an army, when it turns out decal paper that you can print yourself costs about £1 for an A4 sheet.
Besides price, the other obvious advantage is that you can use your own designs. Download any image you want from the net (obscure unit markings, historical shield designs, nose art, filthy Russian slogans) and stick it on your miniatures. Joy!
Enough waffle, how’s it done?
First up: make sure you get the right kind of paper. It comes in two main kinds, for either inkjet or laser printers.
It also comes in clear or white. Printers can’t print white, so if you need any white areas on your transfer then you need to get white paper. Printers assume you’re using white paper so when the image has white in it they don’t put ink in that spot and allow the colour of the paper to show through. If you use a clear sheet then areas that are white in your design will actually be transparent and show the colour of whatever is behind the transfer. The downside of using white transfer paper is that you need to trim around the edges to avoid a white border. If your design doesn’t include white save yourself a hassle and use clear.
You’ll need to use an image manipulation program like Photoshop or Gimp to put all your designs onto a A4 -sized image. I like Gimp because it’s free and does pretty much everything Photoshop does anyway.
You can get the designs by scanning an image and shrinking them, or draw them yourself. Scanning and reproducing other companies’ transfer sheets is probably an egregious breach of copyright, so don’t do that. Most scanners don’t manage good enough resolution to make that an option anyway. When you’re resizing them switch the size measurement from pixels to actual size like mm or cm to make sure you’re getting the size right. Give yourself a decent amount of space between each transfer so you can cut them out. Having said that, cram as many as you can onto one sheet. You should be able to get an entire army’s worth of decals onto one A4 sheet.
- Always print a test page out onto plain paper so you can check the size and quality settings.
- Print out at photo quality.
- Leave it to dry thoroughly
- Spray with 3 coats of varnish just to be sure.
Those last two steps are the most important. Make sure you leave it to dry really well, I leave mine for 24 hours. Then cut the parts you want off the sheet and give it several light coats of whatever matt varnish you use. It needs to be completely set before you start adding water, or the colours can run.