White decals

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    Lewis Holden
    Keymaster

    Hi all,

    As some of you are probably aware, we face a bit of a conundrum with decals. There’s a lot of water transfer paper now available that you can print on using either an InkJet or LaserJet. These days you can print quite a bit using your own InkJet. The problem is that Inkjet’s can’t print white – they make up colours by mixing others, so “white” to an Inkjet printer is simply the white paper. In effect, the printers treat white as a “negative” space, so if you’re printing on clear decal paper, the white areas will come up blank.

    Previously, the most popular method for printing decals with white – using an ALPS Printer. ALPS printers use wax and so with white wax can print white decals on transfer paper. The problem is ALPS printers are becoming harder and harder to come by. ALPS doesn’t manufacture their thermal wax-printers anymore and hasn’t provided consumables for them since 2015. While you can buy the printers online (with some difficulty) they’re becoming a rarity, with limited spare parts to keep the old printers going. They also require Windows 98 (!) and a serial port connection, which almost no PC would have these days. So long-term, not really a sustainable option.

    The alternative is to use white decal paper with your Inkjet. This isn’t really practical though for lettering, or as we require often for NZR models, white numbers. You can over-print the colour you require, but matching that to the paint colour is almost impossible, and doesn’t look that great.

    For some time I’ve been looking for an alternative to Inkjets with white decal paper. I looked at LaserJets that can print white (they do exist as “white toner” laser printers) and they cost a small fortune. I even considered buying one on finance and making decals to pay it off but the numbers don’t stack up. The printers cost too much for it to work, and while I’ve kept an eye on the prices over the years, the cost hasn’t come down enough.

    Which leaves us with the same conundrum: an expensive specialist printer that’s hard to come by and no longer supported or manufactured, versus an expensive specialist printer that’s hard to come by and is still supported and manufactured…

    Until now! I’ve been doing a bit of digging and discovered others in the modelling fraternity have come across the same problem and identified a potential solution: Toner Reactive Foil (TRF).

    TRF was developed for scrap-booking hobbyists who need white or silver or bronze, colours that Inkjet’s can’t replicate. Essentially you print the image you want on a LaserJet and then run that print against the foil through a laminator. Not sure how that will work with clear decal paper, I’d be a bit nervous about putting it through a laminator.

    There’s a few sources, here’s one I’ve found:

    I’ll need to buy some to see how it goes… and acquire a laminator.

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