Tutorial: Weapon and Amor Decals (no high tech equiptment needed!)

Discussion in 'Halo Costume Tutorials' started by PerniciousDuke, May 3, 2018.

  1. PerniciousDuke

    PerniciousDuke RXO & BCO 405th Regiment Officer Community Staff

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    I never knew this was even possible! Create professional looking decals at home with your own color printer!

    It takes some time to set up, but the application is super simple. So let’s get you started!


    Materials you need:

    An electronic image of what you want, pre sized and in a printable document (pdf, jpeg etc)
    Waterslide Decal Paper (there are four options, explained later)
    Krylon Crystal Clear Spray Paint Matte or Glossy (or other clear acrylic spray)
    Decal Setting Solution (optional)
    Decal Blending Solution (optional)
    ½” paint brush
    Xacto knife
    Self Healing Cutting Board
    Bowl with warm water
    Blow Dryer or Heat gun with low setting
    Acetone (for weathering)

    *Disclaimer* This only works on a painted surface. Best to do this after you have painted your suit or prop, but before you’ve weathered and sealed.

    First we need to talk about the paper you will need to buy. There are two types of printers that this will work for, Ink jet or Laser and you will need to buy paper specific to which printer you have. Then you will have the options of clear or white. Printers cannot print white, so if your decal has white in the image you will need to rely on the white paper to create that white space. Use clear if you don't want any white in your decal. *but only if the decal has dark colors. Light colors become transparent with the clear paper and are hard to see on a painted surface.*

    Examples (Letter size):
    Ink Jet –Clear Paper
    Ink Jet – White Paper
    Laser – Clear Paper
    Laser – White Paper

    For an easy way to start, try just typing your Spartan # in Word and printing it out. Here's how mine turned out. Definitely needs weathering to blend in.

    1. Printing: Once you have your image, print it out on to the decal paper. I like to print test pages with plain paper first so that I know it will feed properly and print on the correct side. Follow the directions for printing provided with the decal paper.

    2. Sealing: Using a clear acrylic spray paint, coat the printed side of your papers. Make nice even passes in one direction. For example, up and down along the long edge of the paper. Let dry a few minutes. Make another even coat the other direction, left to right along the shorter edge of the paper. Let dry a few minutes. Make a final coat up and down again along the long edge. Set in a well ventilated area to dry for a few hours. This stuff smells bad!

    3. Cutting/Planning: Get out your solutions, paint brush, knife, cutting board, tweezers, tissues and bowl of warm water. Carefully cut out the decal you plan to use. If possible, allow a millimeter border around the colored portion of the decal. If your decal is an irregular shape consider an interesting border around it instead of just a rectangle or square. Take the dry decal and place it on the painted piece where you want it so you have a plan.

    4. Setting Step 1: Place the decal on the surface of warm water, printed side up. In 30-60 seconds the water will loosen the paper backing which will fall to the bottom. Cold water takes longer to remove the backing.

    While you are waiting take your brush and apply a small amount of the setting solution/water/vinegar to the surface you wish to set it too. The store bought solution is not needed, but will help create a superior bond between the decal and the surface. Some people report watered down distilled vinegar does the trick as well.

    5. Setting Step 2: Now that the backing has fallen off, take your tweezers and carefully grab a corner trying not to let the decal collapse on itself as you carry it over to your piece.

    Simply lay the decal down where you want it. The water will allow you to slide the decal around until you are happy with the location.

    Hold the edge down on one side with the tweezers so it doesn’t move. On the other side firmly press a tissue into the decal to wick up the water. The tissue will pull the water out from under the decal setting it firmly in place. Now firmly dab the other side of the decal to make sure that all water has been removed from the piece. Avoid any back and forth motions, dabbing only. For best results now use a blow drier or heat gun on low to fully evaporate the water.
    20180216_223850.jpg 20180216_223855.jpg

    6. Blending: *disclaimer* I have not done this yet as my solutions did not arrive in time. But, this is a product that will help blend the edges of your decal into the paint so it doesn’t look just like a sticker. I did it without and thought they looked just fine.

    7. Finish/Weather: Use a heat gun or blow dryer to really complete the bond. Now you are free to weather paint and clear coat your entire piece. If the decal needs to look damaged you can use acetone. It doesn’t take much and can also ruin your paint job, so try in a concealed spot first. The acetone reaction is similar to melting a plastic sticker.
    20180216_224632.jpg 20180216_233033.jpg 20180216_233248.jpg 20180217_115134.jpg 20180223_212634.jpg

    Congratulations! Pro status achieved.
    Thank you Asgardianhammer for the help!
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
  2. mkshane81

    mkshane81 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you very much! This is very useful information indeed.

    PerniciousDuke likes this.
  3. Sean Anwalt

    Sean Anwalt RCO 405th Regiment Officer

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    Just a thought from my Own experience, if you don't let the paper fall off but hold it with tweezers and a Q-tip, slide so an edge of the backing is accessible, place the decal where you want it and THEN remove the paper backing, I feel like you get a better adhesion.
    If your surface is glossy, that will help set the decal as well.

    Just my experience. That was from plastic models when I was a kid, though.
  4. PerniciousDuke

    PerniciousDuke RXO & BCO 405th Regiment Officer Community Staff

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    That does make sense, so less of the adhesion gets dissolved in the water. I didn't do that and the decals have held up really well. I even wetsanded them afterwards and they stayed on. I have noticed that blow drying them after wicking the water away also leaves a more permanent bond so I've added that to the materials list. There is also the Micro Set and Sol which are products designed to get a stronger adhesion and blend the edges, respectively.

    I used the methods explained in the tutorial above again and they still work! :)

    One new thing to note though: this time I used the clear paper and it does not accept colors very well. It makes the ink transparent too. When I have a black ink decal and placed it on a yellow surface it looked great. Then take a bright yellow decal and place it on dark green (normally very contrasting), but because of the transparency you can hardly see the yellow ink. So if you want more vivid colors it it best to go with the white paper.

    (Schankerz this is the tutorial I mentioned)
    Sean Anwalt likes this.
  5. Asgardianhammer

    Asgardianhammer Identity Officer Division Staff 405th Regiment Officer

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    Sometimes you may need to trace off the area you want the decal to go on and lay down a bed of white paint or even white decal paper, if it is something that absolutely needs to be printed on clear
    PerniciousDuke likes this.

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