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Custom Decals

3000 Views 31 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Mr Modifier
(First of all, my apologies if I've posted this in the wrong forum)

I want to do some custom decals - rally plates and number boards, to be specific. I've checked places such as Patto's and no-one seems to do the stuff I want, so I'll have to do it myself.

I started by copying JPEG images off the 'net and re-sizing them. The trouble I'm having with that is that by the time I get the images small enough, they've lost most of their definition.

So, my questions are;-
1) Are there any write-ups on DIY decals here for IT-illiterates, such as myslf?
2) If not, is someone able to tell me what format I should be working with the images in, what software I need to working with and where I can get that software?

I could attempt to design my own decals, but I'd still need software I don't have plus a heavy dose of both imagination and artistic ability - which I'm lacking in. I'd be prepared to attempt it if someone could tell me, please, what is suitable software for designing decals from scratch.

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QUOTE (StuBeeDoo @ 21 Jan 2012, 14:55) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Thanks everyone.

I'm in the (slow) process of finding my way around Inkscape.

Before you get too hung up in the software...

I notice you said by the time you get the image small enough you lose definition. This implies the original jpg's were adequate seeing as bitmaps are only a problem if you make them BIGGER not smaller.

Printers print in dots (like jpg's) and not lines (like vector images). So a printer will convert a line drawing into dots in order to print it.

It seems to me that your problem is more likely the PRINTER RESOLUTION rather than the images.

When you print you need to set the highest quality setting your printer has. What you print ONTO also makes a BIG difference - some media "bleeds" (the ink spreads out and blurs slightly). This is very noticeable when printing small and expecting detail. In my experience some of the decal papers are very poor at high resolutions so try a more expensive and better quality decal paper.

If your decals need a white background and you aren't too worried about slightly thicker decals you could try buying some printable vinyl (only suitable for inkjets). I use this to make decals for my transit vans and it's great for detail and it's self-adhesive but not so sticky you can't peel off a cock-up! I tend to seal it after with clear acrylic spray. Search for printable vinyl on ebay, that's where I got mine.

The vinyl will be great for rally plates and number plates. It won't be so good for complex decals that bend over compound curves (unless you are really handy with a craft knife).
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QUOTE (StuBeeDoo @ 6 Feb 2012, 07:45) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>OK, so I'm using Inkscape, and I've made a decal I'm happy with. When I re-size it to the 17mmx16mm I need it to be, it pixelates badly. What am I doing wrong??

Is it pixelating on the screen or when printed? I would expect it to be OK on the screen.

It could be the following.

Look at the dots per inch (yes I KNOW its a vector program) in the image settings. This is for use when exporting the end result to a raster format (JPG or BMP etc) and is probably used when printing as well.

If the dpi is set to screen resolution - that is typically 72dpi so a 17mm x 16mm image will be about 47 dots x 44 dots.

If the dpi is set to say 300dpi then 17mm x 16mm will be about 196 dots x 185 dots.

Check your image settings and also check you printer resolution options. Make sure your printer settings are at the highest available resolution then make sure your image settings are set to that same resolution. THEN resize your image to 17mm x x 16mm and things should be about as good as they can get.

If your printer is one of those weird ones that prints non-square (600x300 or 1200x600) then set the image resolution to the highest of the two numbers.

The problem is not with your software program or your image - it is probably how you are choosing to output it.
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Ember has it right.

Although you are using Inkscape - a vector drawing package - the images you are bringing in are raster.

Most vector drawing packages will work with vector and raster.

Raster images can not be converted to vector - you need to make up a vector image using geometric shapes and text fonts and assign them with fills etc. These can then be grouped and the group resized up and down as often as you like with no loss in quality.

If you brought in images from the web they will be raster and when you resize the image it will pixelate them (you were using the right term).

Word, as was suggested by somebody, is a better bet because when you resize an image in Word it keeps the same number of pixels in the item and simply displays it a different size. Word lets the printing process figure out the best way to print it.

Your printer is only 5 years old so it won't be a problem. It will be at least 300dpi which is fine for these purposes. Choose your media carefully though because cheap decal paper results in blurring (I made that mistake).

Ember - I love that livery. Very "happy". Is it a real livery or is it one you made up?
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OK I hold my hand up - I should have said "Raster images can not easily be converted to vector".

I have never had brilliant results with trace functions and actually find it quicker to import the bitmap and then create the vector elements on top of it, moving nodes around until it's as close as possible then deleting the bitmap. You tend to get cleaner edges that way and it is quicker than tidying up a traced image.

I will try to avoid sweeping generalisations in future!!!
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Well done, you now have a car that is totally unique.

Now you can take your cars to the ball and not worry about another one wearing exactly the same dress!

Seriously though - good result.

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