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Custom Decals

2996 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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Sorry Stu, I know nothing about these vector and rasters images, ignore my suggestion, it will work with bitmaps and JPEGS. I have had good results using this, never stepped upto the next level, (I though Bob Marley in a Vauxhall was Raster and Vector..
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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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Thank you everyone for the input here.

Something I've realised since my last post is that "pixelating" was not the right word. My bad!
Here's the problem, described as best as I can..........

I find some images on the 'net and save them to my hard drive. No problem.
Then I go into Inkscape and put all the images together (4 of them, to be precise). No problem.
At this point, the main image is well over 200mmx200mm, so I reduce the size in Inkscape. This is when the image loses definition. It becomes fuzzy/blurred on the screen. Printing the image through MSWord gives a similar result.

Now, yesterday evening, I tried DJs suggestion of using MSWord to resize the image and the results are a lot better. I'd be happy to use the images now as no-one but me will ever see them. Doubtless they are still not perfect, and I'd like to improve them before putting them on my cars, but if I can't then I can live with it.

My printer settings could well be wrong as well - I'll have to look into it - but it's only a cheap HP printer, about 5 years old, so I may not be able to do anything about that. I'm not throwing money that could be better spent on expanding my collection of cars on a new printer just for the sake of printing 30 decals when I'll probably never need to do it again. Again, if this is where my problem - or part of it - lies, I'll just live with the quality I've got now.

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I get good results if I make the images in powerpoint then make the image as big as my screen (which is pretty big) then screen save and paste into MS Word for correct sizing and printing at the highest resolution my printer will do (around 1200 if I remember correctly). Most decals are a mix of bit-mapped images and vector images anyway. You can see an example half-way down the page here (Denis Hulme Can-Am lola.

Best wishes

OK. Now it makes sense what is happening Stuart. The images you are putting together are probably raster images, not vector to start with. 2 choices. Trace or re-create them as vector or use Raster editing software (Photoshop, Gimp, ie. photo editing software) to resize them. They will not resize perfectly being raster, they will lose definition as the information contained is 'averaged' to extrapolate a smaller image.

Vector based images will usually be tagged EPS, PDF, AI, CDR, SVG to name but a few. Raster image formats include JPeG, GIF, PSD, PNG and the like. Bitmap (BMP) can technically be classified as raster, but is even simpler.

When building up a livery for a scale car I do it exactly the same way as I do for a real one. Import a photo of the vehicle into your vector package (place the photo in Illustrator terms). Scale the photo up to full size and build up the livery with logos, colour blocks etc. The pieces will then be at the correct size and can be copied off onto another artboard, rearranged to fit the paper, duplicated etc and printed.

This is an example of how I put together the livery for my current OzRally Proxy Celica.

And this is the finished car.

Note: The race number changed and I didn't use the rally plate as it needed remaking as a vector. It was completed separately.
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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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Mr M, it's a a fantasy livery from various local businesses all of which I designed the logos for. So, I guess it's a little bit of a 'folio' piece. Alas 2 of the 3 'sponsors' are no longer trading. In fact they ceased the week after the car passed it's tech inspection.
Raster images can not be converted to vector

They can but it isn't an easy process and the results need some work. I took a friend's scanned drawing of a tree with birds in it and used the trace tools in Inkscape to convert the A4 scanned image into a vector drawing which was then sent to a glass etcher who scaled it up to etch onto a a piece of glass for a door panel.

However not something for someone new to the whole game. If you are going to work with jpeg images from the internet then a simple layout program like the already mentioned Word or Publisher or Pages will give you good results.

I have used vector programs but the majority of the logos on the Hummer in my first post were layed out in Word and I think they look fine.

The other tip which you have probably already done - is I will print a sheet of the graphics on plain paper and then cut them out and lay them on the car. Ember's tip is a great one but I find placing them on the actual car gives me a good feel for the size.

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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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I use the bitmap trace function quite a lot. But there are ways to go about it to make it more successful. The higher contrast and simpler the image the better. I've even gone so far as to trace a complex image in several parts and recombine the results.
Once again, thank you everyone for your input.

I've got to the point where I'm reasonably happy with my efforts. Here's a pic of 2 of the cars......

As this is my first attempt, I've done the decals on sticky white paper for now. I've saved the images and at some point, I'll get either some white printable vinyl, or white decal paper and do the job properly. I'm that pleased with the way the WRC one on the Accent has turned-out, I'm thinking about doing the whole of my SCX up to 2002 WRC collection the same. The Rallylegends one on the quattro doesn't please me quite as much, but the pic doesn't do it justice - when you take it to full size, the decals look slightly distorted, particularly on the Accent, but they aren't actually. My wife's camera isn't all that brilliant, and I'm still in the dark ages of celluloid with my own SLR.

The image in my sig is the bottom of the Rallylegends door decal from the quattro. All my own work!
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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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