The Southampton Pilot Boats have some distinctive logos and graphics on their cabins and I thought I’d have a go at making my own rather than getting them made in vinyl by a graphics studio.
I have used waterslide ‘decals’ many times in my youth as an avid Airfix and Revell model kit maker so I know how they work and how to use them but I’ve never tried making my own. Fortunately there are quite a few helpful videos on YouTube that illustrate the process and all that is required is a bit of work with a graphics package, I use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, a good inkjet printer and the required clear and white backed transfer paper.
The latter can be bought readily from eBay and while being quite expensive as a single A4 sheet they are available as mixed multipacks at reasonable cost. Inkjet paper is most common but you can also get a Laser Jet version of the paper too.
The process starts with identifying the logos and obtaining a good quality .png of .jpg file of the required logos but our friend Google makes this very easy and once in the graphics software they can be re-sized, re-coloured and manipulated with ease.
The most difficult aspect is gauging the correct proportions of the logos and text by studying the ‘photos of the real boats, which is quite difficult without having something to reliably scale to. The large black ‘PILOTS Southampton’ text is just Arial bold so that’s very easy to generate.
I made a test sheet of the graphics in my Canon ink-jet printer on Best Photo settings, left them to dry and then used some ‘Rust-Oleum’ clear lacquer (in a rattle can that I wanted to finish up) to overspray the decals to ‘fix’ them and protect the ink from dissolving away when placed in water as is recommended in the instructions that come with the paper.
A selection of these graphics were then applied to my ‘test piece’ which is painted in the colours I’m using.
I also used some ‘Micro Sol’ and ‘Micro Set’ fluid to aid application and ensure correct bonding of the decals.
The final part of the testing involved spraying the decals with lacquer as a protective coating….and that’s where the benefits of doing a test piece first comes to the fore.
To my horror the decals had a very bad reaction to the Halfords clear lacquer that I used and started wrinkling up before my eyes, I quickly grabbed my ‘phone and videoed this happening 😲
You can see the wrinkling happening in the video clip.
(EDIT: The clip was uploaded as a .mp4 file but mysteriously gets changed to a .mpg4 file by the site when you download it, rename it a .mp4 if it doesn't play after it's downloaded.)
I believe that the two different brands of lacquer, both supposedly acrylic, reacted with each other and hence the wrinkling. I can’t imagine how furious I would have been if I’d not done this test and applied the decals to the cabin right away and then used the Halfords lacquer over them. The work involved in rectifying that disaster would be extensive 😡
Did I dodge a bullet or what!!! 🤕
I threw away the remnants of the offending ‘Rust-Oleum’ lacquer immediately.
Having learned a valuable lesson I went on to make a fresh set of decals on a new clear sheet and also a second set on a ‘white’ sheet because part of the testing proved that the blue of the ABP and Babcock logos doesn’t resolve very well over the orange paint but worked much better when produced using the ‘white’ background paper which has greater opacity.
The red and white ‘flag’ marking also had to be made using the same paper.
These new sheets were lacquered with a couple of coats the Halfords stuff and left overnight to thoroughly cure.
Applying these home-made decals is no different from the ‘Airfix’ method but I did use some Micro Sol & Micro Set as before and all the decals were applied without any problems. Although I did have to cut out and apply the ABP letters individually.
I also made some ‘bolt head’ decals to put on the engine vent panels that go on the cabin sides as I thought that they might look better than adding protruding bolt heads. The panels look quite effective with the black backing and stainless steel mesh in place. These will be fixed in place in the final detailing.
The complete cabin was then put in the spray booth (no masking required for a change) and given three coats of Halfords clear gloss lacquer without any ill effects (much to my relief) and I only have one very small run in the lacquer to polish out.
Thankfully that’s the only remedial work I need to do.😀
Next up, the life raft container.