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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Waterslide decals question.

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by gagidlof, May 26, 2010.

  1. gagidlof

    gagidlof Tele-Holic

    Jun 3, 2009
    Marysville, WA
    I see a lot of good success with waterslide decals on this site so I'm wondering what is the problem with mine.

    Here is my process:

    - I print the design on the decal with an InkJet printer.
    - give the sheet a couple light coats of lacquer to seal the ink
    - cut out the design
    - soak in warm water to loosen the decal from the paper
    - apply to the headstock, squeeze out the air and let dry
    - apply lacquer over the top, sand flat and level, polish.

    Here's where my problem is, after the lacquer is on there at the right angles it looks like there is air under the decal. In fact one piece I was working on I had the lacquer pull off from some tape and it took the decal with it. The weird part was it left was looked like a very thin layer of film I'm guessing the adhesive. So to me it looks like the decal is separating from the adhesive layer once the lacquer is on there.

    Have any of you had this problem. Is there something I'm doing wrong? Is my decal paper bad?

    What is your process for doing a waterslide decal?
    What paper do you use?

    Thanks for any advise you have, this has been bugging me.

  2. Rhomco

    Rhomco Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Oct 8, 2004
    DFW, Texas
    Sounds like you

    Left it in the water too long. This allows the adhesive to dilute and drift away. Same problem if you move it around too much after the initial slide. I use warm water with a drop or two of liquid dishwash detergent in my soak. I put the decal in the solutiona then dab some on the guitar where I want the decal. I leave it only a few seconds (say 15/20) then remove it and check to see if it will start to slide. If so I put it on if not I just wait a bit longer but I dont put it back in the soak. Dont worry, after you do this fifty times you will be a master waterslider.
    Have fun and good luck with your project,

  3. gagidlof

    gagidlof Tele-Holic

    Jun 3, 2009
    Marysville, WA
    You may be on to something with moving it around too much. I don't believe I'm leaving in the water too long, it is not in the water for more than a few seconds, I test it to see when it just starts to release from the paper and slide. Always use luke warm water, don't soak too long, handle gently, etc. I remembered all this from my days building model airplanes and cars.

    Thanks for the input.

    I guess I'll have to try some experiments on some scrap.

  4. John Owen

    John Owen Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Jan 29, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    +1 on too long in the water

    I agree with Ron. Based on the advice I got from the guy who printed my decal for me (Stan Cedarleaf), you shouldn't even leave it in the water at all. Just dip it and then let is sit on the side of the dish for about 30 seconds. It will slide right off the paper but the adhesive will still be intact.

    By the way, if anyone is looking for a place to get a decal done with metallic ink, Stan did a nice job for me. He was also a pleasure to deal with and had very reasonable prices.

    Here's a link to Cedarleaf's website:

    His email and phone are listed on the website.

    Attached Files:

  5. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ

    I use this stuff. I generally soak it in warm water for 30-45 seconds.
    Slide it off on the wood.
    Press all the air out with a damp paper towel
    Then dry by patting with a dry paper towel.

    I move the decal around as little as humanly possible.

    Never had one peel or delaminate yet.

    Also, I print an entire page of logos off at once so I don't waste paper. If the decal goes on crooked or kinked, I simply discard it, and use another.

  6. Macpaulster

    Macpaulster TDPRI Member

    Jan 29, 2010
    Berkeley, CA
    If you have a part of the decal material you can cut off and test in your warm water, that's really important. You want to put the decal in the water for the MINIMUM amount of time so you don't lose the adhesive. An old trick that works great is to put a few drops of carpenter's wood glue in your warm water, mix well, this adds a measure of adhesion.

    So...use your test piece to determine the minimum time required to loosen the decal from the backing, and try the wood glue trick. When still wet rub out the bubbles with a soft cloth, and try not to move it around too much. Agreed your problem is probably too long in the water.

    Here is one of my decal installations using this technique on an original 1965 Stratocaster:


  7. superglide57

    superglide57 NEW MEMBER!

    May 29, 2010
    Azle Texas
    The water slide decal is like automotive window tint. I always let them dry for 24 to 48 hours before any clearcoat. The moisture under the decal will evaporate and the adheasive will be solid. This has always worked fine for me. Good Luck. Tony

  8. JBennett

    JBennett Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 23, 2008
    Cold Spring, NY
    you could spread some dilluted wood glue to the surface of the headstock when you apply the decal. It will be transparent but will make sure that there is some glue for your decal.

    Also, if you want metallic ink in the black lines of your inkjet/laserjet decal I have used this method.

    1. Print black art on decal paper

    2. Spray decal with a few layers of lacquer to seal it up and reinforce it.

    3. Soak decal and transfer UPSIDEDOWN (reversed) onto another blank piece of decal paper (with decal material soaked off)

    4. Let dry.

    5. Fill in letters with metallic paint marker. Let that dry.

    6. Soak again, and transfer BACK onto original blank decal backing paper:

    7. Let dry, or apply to headstock with dilluted woodglue solution, or commercial decal setting solution.

  9. pforsell

    pforsell TDPRI Member

    Nov 24, 2008
    Hi. I have a quick question for you guys about waterslide decals. Any help would be appreciated. I applied a waterslide decal on my headstock. Worked well. The only thing is that there is a little black missing from the middle of a letter. I tried a sharpie last time, and that ran when I applied lacquer. Is there
    anything I can use to just fill in this spot that won't run when I
    spray lacquer (reranch) on it? Thanks in advance,

  10. JBennett

    JBennett Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 23, 2008
    Cold Spring, NY
    Sure. Use a real PIGMENT marker. Sharpies are worthless unless you are selling lemonaid and need to write the price on a paper plate.

    Find a real fine point pigment ink marker, or a black testors model paint and carefully touch up the black of the decal. (use a size-0 brush)

    When you spray lacquer over this touched up decal do it really lightly first. Just a mist, then a few minutes later another light mist and let it build up and you won't run the risk of making your decal run.

  11. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    Since we resurrected this thread, I thought I would share my new technique for applying decals which is giving me phenominal results.

    1. I design my logo ( actually JBennett designed my logo, I just change things around)
    2. Put it on a WORD document in multiples (fill up the page) and inverse the images.
    3. Print it off on LASER waterslide decal paper.
    4. Allow to dry, color in the middle part with silver or gold. Allow to dry.
    5. Trim the decal close to the perimeter of the letters.
    6. Mix about 6 drops of white elmers glue into warm water in a cereal bowl ( about half full).
    7. Dip the decal in the water for 10-15 seconds.
    8. Place the decal, face down on my clean (sanded smooth) lacquer, and slide the backing off the paper.
    * I add glue into water because I print my decals inversely so Its easier to color the center.
    9. Pat dry with a paper towel. Allow to dry.
    10. Daub on some white vinegar, and pat dry with clean paper towel. Allow to dry ( until the vinegar smell goes away)
    11. Bury in lacquer. Allow to dry. Buff.

    Since adopting the laser paper and vinegar, I no longer have any sort of decal lines or visibillity. Literally looks screen printed. When I was using inkjet paper, you could always see the perimeter of the decal if you looked closely at certain angles.

  12. JBennett

    JBennett Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 23, 2008
    Cold Spring, NY
    Colt. I know you've mastered this method. I'm curious though... do you do anything to clear off the existing decal glue layer once you apply the decal? Or is it a non issue? I find that the glue can be pretty persistent on lazerjet paper. Though i guess it dry's clear and invisible.

    Just curious. And yes, the lazer jet paper is much more invisible than the inkjet version. It also gets this nice raised surface to the black that makes it look almost screenprinted.

  13. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    I think its a nonissue. The paper towel proabably removes all the residual glue.

  14. davmac

    davmac Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2003
    Wirral, UK
    Interesting stuff. Thanks for documenting in such detail. Just one query... what is step 10 for? Is it for its cleaning properties (I know vinegar is excellent for cleaning glass) or does this somehow start to dissolve and feather the edges of the decal?

  15. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    A lot of the old model train and car builders used stuff called decal set solution to feather the edges into the model and eleminate the visible outline of the decal. Turns out decal set solution was just watered down vinegar.

  16. gagidlof

    gagidlof Tele-Holic

    Jun 3, 2009
    Marysville, WA
    I forgot about this thread some great stuff here. I did make a discovery recently myself. Not near as cool as the metallic decal stuff but it helped me. It seems that the decals that were coming loose were all on necks that I finished in satin lacquer. The last couple I finished in gloss had no issues. So for now on I think I'll put down gloss to adhere the decal to and it I want a satin finish then I can put that on over the gloss.

    I have to try the vinegar trick too.

  17. TC6969

    TC6969 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 28, 2007
    Rockledge Florida
    I use the paper backing as a squeegee after I lay the decal down and after I get the bubbles out, I dab straight down with a paper towel.

    Let it dry completely then VERY lightly wipe with a wet paper towel.

    Let that dry and shoot some top coat.

    I haven't messed one up yet!

  18. Brother Rob

    Brother Rob Tele-Holic

    Jun 30, 2010
    I am using Tru Oil. Will it go on fine over the Decal?

  19. maryjane

    maryjane Tele-Afflicted

    Some great techniques mentioned here. Especially JBennet, Colt, and TC6969 You might also consider that a LOT of your success will depend on the quality of the waterslide paper itself; so try some different brands as well as some of the techniques mentioned above.

    Clear coat allowed to dry is important before soaking.

    I think it helps to put a little puddle of water on the headstock when sliding the wet decal off of the paper and onto the wood.

    VERY CRITICAL TO THE PROCESS IS TC6969's idea of using the backing paper for squeegee and diligently getting a good seal without any air under the decal.

    I've had improved success by "damping" with a lint free cloth to help dry before shooting with more clear. It should be as dry as possible.

    Good luck and post some pics!

  20. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    Yes, but if you are using rub on Tru Oil you run the risk of rubbing the decal off. Tru Oil also comes in aerosol form, and that would be perfect fot that application.

    Here is a picture of my laser/vinegar decal technique.


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