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How to locate a large decal on a tank?

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How to locate a large decal on a tank?
Posted by IDRick on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 3:22 PM

I'm considering the purchase of some project tank cars that I would paint black and apply the decals.  I've never applied decals before and am curious how to properly locate the decal on the tank.  In particular, I want to label the tanks for BN and that big decal needs to be correctly placed (vertically and horizontally) or it will look silly...  What's the trick?

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Posted by dti406 on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 3:31 PM

Experience is a big teacher, you might want to do a boxcar first as there are weld or rivit lines to help line things up.

On tank cars, I note the where the decal is in relation to the ladders, end grabs, dome, tank saddles and any other applicances on the car. Have a picture right next to your work so you have an idea how the prototype looks.

Rick Jesionowski

Rule 1: This is my railroad.

Rule 2: I make the rules.

Rule 3: Illuminating discussion of prototype history, equipment and operating practices is always welcome, but in the event of visitor-perceived anacronisms, detail descrepancies or operating errors, consult RULE 1!

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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 4:03 PM

Rick's advise is excellent, he's well experienced.

When you buy a decal sheet, it also comes with placement suggestions, as to where the prototype places a certain decal.

And as Rick says, working off a picture of the prototype is very helpful, and by using your "eye" as to where the lettering on the prototype lines up with features on the car.

Good luck!

Mike.

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Posted by hornblower on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 4:37 PM

Also keep in mind that applying water slide decals is not the same as applying stickers or dry transfer lettering.  Water slide decals have to dry before they will permanently stay in place.  Thus, you can easily slide the decal into the correct position while still wet.

Hornblower

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 5:52 PM

DO NOT FRET too much over exact placement.

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I have lettered dozens of freight cars for my STRATTON AND GILLETTE, and each of them is off by just a little bit from one another. I did not notice this until I photographed portraits of all the cars for my insurance rider.

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They always looked perfect to me, but when I scroll through the pictures, sure enough, they are all off from one another.

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Anyway, you will never notice a little misplacement on your layout.

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-Kevin

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Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 6:11 PM

I read this as a question of not: where do I put it, but how do I get it there?  Your eyeball works pretty good to tell if it right or not right.

The "Internet wisdom" is to cut close to the printing with a new xacto blade, on a piece of glass to get a sharp edge.

The car should be prepared with a gloss finish.  That may mean two or three coats of gloss cote.  There is no point in rushing the procedure.

I put the decal in luke warm water for a minute or so.  Very small decals, like an individual number, can fall off the paper and hide in the cup of water.  I pick the decal up with a small brush or tooth pick, never a xacto blade.

Micro Set vs Micro Sol are confusing names as Micro Sol is described as a setting solution.

Micro Set is what you use first.  It claims to do some magical things to the paint and the decal, but it allows you to slide the decal back and forth and work out any air bubbles.  Let it dry overnight.

Micro sol makes it conform to underlying details, rivets, seams, vents and louvers.  It softens the decal extremely.  If you try to move the decal it will probably tear.  Let this dry overnight.

Next coat the decal with another coat or two of gloss cote to hide the appearance of the edge of the decals.  I follow that up with dullcote.

 

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by Mark R. on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 9:35 PM

BigDaddy

.... The "Internet wisdom" is to cut close to the printing with a new xacto blade, on a piece of glass to get a sharp edge. ....

 

That's actually some pretty poor advice. Doing that will give a square edge to the decal film. That sharp edge can sometimes be hard to hide under your clear final finish - I see this on a lot of models.

IF the decal is printed on its own pad of decal film, use the factory edge as provided as it feathers out on the paper and is easier to hide under your final clear finish.

Obviously not all decals are printed that way as some are printed on a solid sheet of decal film. If you have to cut into the film, use your good glasses and cut as tight to the print as you can so the edge of the film will be so close to the print, you won't notice it.

Mark.

¡ uʍop ǝpısdn sı ǝɹnʇɐuƃıs ʎɯ 'dlǝɥ

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Posted by doctorwayne on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 9:59 PM

Lots of good suggestions so far.

I sometimes find it useful to apply masking tape, cut to suit, to denote beginning and end-points of lettering or to use similar strips to act as a reference for getting things level.
A set of dividers is useful for duplicating positions of lettering on multiple cars of the same type, too.
A good tool for checking the levelness of a long or large decal is the good ole Mark II Eyeball method, viewing the lettering from the end of the car.

As long as you don't use a setting solution, you can re-wet most decals many times and move them around until they're exactly where you want them to be.  When you apply the initial setting solution, don't feel that you have to cover everything at the same time, as some overly-generous applications may move the decal, and the setting solution could then make it difficult to re-position it.
 
Once that first application has fixed the lettering in the proper place and position, you can add more to set any remaining areas, and, when that's dry, come back with stronger setting agents to make it really permanent.

If you're doing multiple cars of the same type, do each portion of the lettering on all cars in sequence, so that each grouping of similar decals is done before moving on to other parts of the lettering. 

For example, do the reporting marks and car numbers first, on all cars, then come back to the first car and add the dimensional data, again doing that portion on all cars. 
The reason for this is that the first application on the first car is a bit of a learning  experience, the next a polishing of your technique, and the rest simply a repetition of the former.
Doing the entire side of one car, on the other hand, means you need to re-learn each step for each subsequent car....at least that's been my experience.

And, finally, as Kevin has noted, a few minor differences between the cars wouldn't be all that unusual on the prototype, so no reason to worry about it too much on your models.

Wayne

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Posted by NHTX on Thursday, April 18, 2019 12:32 AM

     Everybody has given great advice.  I would like to add a trick I use on cars with big heralds or lettering like your BN cars.  Cut out the large pieces and temporarily place them on the car dry, to make sure things are the right size and will in fact, fit properly.  Many times I have set out to letter a car and the decals that were supposedly made for that type of car were the wrong size.  Don't be afraid to use locomotive decals on freight cars if the color and size is more accurate than those supposedly made for that car.  Since you want to do tank cars, you can gently curve the dry decal to follow the curve of the tank to get an accurate idea of fit and placement.

     Unless you are free-lancing, work from photgraphs, preferrably of more than one car.  Prototype railroads often use non-standard stencils on a group of cars giving wide variations in placement and size of lettering.  I prefer to start lettering with the largest pieces of decal first because you can generally shift the smaller pieces somewhat without them looking odd.  The prototype does it all the time.  Note the variations found on Penn Central and, Conrail cars, especially boxcars of the same class.  When Tangent introduced their PRR X-58 boxcars, I checked my slide collection and came up with nine PC, and six CR variaions.  Good luck and I hope you enjoy decaling.  It is a great way to have equipment that is unique to YOUR model railroad.

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Thursday, April 18, 2019 9:06 AM

id put it on the galcis plate, just below the main gun.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Thursday, April 18, 2019 11:39 AM

Why would you not look online to figure out where to place a decal?  That makes far more sense than just guessing.  If you can't find the exact model, you can liekly get an idea of decal placement.

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Posted by maxman on Thursday, April 18, 2019 1:17 PM

BroadwayLion
id put it on the galcis plate, just below the main gun.

Okay, I had to look.  I don't believe that's the type of tank the OP was talking aboutMischief

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Posted by IDRick on Thursday, April 18, 2019 3:59 PM

Lots of great tips and information, thanks guys!

Have a prototype picture was stated by several and is very important for success.  I do have a BN tank car (in kit form) similar to the proposed project models and have downloaded some images from the BN roster archives.

Hat tip to NHTX for his suggestion to look for variations in BN logos on prototype cars.  After reading his post, I looked at additional images on the BN roster archives and found different size BN logos and placement relative to the car's center line.  So, my options have been opened considerably!

Kevin, loved your comment about "don't fret" and seconded by DrWayne.  Loved your work and would not have noticed differences until you said there were some...  After very close observation, I detected a few minor differences but never would have noticed on a layout.

Henry, you were right, my question was not where to mount the decals but how to properly position them.  After looking at prototype variation, I am less concerned about accuracy in placement and see how "eyeball" placement would work.  Thanks for the detail on the decaling process, much appreciated!

Mark, the decals I'm looking at are printed on a large film sheet.  I'll have to practice cutting and applying the decals on some old cars.  My 64 yr old eyes grinned when you said wear your best glasses when cutting decals...

DrWayne, as you know I'm big fan of your work and appreciate your tips.  I especially liked the tip to add decals to one location on all cars then move on to the next plus locating using thin strips of tape.

Rick and Mike, thanks for your helpful suggestion of "landmark" portions of the car to position the decal.  I'll definitely use it and spend some more time reviewing the prototype pictures, especially in relation to the sidemounted ladder.  

Lion, what no roar in your post?  I'm a cat guy and lions are my favorite...  LOL, liked your contribution though!

Great stuff, appreciate you guys!  You're tops in my book!

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Posted by garya on Thursday, April 18, 2019 5:19 PM

BroadwayLion

id put it on the galcis plate, just below the main gun.

 

Gary

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Posted by dti406 on Friday, April 19, 2019 7:50 AM

This was one of my more difficult tank cars that I did (and I did two of these).

Had to line up the Rohm Haas on one side and the logo on the other, then get the line between the two in the proper place and under the ladder.

Rick Jesionowski

Rule 1: This is my railroad.

Rule 2: I make the rules.

Rule 3: Illuminating discussion of prototype history, equipment and operating practices is always welcome, but in the event of visitor-perceived anacronisms, detail descrepancies or operating errors, consult RULE 1!

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Posted by IDRick on Friday, April 19, 2019 10:44 AM

Wow, great job Rick!  Sweet looking car!  thanks for the tip!

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, April 19, 2019 12:22 PM

BroadwayLion
id put it on the galcis plate, just below the main gun.

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I think that is a bad idea, it gives the enemy gunner an easy reference point to use for aiming his round.

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I have alway been preferential to the rear sides of the turret. If you must put the decal in the front, the fenders are my best option.

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Anyways, decals on tankls should be limited to a National Identifying insignia, serial number, and possibly unit heraldry.

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-Kevin

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Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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