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Anyone currently using a laser jet to print decals?

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  • Member since
    February 2021
Anyone currently using a laser jet to print decals?
Posted by MJY65 on Thursday, January 18, 2024 11:38 AM

I'm embarking on a project to build a series of aircraft for the MN ANG starting right after WWII up to the present.   As you might imagine, some of the markings never existed in decal form and others are long discontinued.

I've made a few attempts at inkjet decals with less than stellar results.  Printer is an HP 9015, MicroMark paper and various sealers from Gloss Model Masters, Rustoleum Crystal Clear, MRP semi-gloss clear lacquer, etc.

I've had decent success with Adobe illustrator in setting up the file, but the final result just isn't there.  Printed on photo paper they look pretty good, but by the time they go on decal paper and get sealed, the sharpness is not what I'd like.  I think the inkjet paper and sealer are the weakpoint.

Is it worth investing in a color laser printer?  If so, which brands and models should I look at?

Thanks,

Mike

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Thursday, January 18, 2024 12:43 PM

Color laser printers work great for making decals and the only paper I have found that works without still having to spray a sealant is Sunnyscopa paper.  You can get that from Amazon.  All of the other "good" brands like MicroMark's still fail to retain the toner for some reason when the decal goes into water.  My printer is an HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw and works great for decals, which even tolerate setting solutions...I have only used MicroSol on them so far, not sure if they would tolerate Solvaset as well.

That particular model is no longer in production, but HP Laserjets seem to be pretty solid.  One thing to consider taking into account when choosing a printer model is whether or not Ghost White Toner makes a cartridge for it.  You can actually get a white toner cartridge that you can temporarily substitute for the black cartridge when you have white decals you want to make.  It was something I looked for, but admittedly, I have yet to use that capability as I found white decal paper to be necessary to get good, vivid, opaque colors on my decals. 

But, making custom decals aside, a color laser printer is a good investment anyway because you're not spending hundreds of dollars every year to replace inkjet cartridges that simply dried out due to infrequent use.  Toner cartridges don't dry out, so a color laser printer more than pays for itself.  I have had mine for about 4 years now and have yet to replace a toner cartridge.  

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Thursday, January 18, 2024 2:32 PM

Thanks,

I got on a chat with HP and this is the one they recommended.  Do the specs look similar to what you are using?

https://www.hp.com/us-en/shop/pdp/hp-color-laserjet-pro-4201dn-printer

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Thursday, January 18, 2024 5:11 PM

I'd say that looks like similar specs, with the linked printer being a little better in terms of speed and duty cycle.  Heh...another great thing about laser printers for everyday printing is their speed.  If you do much photo printing though, definitely hang on to your inkjet printer for that.  Color laser printers do OK for that, but not nearly as well as inkjets.

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Thursday, January 18, 2024 6:01 PM

Does the 600x600 DPI produce edges that are pretty sharp?

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Friday, January 19, 2024 12:54 PM

MJY65

Does the 600x600 DPI produce edges that are pretty sharp?

 

It does if you go to the printer settings and set the resolution for PhotoRet.  Pretty sure it would do that at just the basic 600X600 setting too.  I made the control head with the blue-green keys on it and the two panels above it on the right side of this Su-25M1 instrument panel using the first decals I made with my LaserJet.

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Friday, January 19, 2024 1:06 PM

That looks good.  Any recommendation for a Mac compatible app?   I've got Adobe Illustrator, but it doesn't seem to be the best for our needs. I'm sure it's great at creating complex images from scratch, but overly fussy for resizing and printing photos/scans or typing out words and numbers in USAF Amarillo. 

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Friday, January 19, 2024 1:16 PM

Unfortunately, I have no experience with anything for a Mac.  When I did decals for USAF Amarillo lettering, I used a CAD program called DraftSight.  Not sure if they make a Mac version.

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Friday, February 2, 2024 10:26 AM

Well, my attempt with laser has been an epic failure.   I bought an HP 4201dn and Sunnyscopa paper.   The printer puts a terrible crease/smear in the paper as it goes through.  I either need to find a different Laser printer or go back to the drawing board with Ink Jet and try to find a method for applying the sealer in thinner layers

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Friday, February 2, 2024 11:01 AM

Does that printer have a single-sheet feeder on it?  Putting paper in the single-sheet feeder usually has a straighter path through the printer.

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Friday, February 2, 2024 11:13 AM

It does, but didn't help.   I used to have a printer than could feed heavier papers straight through, but not sure if that's even an option any more.

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Friday, February 2, 2024 1:23 PM

That definitely doesn't sound normal then.  Are you able to exchange the printer for a different model?  A LaserJet with that paper should be a solid combination, so I think your printer is either defective or that issue is inherent to that particular model.

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Friday, February 2, 2024 2:37 PM

HP did exchange it and the replacement did the same thing.  

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Saturday, February 3, 2024 9:05 AM

I've started look at the Ghost White printer bundles.  Not exactly cheap, but might save frustration if they actually work.

  • Member since
    March 2022
  • From: Twin cities, MN
Posted by missileman2000 on Saturday, February 3, 2024 10:27 AM

MJY65

Well, my attempt with laser has been an epic failure.   I bought an HP 4201dn and Sunnyscopa paper.   The printer puts a terrible crease/smear in the paper as it goes through.  I either need to find a different Laser printer or go back to the drawing board with Ink Jet and try to find a method for applying the sealer in thinner layers

 

Although I have a laser printer, and have successfully used it for decals, I now prefer inkjet printers and inkjet decal paper.  Reasons: inkjets have finer resolution (atleast compared to any laser I can afford), better color tones, and easier to make white decals.

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Saturday, February 3, 2024 2:46 PM

missileman2000

Although I have a laser printer, and have successfully used it for decals, I now prefer inkjet printers and inkjet decal paper.  Reasons: inkjets have finer resolution (atleast compared to any laser I can afford), better color tones, and easier to make white decals.

 

 

No question that the inkjet prints look pretty good for color saturation.  I'd certainly consider it if there was a decent way to seal the ink without making a thick decal that doesn't like to lay down well.  Maybe I need to try some other papers with the inkjet.  I used MicroMark and wasn't particularly impressed.  Nearly every larger stencil has some missed spots where the ink skipped.

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Saturday, February 3, 2024 6:09 PM

Forgive me for the simplistic question on this, but did you make sure to get the Sunnyscopa paper for laser printers?  The reason I ask is because the issue you're describing sounds like the decal film may be getting melted by the printer's fuser, which will happen if the paper was made for inkjets.

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Saturday, February 3, 2024 6:20 PM

Eaglecash867

Forgive me for the simplistic question on this, but did you make sure to get the Sunnyscopa paper for laser printers?  The reason I ask is because the issue you're describing sounds like the decal film may be getting melted by the printer's fuser, which will happen if the paper was made for inkjets.

 

 

Definitely laser paper.   The creasing happened with decal paper, HP laser brochure paper and heavy weight plain paper.   The 4201 just isn't good at managing anything but regular copy paper despite what they claim.

  • Member since
    February 2021
Posted by MJY65 on Monday, February 5, 2024 9:34 AM

After several chat sessions with HP, Canon and B&H Photo, I'm probably going to head in the direction of upgrading to a better inkjet.  None of the lasers is really rated to handle the unique combination of thickness and non-bonded gloss that decal paper presents.  They all said it MAY work, but...

The recommendation from B&H and Canon was the Pro-Graf 300.   It is basically a dedicated photo/graphics printer with no additional functions.   Paper feeds either from the top and turns less than a right angle or straight through the back.  The lasers all make a 180 turn along the way.

I may order one, but then will need to do some experimentation with sealants compatible with Canon ink.   I've used Testors gloss on HP in the past but wasn't real happy with how thick it goes on.  I'd prefer to use an airbrush lacquer even if a few light coats are needed. 

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