June 2011

Creating & applying decals, creating vacuum formed tail lights


June 12th 2011: Today creating the decals is on the schedule. This activity starts with looking carefully at pictures of the actual vehicle. Then a sketch is drawn of the decals to be made. The next operation is to measure/determine the sizes for the decals with a calliper. With the aid of the sketch the creation of the decals is started on the computer with a program called "Micrografx picture publisher". At first the bonnet decals are created. The text "assistenza tecnica" and an Alfa Romeo will be created. Adjusting the available standard font on the computer to the required font takes some time. For the Alfa Romeo logo some additional steps are required. Due to the fact the bonnet surface is black a thick layer of white has to be applied to the decal to ensure a nice end result. For this purpose a white circle is printed onto the decal paper. The next layer for the logo consists out of the majority of colours. The final layer is for the golden elements in the logo. The end result of these 2 bonnet decals looks very nice. The amount of required time to make the decals is quite a lot. This makes my respect for an artist like Yow Ito bigger then it already was.

Preparation for making decals by looking at actual vehicle pictures.


Sketch of decals made and dimensions added where possible.


Micrografx used for making decals on a computer.


The next decals to prepare are the ones for the boot. The red coloured Alfa Romeo text is first. The sample text found on Internet is unfortunately of a too low resolution. When enlarging to the required size for the decal the quality becomes unacceptable. Ito-san has a text that he used for one of his own kits. Although the font is different his experience tells that it will become a good end result so I believe him. On the computer screen it looks very different from the desired font and I wonder how it will become. After some small adjustments on the computer the data on the computer still looks a bit odd. The print of the decal however looks very good, I didn't expect it to look so good. The vast experience of Ito-san clearly shows. The last decal for the boot is the white decal with red text "assistenza tecnica". Again the available font has to be adjusted to resemble the required font. The printed result is nice but could be better by making the font bold. Just as easily done as said. Within a few minutes the decal with bold font is ready. When comparing the 2 decals beside each other indeed the bold font is much better. The final decals for today are the ones on the side of the body at the luggage compartment. In order to get the lay-out and size of the Alfa logo and the font correct a scan of a photo of the real vehicle is loaded. This scanned picture will serve as a base to create the correct size for the decal. As usual quite some adjustment is required to the font. Having the 2 pictures (actual vehicle and decal) in the same window makes comparison adjustment easy. After some work also these decals are finished and printed.

Rear window text decal during creation process.


Text decal for boot during creation process.


Side decals during creation process.


Side decals during creation/adjustment process.


Decals for today finished.


Now the time has come to add the decals to the painted body. The decals are put in water to get them loose from the base paper. The decals are separated from the base paper with tweezers. A slight application of decal softener makes the application a bit easier. The bonnet decals are done first. The text decal is the initial one to be applied, once applied it looks very nice. Once the decal is applied the excess water and air below the decal is taken away by gently pushing with a cotton tip from the centre of the decal towards the ends. The second one will be the coloured Alfa Romeo logo. The same procedure as for the text decal is valid for this once. The model is really coming to life with the application of the decals. The third decal to go on is the red coloured Alfa Romeo text decal on the rear window. Also this decal looks very nice. The second decal for the boot is now the one to apply. The red body colour and the white coloured decal provide a beautiful contrast. The 2 final decals for today are the ones for the side. The initial one will be the one for the right hand side. The contrast visible on the boot becomes even more evident on the sides. It is truly looking amazing and resembling the actual vehicle more and more. Thanks to Ito-san for his time and patience today. Next time the missing decals will be created. Taking good pictures of the car proves to be more difficult then I anticipated. I hope the pictures below give an impression at least.

Bonnet "assistenza tecnica" decal in water.


Text & logo decals applied to bonnet.


Rear window decal applied.


Decal softener only applied slightly.


Boot decal applied.


Side decal in water.


Removing excess water and air below decal from rh side decal.

The scale model is starting to resemble the actual vehicle more and more.

June 26th 2011: Ito-san tells me this will be the last day in the project. I have some doubts about it because quite some detail still needs to be done. However so far Ito-san has always been right throughout the whole project so I assume this time it will also be the case. The initial task for today is to create the mould for the rear lights which will be made out of vacuum formed plastic. The rear end section of the body which was casted on February 20th will be used for this purpose. First of all with the aid of masking tape the shape of the rear lights is drawn onto the piece of body. Then with a tiny chisel the outlines of the lights are traced into the resin and the separation line between the the red & orange coloured reflector. Now the vacuum forming operation can start. First a 0.4mm thick orange sheet of plastic will be formed. To be honest I have no idea how this in the end will look like, but my very experienced teacher always knows how to deal with these kind of challenges so I just go with the flow. The next plastic sheet is a 0.4mm thick red coloured one. The forming operation is extremely quick, but the huge amount of experience required to determine the correct temperature of the plastic material during the heating process is something which isn't gained fast. As a final vacuum forming operation a thin white sheet of 0.3mm thickness is formed. This white plastic has 2 purposes. The first one is to assure a proper image of the orange and red coloured plastic. Due to the fact the body colour is red simply attaching the red and orange coloured rear lenses to the body would result in a poor colour effect. The second reason is that this white base provides a good background to adjust the sizes of the 2 different colour lenses and makes them able to be fitted tightly together. The vacuum formed parts still don't provide me a clear idea about how the rear light lenses will be made, but I guess I'll see soon.

Masking tape used to draw a straight line on the body end.


Compass used to determine the rear light lens sizes.


Rear light pencil lines drawn onto the body end.


Tiny chisel used to trace the lens outlines.


Rear light lenses outlines traced into the resin.


Rear body end in position and orange sheet heating up.


Orange sheet vacuum formed.


Red sheet vacuum formed.


White sheet vacuum formed.

3 different coloured vacuum formed sheets.

The next thing is to make the decals for the side of the car. The second resin cast of the Giardinetta is used for this purpose. Masking tape is applied again to draw straight lines on the right hand side of the body with a pencil. By looking at the pictures of the actual vehicle the decal shape is drawn onto the resin body with the pencil. With paper like tape the pencil lines are absorbed. This principle was known to me, but it is nice to see it in reality and to to see it actually works very well. The tape is once more pushed firmly onto the resin body to ensure the lines are copied in a good quality. The tape with pencil lines is now scanned. As the previous time when the other decals were made the "Micrografx picture publisher" program is used. Now it's a matter or tracing the lines from the tape and create a computer made image of it. It sounds simple, but unfortunately is not. It's a time consuming task. The end result on the computer screen looks nice, how it will look on the body is something different of course. The printed decals also look very good, now all that's left is putting the on the body. A long decal such as this one is very tricky to apply. The positioning is tough and wrinkles have to be rubbed out thoroughly to achieve good end result. Firstly the left side of the body is done. The pain staking process completed successfully and gives the model again a whole different appearance. The same process is applied for the right hand side and that's it for the decals.

Drawing straight lines on resin body with aid of masking tape.


Decals outline drawn with pencil on resin master body.


Pencil lines from body transferred to tape by applying pressure.


Decals for lh & rh side during creation process on computer.


Outline of main decal ready.


Decals for lh & rh side finished on computer.


Main decal for lh side during application process.


Main decal after careful application to body, due to length a tricky task.


C-Pillar white decal applied to body.


All decals applied to lh side of body.


Main decal for the rh side in water.

All decals applied to the rh side.

Now that the decals are attached the finishing touches can be applied. The triangular window frames of the doors are made out of black coloured sticker, the chrome coloured door window trim on the window lower side is made out of silver/chrome coloured sticker. The door handles are glued to the body. The rearview mirrors are glued to the doors after drilling tiny holes in the doors for the wired end connected to the mirrors. The reversing light is attached to the body by firstly making a bracket out a white styrene pipe. The white styrene is then made black to become less obvious. With some decal softener the decals are finalised by touching the sections where grooves should be visible like for example the doors and the fuel filler cap. The softener gives a nice finishing touch to the decals. The final operation will be the creation of the rear lights out of the earlier 3 colours vacuum formed parts. The red and orange are cut to approximate size ensuring an excess of material to allow adjustment later. The only section where the geometry now needs to be correct is the separation line between the red and orange colour. These transitions have to be perfectly flush to give a good end result. Now the approximately cut red & orange sheets are glued to the white styrene sheet with fast drying glue. The concept behind this idea now becomes clear to me. With the glued orange and red material it is very easy to see from behind in the white vacuum formed sheet how the geometry is supposed to look. Now the cutting operation can start. The end result are realistically looking very nice rear lights. My personal preference strongly goes out to real lenses instead of decals for lights so I'm quite lucky Ito-san spent his time to think of an idea how to accomplish that. Due to fact that lenses are shaped by vacuum forming they fit very nicely to the body. I never expected such an amazing end result. That's it project finished................

Applying black coloured sticker for triangular window trim on lh side.


Applying black coloured sticker for triangular window trim. on rh side


Window trim for triangular window, chrome trim + rearview mirror assembled.


Positioning door handle on door.


Tail light lenses made out of vacuum formed plastic in position.

Project completely finished ....................... or????



Whoops forgot to add the windscreen wipers and windscreen jets. Due the fact the car is reaching its final shape the tension arose and made me overlook such an important detail. Luckily Ito-san pointed it out and some nice photo etched windscreen wipes soon find their way onto the engine bonnet just like the windscreen jets. A huge thanks goes out to mr. Yow Ito for his time, patience and willingness to show a clumsy guy something about making a scale model. It has been a very enjoyable and educational experience.

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