Hints & Tips

Cal-Grafx offers several different media (materials) for decals including thermally-printed PSA vinyl, machine-cut or "vinyl graphics" and on a limited case-by-case basis, water slide, sometimes called water transfer decals. Each type requires the proper preparation, tools and application procedure to obtain the best outcome.

This page discusses each media type and includes links to detailed instructions on how each should be properly applied. We recommend you take the time to review this material if you plan to place an order on our web site. Many of our customer's orders include several different media in a single graphics package.

PSA Vinyl Icon PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) vinyl is by far the most popular media we offer. These decals are thermally printed on very thin cast vinyl with an outdoor rating of 8 years. Colors are bright, vivid and permanent. In most cases these decals are profile or contour-cut to eliminate hand trimming. Unless otherwise requested, all Cal-Grafx PSA vinyl decals are treated for UV, abrasion and fuel resistance with our proprietary 4-step finishing process which results in a low sheen painted finish, not the "cheap shine" you will often see in competitive products. 

These decals are very durable and will last the life of the model. For builders that like to use a clear coat as the final finish, our decals can be clear-coated over as long as light mist coats are used initially. Because they are so thin and have an extremely aggressive adhesive, all but very small decals must be floated into position using Windex® or a soapy water solution. A squeegee is used to smooth the decal and remove moisture and bubbles.

Learn More about PSA Vinyl Decals

Water Slide Icon Water slide media is the most familiar for modelers that have a long history in the hobby dating back to the 50's. Unfortunately we can no longer provide water slide decals as a standard offering.  This does not mean we have stopped printing them, rather, we will consider requests for water slides on a case-by-case basis.

Click to learn more about water slide decals

Vinyl Graphics Icon Vinyl graphics is a decal or graphic created by cutting vinyl on a special machine designed for precision cutting and plotting. It is one of the core technologies for the custom sign business, but it is also very useful for letter and numbers that are frequently applied to models. With vinyl graphics there is no carrier between the letters or numbers, so in that sense it has the best "painted on" appearance.

There are some limitations however. At Cal-Grafx we do not build up multiple layers of cut vinyl because you quickly lose the painted-on look. Therefore, with rare exceptions, only a single color is available for a vinyl graphics decal, however, many individual colors are available.

Vinyl graphics are applied using a temporary tape or "transfer tape" that keeps all the individual elements (letters, numbers, etc.) together in the proper alignment until they are on the model.  After placement, the tape is removed and discarded. Letters and numbers that are a single color and 1/2" height or larger are excellent candidates for vinyl graphics. For smaller characters, either of the other two media described above can be used.

Learn More About Vinyl Graphics


Copyright 2013 Cal-Grafx Hobby Art
All rights reserved