How to Make Decals for Inkjet Printers

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You can make a decal out of any digital graphic file using waterslide transfer paper.
You can make a decal out of any digital graphic file using waterslide transfer paper. (Image: Eagle image by Alexandr Shebanov from Fotolia.com)

If you want to make decals at home with your inkjet printer, you must buy what is known as waterslide decal transfer paper. You can find this paper at office supply centers or craft stores. It is also available online. After you print a design onto the waterslide decal paper, you can transfer it easily to almost any object such as coffee mugs, plates, windows and vases. In this way, you can personalize an object with your own design and produce a unique possession or gift.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer and inkjet printer
  • Digital design file
  • Decal waterslide transfer paper
  • Acrylic spray
  • Old magazine
  • Craft knife
  • Bowl of water
  • Target item
  • Paper towels

Turn on your computer and inkjet printer, making sure the printer is connected properly to the computer. Open or download the digital file containing the design from which you will make the decal.

Print the digital design onto decal waterslide transfer paper using your inkjet printer. Set the printer options to those recommended by the transfer paper manufacturer. Insert the paper into the printer with the coated side facing the printer’s inkjet head. Allow the printed design to dry for at least 15 minutes.

Spray at least two coats of acrylic sealant on transfer paper. Use the brand of spray recommended by the transfer paper maker. Apply more coats if directions instruct you to do so, letting each coat dry thoroughly before you spray on the next.

Hold the printout flat with one hand on an old magazine. Cut out the decal with a craft knife using the other hand. Leave a quarter-inch border around the decal if the transfer paper is clear. If the transfer paper is white, do not leave a border.

Submerge the decal in a bowl with two inches of water. The decal may curl at first but will uncurl after a short time. Leave the decal in the water for the amount of time instructed on the package. When you can slide the decal back and forth between your fingers against the backing paper, it is ready to take out of the water.

Leave the decal on the backing and take it out of the bowl. Slide one side about a quarter-inch off the backing. Place the decal on the target item such as a coffee mug or vase and slide the backing out from under the decal. Wipe from the middle to the edges with a paper towel to remove as much water as possible. Let it dry completely.

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