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I need to make custom decals.  They will go on a black steam locomotive with C&O yellow lettering. 

I know if I do clear paper yellow wont show too well, and if I use white I need to color it black around the lettering.  I will add I am using a color laser printer. 

I will be weathering this locomotive and hoped to have faded out dirty lettering.  Should I go clear paper or sick with the white?

What is your experience? 


Original Post

Yellow and white show well on black. The really aren't far off in contrasting black.

Your difference is bleed. If you had yellow on yellow, the bleed would be very  close to yellow on white.  A more opaque surface than on clear where you simply have yellow on black.  (Think about painting, one has white primer, one has black primer, now topcoat yellow. You'll have two different shades of yellow.  Add another yellow coat to both, now they are similar.

You need an ink with more pigment for printing on clear without bleed.

If your printer registers (aligns) well, you might be able to double print to get a more opaque yellow,

Or.. print yellow one point smaller; reprint over it at 100%.

The difference between will be in the edges. (letter spaces would be off on long words, It may limit how many letters you can print on one sheet or at one time without bad register.

A brighter yellow may help on clear.

The blacking out of white would be easiest, but not best. Now you have two shades of black going. 

Also, some folk look more for crispness in outline, some look more at color consistency. You may have to decide.

If you ever saw how many proofs a graphic artist/printer makes sometimes to get it "right" vs "ok" you might get why the suicide rate runs high in the profession.  It isn't even the artist deciding sometimes, and never for final. Its approved or not by the customer in the end.

Testing is key, try a small one both ways and hold them there side by side on black paper, shirt, or whatever to decide

Printing solid yellow background, or Bold/point size +/-  first ,then printing a negative of C&O in black, +/- a point size etc, on that might mask over the yellow for a crisper edge & look.

Registration with a reverse like this, if off register, the white would blend visually into the yellow and would be less noticeable than other colors would.

Same kinda light trick as the blue vs gold dress illusion. Effectiveness is in the edges here.

The opacity of black you use may be better or may be purple and show near yellow.

Another thing about white is the white edge when trimmed, no matter what color is printed on the top, if it contrasts, the white pops.


I have an Epson Workforce WF2760 printer and recently tried (again) making yellow decals on clear decal paper. I’ve tried this a couple of times without success. The yellow just isn’t opaque enough. I did make yellow stripes on white decal paper and they came out fine. I could never vary the density of the yellow to be able to use the clear paper.

 I would use white paper and make the background to match the black engine, or keep looking for decals.

 I think I’m done kitbashing for Seaboard Air Line, decals are impossible to get. Try here, Jack has always come thru for me:

Good luck!

I used white decal paper and a ink jet printer to make destination signs for trolleys. I set the fonts to white which will print clear and set background to black. It takes a little practice with a sheet of paper but I was happy with the results. Be sure to spray a couple of coats of Dullcoat to seal the ink on the decal paper.

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