DIY (Tissue Paper) Decals

by ttprigg | February 11, 2014 | (23) Posted in Tips

I read about this technique on the RC-Groups forum in a terific article by haiduk's post SBD Dauntless Scratch Build (starting at post #92).The thin tissue paper is flexible and contours nicely even over curved surfaces.  The challenge is to get the ink of the image sealed without losing the flexibility.  With this system, we are able to dress-up our builds quickly and without a great deal of expense.  Maximize the Build-Fly-Crash and Repair experience... 


Prepare Decal Blank

  • Perforate about a 1/2" band on 3 sides of a letter size piece of cardstock.
    • We use a rotary cutter with a perforation blade but you could also use an exacto blade and a "dashed" cutting pattern.
  • Apply glue stick to the outside edge (outside perforations)
  • Attach a sheet of tissue paper to the cardstock backing
    • Lay the tissue on a flat surface and place the cardstock (glue side down) on top - press firmly at the edges
  • Trim tissue paper to the edge of the cardstock - I use a straight edge and an exacto blade.


Create and Print a Graphic

  • Develop original graphic or find something on the internet

    • We use GIMP an "open-source" alternative to Photoshop ( to "fine-tune" the images

    • Make sure that the resolution of the image is large for best results.

  • Scale image and arrange copies to fit on letter sized sheet

  • Print images with your color inkjet printer on the  "Decal Blank"

Seal Ink

  • Spray top surface of tissue with a clear (non water based) finish.  Several light coats is better than one that is too heavy.  The cardstock backing holds everything in place while you spray.

  • Carefully separate the backing from tissue by tearing the perforations on one side and the top.

  • Fold back tissue using the cardstock "frame" and seal the back of the decal with the same thin coats.

    • If you are applying the decal over a colored surface you can seal the back side of the decal with white to serve as a background.


Apply Decal

  • Cut the decal around the image

  • Apply a thinned (about 50:50) mixture of white (elmers) glue and water to the surface of the plane.

  • Carefully place decal on surface and adjust location using wet brush. 

    • Work decal into any groves or detail on the surface with the brush.

    • Working from the middle out, push any bubbles out from under the decal with the brush.

    • Finish by applying a thin coat of glue mixture over the entire surface

The options are unlimited...


iimeme on February 24, 2014
Wow, that is really cool!
Great post, I could tell you took a long time getting everything right.

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MT Alex on February 24, 2014
That is a great idea, thanks for sharing. I've really wanted to add a set of teeth to a Grey Nurse themed FT Spitfire, this looks to be just the solution.
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Patnaude_av8r on February 24, 2014
nice idea, thanks for sharing. Question? I follow your post clearly, but you leave out the brand or exactly what is a clear (Non-water based) finish. Can I apply this decal directly to the paper backing to my DTFB or do I need to Minwax paper before to keep the 50/50 mix of water and glue to keep the paper from delaminating from the foam? Ill try this technique to my next model.
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ttprigg on February 24, 2014
Thanks for the comment- I have tried a couple of "brands" and types of products (even hair spray). I learned that you need to really seal the ink (on both sides) to insure that it does not bleed. I recently used a Krylon "clear" that seemed to work well. I have been thinking about trying a different approach where I would put the minwax on the DTFB and place the decal while the surface was still wet- then follow-up after it is dry with another coat...
I have not tried to apply the decal without the minwax but I do not think the 50/50 mix would lift the paper (easy to test).
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LordVader on February 24, 2014
Great idea, saves from having to try and paint and mask everything. I'm going to try this on my next build. Thanks for sharing.
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Nathan_116 on February 24, 2014
does anyone think that this could be an alternative decaling method. all you have to do is print them out.

StaplesĀ® White Inkjet/Laser Full Sheet Shipping Labels, 8-1/2" X 11, 100/Box
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Phoenix1962 on February 25, 2014
I've tried this method. It works ok for simple decals, but the solid white back ground only works on white surfaces, and adhesion is minimal at best.
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G.D.X RC on February 25, 2014
genius idea brother...!!! keep up..
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spetnazer on February 25, 2014
Hai...nice share...Do you have a video tutorial about this?there are some that still makes me confused
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ttprigg on February 28, 2014
We do not have much experience with the video production side yet, but we will try to put something together.
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gremlin88 on February 27, 2014
This is awesome!! I've always wanted to paint my plane, and this will make precise images. Will it work on wood or fiberglass?
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ttprigg on February 28, 2014
Thanks- I'm just passing on an idea that I saw and liked...
It should work fine on wood or fiberglass. Just remember that the tissue is transparent and you have to take that into account if you are putting it over another color. If you do not want the other color to show through, you need to spray the back side of the paper white.
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Redazrael on March 1, 2014
Thanks for the share! On an off note...I see the Maryland flag in your decal/logo... are you flying out of Maryland?
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ttprigg on March 1, 2014
yup- Baltimore- I just love the MD Flag!
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Redazrael on March 1, 2014
awesome, I am in Hagerstown, so we are definitely experiencing the same lovely (smh) weather!!! Not much flying going on around here lol. I am a retired tattoo artist and was truly inspired by your article to take a few of my many original designs from over the years out of their dusty folders and thinking about hooking up a few off the wall "Tattoo style" Flight Test planes, because hand drawing designs on foamboard isn't the quickest or the most stress free of options!!!
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fdnyjery on March 12, 2014
just a quick you have to use a INK JET printer??? I have a H/P desk jet printer will that work as well as a INK JET printer. Boy its really nice to read all the great ideas you guys have especially for an old geezer like myself who is still relatively new to this wonderful hobby. THANKS A BUNCH !!!
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MojoFlyer on May 2, 2015
"DeskJet" is just HP's brand name for their inkjet printers.
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youbecha on November 22, 2015
I have an actual laser printer and also wonder if I can use it...probably not is my guess...due to the use of glue etc.
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youbecha on November 22, 2015
or maybe...
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DIY (Tissue Paper) Decals