Author Topic: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals  (Read 1202 times)

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peteski

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A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« on: March 14, 2017, 01:57:38 AM »
+5
They have recently got into the decal business.  They also offer custom decal printing.  I visited their table at the Springfield show and I asked how they print their decals. I was told that they use a special ink jet printer which uses UV-curable inks (including the elusive white ink).
I have an Alps printer so I can print my own white and color decals but I was curious about the quality of their decals, so I picked up a set of their Southern Pacific N scale white tank car decals.  That would allow me to evaluate their white ink decal. In hindsight, I should have also picked up one of their full-color billboard decals to see how they handle full color printing, but I didn't.  :(

Nick and I along with some others have been discussing the Tichy white decals in another thread, starting around this post.

I found the white ink very thick. If you run your finger over the decal you can clearly feel where the ink is.  Feels almost like reading a book in Braille.  Nick agrees that the ink is thick, it can flake off, and does not respond to decal setting solutions.  But he still finds them acceptable.

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Here are some close-up photos of the decal sheet.  I had the light source on the side of the decal to clearly show the 3-dimensional nature of the ink.  The ruler is in 1-N-scale inch increments (for size reference).    As the photo shows, the printer can't handle the smallest lettering, but that is not surprising since that lettering is about 1 scale inch high.  The raster lines are also visible on the lower line of the larger numerals.

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Here is a closeup of the lettering. It also shows off the thickness of the ink on the larger numerals.

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I took this photo to show the other inks used in this printer. The black lettering also shows scattering of the cyan, magenta, and  yellow inks around the letter outlines. I see a similar artifact on some of the Micro-Trains cars which also have ink jet printed decoration. I think that is just how the printer driver handles printing black.

I measured the thickness of the white ink on the Tichy decals and it is 0.002" thick!  That is very thick for waterslide decals. There is no way that even multiple applications of clear lacquer over the finished model will cover the bumpy ink.  I also suspect that when they print colors they first print the white undercoat, then they print CYM inks over white. So I suspect that the color decals will have even thicker layer of ink. They will look like embossed letters. That to me is a deal-breaker.

I thought that the technology Tichy uses looks similar to what Archer uses for their 3-D rivet decals. I had some Archer rivet and tread-plate sets so I decided to give them a closer look.

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This is a close-up of the archer sheet. The way the ink is applied looks very similar to the Tichy decals.  That includes the visible traces of the CYM inks around the black areas. But I think that Archer actually prints all CYMK inks over each other to maximize the thickness.  Since the inks are slightly out of register, they are visible under the black (top-layer) ink.

One good use I can think of for Tichy custom decals is that I can lay out a custom rivet pattern artwork (to fit a steam loco tender sides, or maybe a smokebox) and have them printed by Tichy (as rivets).
« Last Edit: March 14, 2017, 02:02:11 AM by peteski »
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Chris333

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2017, 04:19:36 AM »
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They must use this printer on their N scale street signs, because they are fuzzy as well.

tom mann

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2017, 08:29:24 AM »
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Thanks for the write up.  It almost looks like Puffy Paint: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/puffy-paint/


Shipsure

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2017, 10:29:35 AM »
+3
Archer textured decals are made by the same sort of printer using the same inks as Tichy.  One of the issues you have is the thickness of the white inks to gain the kind of opacity you need.  Until we can get a machine that can do thermal printing like our trusty Alps over irregular surfaces this is the process we have to work with.  I think you will also find you'll have difficulty getting these over ribs and other surface details.  The ink doesn't soften with traditional decal solvent solutions easily so you have to really work on getting them to set. I have used Solvaset and a hair dryer to good effect.

Joe
« Last Edit: March 14, 2017, 10:52:54 AM by Shipsure »

Mark5

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2017, 12:17:32 PM »
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Pete,

Thanks for the look, I now know not to look to Tichy for custom decal work (ie for my needs).

Mark

ednadolski

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2017, 01:53:19 PM »
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Do they make stripes under one scale inch (0.006")?  That might be useful for weld seams.

Ed

peteski

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2017, 03:19:02 PM »
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Do they make stripes under one scale inch (0.006")?  That might be useful for weld seams.

Ed

Like I mentioned, you should be able to design your own artwork (tings like weld lines or rivet patterns) and have Tichy custom-print them for you.
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peteski

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2017, 03:26:51 PM »
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Archer textured decals are made by the same sort of printer using the same inks as Tichy.  One of the issues you have is the thickness of the white inks to gain the kind of opacity you need.  Until we can get a machine that can do thermal printing like our trusty Alps over irregular surfaces this is the process we have to work with.  I think you will also find you'll have difficulty getting these over ribs and other surface details.  The ink doesn't soften with traditional decal solvent solutions easily so you have to really work on getting them to set. I have used Solvaset and a hair dryer to good effect.

Joe

Joe, some of the early ink-jet-printed reefer cars from MTL also had a fairly thick layer of white ink (with visible raster lines). But the newer cars which have ink-jet-printed decoration appear to have much thinner layer of inks, and higher resolution.  For the curious (liek me) would you tell us what printer are you using at MTL or is that a secret?  :)


BTW, the N scale ruler shown in those photos is printed on my Alps printer, but that is reaching its 600dpi resolution limit. That is why some of the divisions are slightly out of alignment (they fall between the 0.01667" wide print elements. Each division line is one print element thick.  This also shows how sharp the Alps printouts are (when using solid colors).  No fuzzies and no puffies.  :)
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SandyEggoJake

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2017, 04:40:33 PM »
+1
Is Tichy's ink jet decal rig (or rather ink jet printers in general) perfect for all N scale decal applications?  No.  But isn't that unrealistic to expect?   

In all fairness, Pete, aren't you're painting this new N offering with a hyper critical O scale brush? 

Given inkjet is the future and Alps seems to be headed to the RIP track ... perhaps we should try to be a tad more constructive.  After all, some of this (ink lay for example) may be adjustable to current rigs, and other issues (carrier thickness) might just require a different stock to print on.  And finally, for the remaining issues, we should highlight them as they are ripe areas for printer makers to improve.

Now obviously, it's fully appropriate to critically review Tichy's product here.  And yes, if you see CYM shadowing in black (K) elements, as is seen on the Archer set, by all means do mention it.  But only showing the Archer rivet set (where build up & shadow is the very desire)?  Such isn't fair to ink jet decals in general nor Tichy's effort specifically. 

I suspect you might not have a fine black text set, so allow me. 

Below are some of Don's black ink decal (from his PFE R-40-2 set #9024B).   Honestly, can you see ANY CYM shadow of the black here?  I certainly can't.  This was taken with my highest macro (10x) on my best SLR in daylight. 

IMHO, this set FAAAAR exceeds the 3 foot rule.  Or even a 3 centimeter standard of us proud n scale rivet counters.   

What I can see are well defined text in the classic freight car data block.  And actually, it looks better in person than on my PC's LED screen, given some dithering of the pixels on my monitor.  I can read at ease without magnification. 

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Next let's compare it to what Microscales produces for their recent PFE set (60-4240, a set they have been tweaking and correcting for decades).  (same focus & zoom)  What I see in person is less defined text, including places where parts of the letter just didn't print.  (Lower bar on the capital "L" in "LBS".  Parts of the number 8, 5, 0, etc are missing)  And this is on a fresh sheet.  Still fine - perhaps even better for a heavily weathered car, but not as built or just washed & repainted.




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Yes, the text ink is thicker, the carrier film may be thicker, and the UV cured ink might require a different setting solution and process than you use with other decals.  (Big thanks Joe @Shipsure for your tip on taming them - let's keep those ideas coming.) But it seems this artwork might also just be designed a tad beefier. 

For both Tichy & Miscoscales, the 9" prototype RoadMark PFE is to scale, but the Microscale" kerning of the letters (not shown) seems too close when I compare it to prototype builders pics in Thompson's classic Pacific Fruit Express and to lettering diagrams in the new (and EXCELLENT!) Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide by Harley & Thompson w/ Signor. 

Using my ol' Starrett Vernier micrometer caliper, I have The Tichy backer paper, adhesive and carrier film at a dead 0.0090" and over the datablock, a 0.0100".  So a black only ink height is just 0.001"

The Microscale set, the backer paper to carrier is 0.0065", over data block, 0.0071".  So 0.0006.... yes, the Tichy's (more legible) ink is 0.0004" thicker than the Microscales.  But it's not ink build up that draws my eye.

The Tichy backer paper / adhesive & carrier, is also clearly thicker.  Some of this may be irrelevant as it could be that Tichy uses a thicker backer, but it could be a thicker carrier which might account for issue of curl.  And if this is a real issue, it may be fixable for Don to switch to a finer stock on which to print. 


Now, where the thickness of ink does become an issue for Tichy (and perhaps inkjets in general - and likely also built up dry transfers like that of Clover House) is on multi color / multi layer elements.

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What I do not like is "the bleed" seen best on the Tichy version of the SP logo, likely from dithering of the black over layer into the white ink underlayer.  The result is white text elements ("Southern Pacific" text) that is far too narrow, and clearly inferior to the Microscale's SP logo.  But again, Tichy might be able to adjust this art work to make less black so more white text shows through (just like Microscales did the opposite adjustment from their "too much white" 60-4021 set).

And if Don is reading this, as they tweak the black ink, he should also correct the size of his SP & UP logo's which seem a smidgen under the scale (The SP logo was 45" high scale).  This is a noticeable issue (compared to say the Atlas & MTL RTR and the  corrected Microscales).   

What about thickness of ink on these logos, you say?

On the UP Logo, Tichy is a net 0.0035" while the Microscales is 0.0009".  Yep, thicker.  Less likely to, say, conform into the board of a woodside reefer. 

HOWEVER - at least in this instance - I LOVE ME SOME THICK! 

In fact I'd love to see them add Archer like screw heads around the edge of both logos too!  For PFE cars of this era didn't have painted logos.  They were actually porcelain signs screwed to the reefer side.

There's always a prototype!     :D

Bottomline:  I'm very pleased to see Tichy wade into this area just as some (ex., Rail Graphics) are closing shop.  I do like his fine text, single ink data blocks for scale 2" and less, and like them more than Microscale.  For up to 1/4" nominal (scale 40") text single ink, it seems a tie to me.  For anything larger where you want the decal to conform, especially mutlicolor multilayer, I don't have enough experience with the Tichy decals to have an opinion, and am hopeful tweaks can be made either with our technique or his product. 

-Jake

PS: Now.... Tichy ?  When you fix your PFE set, also PLEASE also  CORRECT for your set to the right UP "System" Logo for your prototype.  You have a license and I've sent the artwork.  And it has NEVER been offered N scale waterslide before.  I've a long cut of MTL PFE cars that need to be corrected.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2017, 05:41:47 PM by SandyEggoJake »

SandyEggoJake

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2017, 05:34:07 PM »
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Quote
BTW, the N scale ruler shown in those photos is printed on my Alps printer. ... This also shows how sharp the Alps printouts are (when using solid colors).  No fuzzies and no puffies.  :)

Pete, did you mean to print "18, 17, 18, 18, 20"? 

Or do we just have a different expectation on what "sharp" means?   :trollface:

tom mann

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2017, 06:26:26 PM »
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The SP Lines herald looks like it's the totally wrong font due to the bleeding.

peteski

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2017, 06:45:14 PM »
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Jake, I simply gave the decal my typical under-the-microscope detailed review. Is that a problem?  The ink is too thick and it is stiff. That is a fact reported by others. Resolutions is also a bit on the coarse side (for N scale). Not a decal I'll be buying, but you are welcome to buy them and look at them through rose-colored glasses.  We all model to different fidelity standards.

This wasn't meant as a comparison of Tichy's printer and Alps. But since I used an Alps-printed ruler, I figured I would mention that fact. Alps is not a perfect solution, but much better for decals than what Tichy uses. Alps printers are still going strong (for at least few more years).  As a hobbyist I can also afford the Alps printer (where  Tichy's printer probably costs more than what most hobbyists would be willing to spend).  The numerals on that ruler are a bit unreadable due to the font I used. I could print the ruler using a more readable font.

You, and others, are perfectly free to buy and use Tichy decals, but they are not for me.  I thought others here would welcome my evaluation.  :|

EDIT: as far as Archer goes, I simply showed tat it appears to me that while Archer uses their printer to produce raised-details decals, tichy seems to be using a similar printer for supposedly thin and flat decal images.  The CYM ink scatter is not really remevant - I only pinted it out while making comparison of both printers.

If your black lettering decals look better than the white lettering I have that might be what Shipsure mentioned: the white has to be applied extra thick to be opaque enough not to have the color of the model bleed through it.  Black is  naturally opaque so it doesn't need to be applied as thick.

Alps users realize that our printers will not last forever. We are also hoping for another affordable and easy way of printing home-brew decals.  It would  be great if an affordable printer showed up with features that Alps printers have (like metallic and white inks, and spot colors with ability to overlay inks).  But nothing like that is available or will be available in the near future. There are commercial printers out there capable of all those things, but they are way out of hobbyist's price range.  Someday we will probably have such a printer, but in the meantime the printer Tichy uses doesn't seem to be a right fit for printing N scale decals.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2017, 09:05:00 PM by peteski »
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Chris333

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2017, 08:08:14 PM »
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The signs I have are horrible. There are a lot of black dots scattered all over and they look blurry. And this is like 10 sets I bought all the same.

SandyEggoJake

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2017, 12:06:39 AM »
+1
No one is forcing anyone to buy, obviously.  And I've not seen the SP Tank set that your reviewed, and so I do welcome your evaluation.  In fact, if you want to dump that set, I've MTL undec sitting here that could serve as fair test. With lot of curved surfaces and dark background, it will be fair challenge for the Tichy's white ink. 

My main point is we can't just assume all his sets are bad based on your N of 1.... and it is possible that you got a bad run.  Note Tichy's PFE set also has some white lettering, which look faaaar better than what your set displays.  It's also possible that better artwork and adjustments could significantly improve hisproduct.   

But yes, we agree;  ALPs printers are great for many applications - no argument here.  And it is a real shame someone hasn't taking this niche and run with it, developing the next generation. 

Look, I've no dog in this fight.  I'm just hopeful to see Tichy improve this PFE set as it could fill market gap - as it would even if they just introduced the UP "System" logo.  Speaking of which, one note I didn't mention but should have above is color accuracy of the Tichy UP logo to the prototype. Don's rig nailed the colors in rich detail, while the Microscale version is very washed out.  (Actually both the Microscale and Tichy logos are a bit out of focus in that  pic - I think my SLR was auto focusing on the penny.)

----

@tom mann

Yes, the Tichy SP herald in this set isn't for me either.  Looks worse at arms length than in this pic, as it becomes basically a textless black circle.  But the Espee herald from Microscale is smidgen too white compared to protoype builder pics (some have "burned in" logos, and thus can be misleading) as well as drawings.  (For me, the best representation in N of the Espee logo is on the Atlas Woodside PFE refer.    Still the font (or rather letter style) is correct for both, but the weight of the Tichy appears half again too thin.  Still, I'm rather hopeful that adjusting back their black overprint will allow more white, and if so, such should be correctable.     

nkalanaga

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Re: A closer look at Tichy Train Group waterslide decals
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2017, 02:13:45 AM »
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Peteski:  Thanks for starting a new topic - mine had drifted badly!

And I like your comparisons.  IF they ever print my color set, ink buildup shouldn't be a major problem, as I did the artwork so that there isn't any overlap.  There should only be one color, and maybe a white undercoat, at any one place.  Two colors touching occurs in only one portion, where two straight lines are in contact.

Your results also match mine in resolution.  I inch letters are almost readable if handrawn.  I did a USRE map logo for one of my hopper decals, with 5-pixel high letters, and under a 10X magnifier, they are obviously "letters", not just blobs.  But they aren't readable letters.  I don't know what their resolution is, but my decals were created as 800-DPI bitmaps, then converted to PDFs.  Their resolution isn't quite as good as my originals, so I suspect that 600 to 800 DPI is about their limit.

I might yet try putting some rivet strips on a future sheet.  0.002 inches is 1/3 N scale inch.  How thick is a prototype boxcar side rivet head?

SandyEggoJake:  Like you, I'm just glad to have a source for custom decals.  If I can get the decal I need from Microscale, or another traditional printer, that's what I'll use.  But for what I'm ordering, there is no other choice.

I think they'll work fine on a tank car.  The curve is both gentle and consistent, and the decals aren't rigid. 
N Kalanaga
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