Decal image soft after drying


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My first try using a water slide decal on an enclosure. I got Hayes inkjet clear. Print came out great after a little trial and error. Coated with acrylic clear coat per the instructions - one tack coat and a couple nice wet coats - no problems there. Cut it out, soaked it and applied - still looked good. Dried overnight. When I looked at it the next day the image seems to have softened/blurred while it dried. Was this user error? Did I move the decal around too much after applying? Maybe I did wipe enough water off after it was positioned? Here’s a pic showing the blurred decal and another clearcoated copy that I didn’t use because it printed with a defect. The color changed a little too but that might just be the backer paper vs the paint.


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It's really important to let the print dry thoroughly before clear coating. I'll usually let them dry 24 hours before spraying. With that much black ink, maybe consider doubling that. 3-4 coats of acrylic, then I like to let the decals cure completely, until I can't smell them anymore.
This. 👆 When I was doing them, I would print it and let it dry overnight and coat it the following day. Let that dry overnight again and then never had any issues.
Jimilee nailed it. Heavy wet coats, even with a light pre-coat, can soak thru to the decal itself and wonky-up the artwork. When I was doing inkjet waterslides, I learned this too and had to clean off the enclosure and begin again. Ya gotta soak them off. (They soak back off easily when dunked into a tank of warm water for a couple hours.)

After my learning experiences, I gave two light coats (with at least two hours of drying time between light coats) then after letting those dry for 24 hours,I gave a heavier (but not a soaking) coat. Another 24 hrs drying time and it always worked. Especially when I applied some surfactant (see image) to the enclosure before applying the decal. Then I let that dry for another 24 hrs. If you use a surfactant, don't freak out if you see the decal wrinkle-up any during the drying process - the wrinkles come out when it's completely dried.

Micro-Sol_Micro-Set.png April_2018_Decal_Application_2.jpg April_2018_AfterClearSpray-2_Coats_Minwax.jpg DarkOfTheMoon.png
Then for a final finish, I apply a dozen thin coats of MinWax Clear finishing paste, allowing each coat to dry about 20 minutes after buffing to a shine.

And NEVER cut them to size before clear-coating. That will seal the edges of the waterslide and water will not get to soften the decal from the backing.

Anyway, that's what has worked for me.
I use sunnyscopia for inkjet... print my decal.. wait maybe five minutes.. Then I Full wet coat with "Watco" Gloss lacquer. I get it from Home depot.

Any who. I let the decal dry for 30 minutes.... Go to the sink. Wash enclosure with soapy water... cut out my decal.. soak the back of paper for about 5 seconds and then let the decal sit for about 30 seconds.... Then I silde it on enclosre.. smooth out any bubbles with a wet paper towel... Dry over night.. next day hit it with the gloss lacquer several coats with time in between them,
I don't use inkjet waterslides, so I can't speak with any authority, but I have read that you have to let the ink cure before you apply the clear coat - some people even say it needs to cure for a couple of days before you do anything with it.
To be completely honest & transparent, I'd migrated away from inkjet to laser. Then dropped waterslides for the most part all together and started going with AmplifyFun (in Portland, OR) to have my enclosures professionally drilled and painted with artwork and drill patterns of my own making. Yeah, it's a bit more expensive, but the result is far superior than any of the enclosures I've drilled & finished myself.
I've been doing inkjet decals for a while now, but I'm far from an expert on the topic. There are lots of variables that can impact the way the decals turn out, and the variables can show up at multiple points along the way. What kind of paper are you using? What are your printer settings at? What kind of spray are you using? Etc etc.

For me, I generally spray the page with a thin coating of clear coat pretty much right after I print it. Let that dry, spray it with another thin layer an hour later, and repeat that one more time. Then I let that all dry for like 24 hours before applying the decal to the enclosure. My guess would be that maybe the ink on the paper wasn't 100% sealed in when you applied the clear coat. Could be that you applied too heavy of a coat after that initial spray as others have suggested. I've found that a thin coat that covers everything is better than heavily spraying it down.