Custom Dry Transfers vs. Waterslide Decals – Which Are Better?

The Precision of Dry Transfers vs Ordinary Water Slide Decals

a custom dry transfer on a microchip beside a dime to show how precise our rubdowns can be orderedIn precise and high-quality design applications, dry transfers are an excellent replacement for waterslide decals. Particularly in scenarios where prototypes and other objects are subjected to close scrutiny, they instantly improve results. Dry transfers are a better solution for the design community because they offer significant advantages over water slides in a number of key performance areas.


Dry Transfers


Water Slides

No damage to application surface Potential water damage to surface
Work without complications on white surfaces Yellowish carrier media shows on white
Ease of handling, more durable Messy, delicate, difficult to handle
Allow for true, pure white unlike inkjet printers Unable to print in true white on inkjet
Ability to follow curves without quality loss Difficult on curves, can wrinkle & lose shape
Side view detail of the replica WW2 scale model airplane.

Custom Dry Transfers

A water slide decal on a model airplane, the discolored edges are clearly visible

Water Slide Decals

Dry Transfers: Visual Advantages Over Water Decals

For anyone accustomed to using water slide decals and considering switching to dry transfers for future, consider these application advantages.

a bad quality water slide decal on a guitar, there is some yellowing and the carrier is showing where the decal was cut out with scissors

Water Decal

A closeup videocap of a metallic transfer foil applied on a custom guitar in a video from Stewart-MacDonald guitars and string instruments

Dry Transfer

First and most importantly, some inkjet printer ink is water-based which can cause the ink to run.

The other complication with water slide decals is the yellowish tint of the carrier media. This is instantly visible on white surfaces and can diminish the clarity and sharpness of edges and lines.

With water slides, some designers have even gone as far as concocting diluted vinegar treatments to overcome some visual disadvantages.  But the results can be iffy and far from reliable. With the better option of dry transfers in these same situations you no longer need to resort to improvised work-arounds.

Dry Transfers: Surface Protection Advantages

water damage on a wood guitar from waterslide decals

Water Damage

Applying rub down transfers on a scale model replica yacht by Classic Yacht Models

Easy to Apply

If you are sampling up a prototype, creating a custom display object or working on a hobby project, dry transfers provide surface protection not possible with products involving water.

Especially when there are tight deadlines, dry transfers reduce potential damage and complications on wood, plastic, paint and other smooth surfaces.

For custom lettering, logos, graphic elements and any other applied surface enhancements, our custom dry transfers are ideal design solutions.

With overnight delivery service, our dry transfers are now easily available in quick turnaround situations. Also because they are created directly from your digital files and color matched with Pantone palettes, you are assured of receiving back exactly what you designed with all of its needed detail and nuance.

Dry Transfers:  Advantages for Application and Ease of Use

water slide decals are affordable and easy to use

Water Decal

axe protoype model presentation

Dry Transfer

The application process for dry transfers is direct and straightforward.  Other than a steady hand and a focused approach, little else is needed. They are fast and easy to apply. Place where desired, rub down with the burnisher and they are immediately affixed and semi-permanent.  Just add a clear coat of lacquer to make them permanent.

Dry transfers can be applied to any smooth surface without damage or any other water-related complications. Better still, they are free from carrier media so there is no need to cut around the edges of the decal. The adhesive only exists under the image – where you need it.

Neither solvents nor treatments are needed and one of the greatest advantages is no drying time is required. Your piece is ready the moment you finish applying the dry transfer. For applications requiring greater durability, applying a coat of clear lacquer is an additional option.

Dry Transfers: Precise Look and Perfect Results – Instantly

Photographers for Milwaukee Tools took this photo of our dry transfers being used for their product prototype photoshoot. This image shows different tools with the Milwaukee Tool logo applied on the surface of the prototype product

Dry Transfers produced for Milwaukee Tool

The final measure of success for any project is a visually precise and accurate appearance. With dry transfers, successful outcomes are more likely and the process for getting to a final piece is less left to chance.

If the piece will be in use for some time or is subject to handling, dry transfers are more durable than water slides. They are simply more stable and longer lasting.

In addition dry transfers are available in a broader range of interesting appearance options including both metallic and foil.

a closup of a water slide decal with prominent edges that look bad

Water Decal

This is a closeup of a gallery wall in Miami that uses custom dry transfers for their museum labels and signage

Dry Transfer

Each color is backed with white to ensure a consistent and uniform look. In side-by-side comparisons with water slides, most designers agree the dry transfer achieves a more finished, permanent and precise look.

If you are planning a project or have one under way right now, it’s a great time to switch to using dry transfers.

They are available overnight, have fewer complications, ensure a more precise appearance and are much easier to use.

Deadlines and changing specs can add enough stress and complication to your workflow.  The advantage of dry transfers can remove one variable from your list and help you achieve better results right away.

Image Transfers are custom dry rub-on transfer specialists. We make only one thing: custom rub down transfers for graphic designers, artists and model-makers. A dry transfer (or rubdown) is an image printed on a translucent sheet. The image has a coating of adhesive on its back. The image is transferred from the translucent sheet onto another surface by applying light pressure in a rubbing motion. The dry transfer can be applied to any surface that is free of dust, grease or oil. Dry transfers are referred to as DRY because they are applied dry, without the use of water or solvents. A dry transfer is not a slip-off label or a water decal, instead the transferred image appears as if it was printed directly onto the item. Our dry transfers are opaque because we back the colors with white, so our rubdowns can be applied to a surface of any color without changing the color of the rub-on transfer. We consider dry transfers a semi-permanent application. Our production artists can match all Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors including Metallic. Standard transfers are semi-gloss but we also offer matte and uncoated finishes. We deliver within as little as 24 hours. -- Specialties: Custom Rub Down Dry Transfers, Art Gallery Signage & Museum Labels, Custom Transfers for Product Prototypes, Comps & Mockups, Dry Transfers for Scale Models.

Posted in Product Packaging, Prototypes, Quality and Color Matching, Scale Model Replicas Tagged with: , , , ,

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