The decoration of control line aerobatic airplanes has developed into an art of its own kind. Apart from being the most beautiful model airplanes of all categories, they display a special style of finish which will not be found in other areas. While there may be perfect colour finishes on professionally produced models, a control line airplane is easily recognized by its very own character of finish.
. There’s not only a fanciful arrangement of colour areas and lines. The application of those infamous ink lines is unique to our control line world. Also the addition of all kinds of artful text, graphic elements, and logos adds finesse to the final appearance.
An easy way to apply these elements is to use decals. There are several types available. Since those good ole times we know the water slide decals. They were available in a wide choice of pictures, logos, letters, numbers etc. After a short bath in water the decal could be slid from the backing paper and put on the appropriate place on our airplane. The other version is the self adhesive sticker type. They are very popular these days since most people don’t seem to have the time to wait a few seconds for softening the backing paper of water slides. For a serious stunt flyer worth his weight in “clear” this stuff is taboo.
         
With the water slides there are a few tiny problems. First of all they are not readily available everywhere. At least in modern model shops we will hardly find any. If we do then some of them are so old that they will quickly dissolve when put into water, or they have yellowed more than acceptable. Depending on the quality and the type of logo or letter there’s a small edge of the carrier around the actual motif. But if finally covered with clear ( we have to do this anyway; most decals are not fuel proof ) this edge is hardly visible; I think you have to be a little pedantic if you complain about this. On the other hand water slides have some definite advantages. First of all there’s their ( lack of ) thickness. They are easy to apply: We can easily slide them to the right place, we have a few seconds time to change the correct position ( try that with a self adhesive sticker; once it is stuck down there’s no way you can move it any more ), and - within limits - decals will even adhere to uneven ground.
The main problem is that we have only a limited choice of products and motifs. There are companies who still produce water slides. If you surf the web you’ll find some. For instance MAJOR DECALS ( www.majordecals.com ) who offer a wide range of military insignia and other material. In case we do not find what we need we can try to get full colour sheets. For geometric or other simple shapes we can easily cut them from the sheet. Because the decal carrier base is very thin we may also use more than one layer, cut from different colours, this way producing a colourful emblem.
. The best solution however would be to find a company who does custom decals. Similar to what Kodak said “you provide the pattern, we do the rest”. These companies can make custom decals for us if we provide a pattern of the desired motif. . Usually they prefer to have the original motif in digital form. BELDECALS ( www.beldecals.com ) offers a wide choice of services.      
Now I have mentioned the digital way. The computer will come to our rescue. Since most of us already have such a machine this opens a completely new world for us. We no longer depend on what is available - or not. We can make our own decals! Except for the computer all we need is the printer and the right print material. This is available at office supplies or among computer print equipment . We have two ways to choose from.
  For the simple version we can buy self-adhesive clear inkjet film. As with those stickers mentioned above this is not exactly the desired approach for serious aerobatic pilots. However if it’s not meant to go on your Super Orchid and if your demands are not very high on the model in question, this is an easy and quick method to apply some decoration. These film sheets are available in high gloss. So if you are really lazy you can stick them on the finished model. I have treated them with diesel and glow fuel and even with thinner. So far they have survived.
 
 
. Even if covered with clear the edges of the stickers are visible when light is reflected from the model surface. The edges can be somewhat hidden when cutting the sticker exactly at the edge of the printed shape; say, the edge of the aileron imitations so often seen on our flaps. If the contrast between the print colour and the model surface is high enough you will not easily see the edge.  
. Sheets are usually about 8,5 X 11” ( or the European equivalent ). I have used this method on a little airplane where I didn’t want to go to big efforts . The decoration on my 15 size GIGOLO was done that way. The model has a two part clear laquer finish, and if you don’t look closely you will not see the edges of the stickers.
Now some of us ( including myself ) are not really satisfied with this method when creating a respectable finish. For good results we can get decal sheets to print our motifs on. These are available for inkjet or laser printers.

. There are two types: clear or white. Before we decide on the type we have to consider what motif we want to use - and the colour of our airplane ( respectively the spot where the decal is applied to ). While generally we can print all colours, we cannot print white. We have to remember this when choosing the motif. Lets begin with the white sheet.
On all motifs which contain white areas we need the white sheet, except when the background area on the airplane is white. On a dark background colour we cannot use the clear sheet because white will not be shown in our motif. We could paint exactly the area for the decal in white colour, but for complicated shapes ( outlines ) this would be a difficult task. However in some cases this might be necessary. The base carrier of the decal is very thin and transparent - and the print colour is not really opaque. It is ink, after all ! So, even with the decal printed on a white sheet , the light colours and especially white do not really cover well on dark background. ( as can be seen at the German Cross and the exhaust imitation on my Me 109 ).  
On a white background we have less problems with shape ( outline ) of the decal. From the white sheet we simply cut out a rectangle, circle, oval, or any other simple shape - the edges will not visible. If the background is white there’s no problem. We can use all colours, even light colours will appear brilliant.. In this case we can take the clear decal sheets as well.
Of course we have to use these if we want the background to be seen behind the motif. This is usually desired when text characters are placed over two areas of different colour tones. Also if we don’t want to have some white area behind our motiv ( placed on another colour ), we need the clear sheet. On this we cannot print light colours: they will appear almost translucent on dark background. I’d recommend black only. For instance, the yellow Springfield motiv on that little Gee bee almost didn’t show at all ( I had to paint it ).
One important point: after the motifs are printed on the decal sheet they should left to dry very well; say about half an hour. Then they have to be covered with a light clear coat. After all ink is water- soluble. Putting the decal in the water bath will simply dissolve it ( don’t ask how I know !). Some manufacturers sell a fixative with their products. I use any kind of acrylic car spray can clear. Only when the coat has fully dried the decal can be used.
On the internet we can find sources for decal sheets. Try BELDECAL or MICROMARK ( www.micromark.com ). These companies offer sheets for inkjet or laser printers in white and clear, available in packs of 5, 25, or 100. BELDECAL has very detailed instructions on their website on how to handle decals. Inhabitants of Germany need not despair: they will find the desired goods at CONRAD www.conrad.de/script/folien_fur_decals.sap      
 
                The possibility to produce our own decals provides an infinite freedom to add many kinds of interesting detail to the design of our airplane. Just think about all variations of letters, numbers, your licence number, name of the airplane, logos, emblems, graphics, checkerboard, those little signs “no step”, “ 80 octane”, “danger” etc. If you own or have access to a scanner the scope is widened even more. Imagine all that funny “nose art” as seen on your favourite full size original , your own portrait placed on the canopy of your profile model, some tiny details which are too difficult to do with ink lines, etc. etc. Scan it, print it, apply it !
 
       
                     
The computer allows to create things which are not possible otherwise. I have included a few illustrations which I have designed for my airplanes, using different software. Those military insignia were designed with Corel Draw. “Bunny” started as a black and white drawing, then scanned. It was coloured with a picture enhancing software and completed with Corel.
Now , if you think you don’t have this equipment - don’t despair! Sophisticated software is not needed to achieve some amazing results. If you have a computer you have WORD. You wouldn’t believe how versatile this program is. Below I’ve added one sketch with elements which were drawn with WORD only. WORD has a huge choice of fonts. WORD ART can modify letters and numbers into crazy shapes. We can draw rectangles, circles, and a large choice of AutoShapes. Then we can fill them with colours, pictures, structure, patterns, effects, and add shadows. Only our imagination is the limit.