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Gunny

Alps Printers

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Howdy, gents,

I'm under the impression from reading today that the Alps series of Printers are no longer being made. I'm really only interested in printing grays for the low vis Naval TPS. Will my Cannon 5300 Ink Jet home printer be able to make such markings in different shades of gray since I won't be throwing other colors into the mix? I'm getting pretty frustrated with this since no one makes gray low vis 80's TPS marking for the USN/USMC F-4S or RF-4B during that time frame before their retirement. Please lend me your knowledge on the subject matter so that I might be able to get this done at home. What are the big decals manufacturers using to print their markings? Fingers crossed! Thanks for your help!

Masterguns

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ALPS printers have been out of production for a very long time. You can still find them on eBay for about a grand (if you want one that works). Ink cartridges are even harder to find. It's one of the reasons that ALPS printed decal sets are becoming more and more expensive to produce. At some point, the businesses that rely on these printers are going to run into trouble.

As for your inkjet. I'm going to assuming it's a typical printer used at home. The problem with that type of inkjet ink (and laser toner for that matter) is that it's not opaque. The typical inkjet that you get at Staples or FutureShop is going to produce translucent prints, including the black because its ink is intended for printing on white paper stock. In my inkjet I can get very opaque black because I use a special ink for it (which is about $100 a cartridge), but colour ink is still very translucent.

The other issue with inkjet, laser, and ALPS, is that colours are created via CMYK four colour process. This means your colours are an approximation created by combining Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (K). The really high end inkjets have 8 process colour, but the typical home one is 4. The point I'm eventually getting to is that your grey will only be an approximation. With some fiddling, you can probably get something really close, but, unless you're printing it on solid white decal stock, it's not going to be opaque. You're also likely to be able to see the little separate dots of colour that are combining to create the target colour. From a distance you can't see them, but get up close, or use a loupe, and you will definitely see the half tones.

Professional decal manufactures (like Canuck) print decals via screen print method using spot colour and ink designed for printing water slide decals. Other manufactures use offset printing but that type of decal has issues. Because of the ink they use for that process, the decals look great on the paper but are often difficult to work with. It's worth noting that it's certainly possible to 4 colour process print via either Screen Printing or Offset printing as well, but the ability to print spot colours that are perfectly matched and opaque make that process the winner.

Edited by RiderFan

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The Alps printer was the single most frustrating, irritating, temperamental, and ill-designed piece of crap I ever had the displeasure of working with (next to Windows). I know people who got them to work okay, but i never could. Mine was constantly jamming and breaking down. Good riddance.

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I'm with Jennings on this one. Bough one once, spent more time trying to get the damned thing to work than actually building models. Sold it in eBay and actually made some $ hehe

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ALPS printers have been out of production for a very long time. You can still find them on eBay for about a grand (if you want one that works).

Really? Wow, I better dig my old one out and stick it on eBay!

Edited by vince14

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Alps or no Alps is no longer an issue for me. I've purchased CorelDRAW x7 & will create my own artwork pertinent to the specific jet I want to depict. I will then send the artwork to a suggested decal maker & have him print the markings for me. Problem solved! Thanks to all of you who have provided advice on this subject matter. I'm excited to see what this program can do. Thanks again, gents.

Masterguns

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When you say "decal maker" do you mean somebody like Greg Drawbaugh (who prints on demand) or to a silkscreen decal printer? If the latter, you'll need to learn how to construct artwork in Corel for silkscreen printing. It's a far more complex process than creating artwork to print using a CMYK process like what Draw uses (don't be fooled by his BS "Digital Silk" moniker - it has nothing in any way to do with silkscreen printing - it's basically a high end ALPS type printer). They're VERY different processes.

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Alps or no Alps is no longer an issue for me. I've purchased CorelDRAW x7 & will create my own artwork pertinent to the specific jet I want to depict. I will then send the artwork to a suggested decal maker & have him print the markings for me. Problem solved! Thanks to all of you who have provided advice on this subject matter. I'm excited to see what this program can do. Thanks again, gents.

Masterguns

If you're just creating artwork for one-off personal use, I would recommend just using Inkscape. It's free and available from Inkscape.org No real sense in spending money on software if you're just doing a sheet once in a while for your own use. I'm sure anyone that prints with an ALPS printer can use the SVG or PDF output from Inkscape without too much hassle. It has all the tools you need.

As Jennings mentioned above me, if you're looking at something more involved, like having professional decals printed by a screen printer, then yes, the artwork requirements are more involved and complex. My personal preference is Adobe Illustrator for this work. It's more expensive than Corel but I've found it has better tools and its UI paradigm is more intuitive. That said though, Canuck can accept Corel format files as well as raw Inkscape format.

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I've been in the same boat with a 1/48 TPS F-4S. For grays, you might want to consider custom-cut masks for the larger markings. If you're working in 1/32, you could probably get that to work with almost all of the markings. Another possibility would be to print your markings in black on clear decal film, lightly scribe around them with an Xacto, and the give them a dusting with the desired color. When you dip them in water, the stuff you've cut pulls away, leaving your decal. This worked great for the tail codes and serial numbers on my 1/32 F-4E.

I like Inkscape. It doesn't take much to learn enough about it to draw up stencils, letters, or basic artwork. There are a couple of good books and lots of tutorials online to help learn the more advanced stuff.

I wasn't a fan of Draw's original "Digital Silk" because the ink they used was so stiff, it was like trying to get scotch tape to conform around a compound curve. The ink they use with their new "Next Generation" process is much more flexible, and the decals do a better job conforming to the model's surfaces. The most recent set I used went down so well that I'm going to give their Piedmont 737-400 decals third chance to see if the new system will conform properly to the nose.

What scale are you working in and what squadron are you wanting to do, Gunny?

Ben

Edited by Ben Brown

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I will be using an "on demand" print service for now. The markings are easy enough to create digitally with Corel. My half unit will be using it for photo editing as well.

Ben, my pa flew Phantoms (B, J & S) for over 20 years in the Marine Corps. I plan to design markings based off some of the jets he flew in 48th & 32nd. I'm waiting on him to find his old photos & log books. Right now I only have one pic that one of his squadron's (VMFA-542 BuNo 151424) RIOs took of him in flight in 1966. It's interesting to note that the front fuselage/cockpit section of that particular bird he flew that day is now in the USAF Museum as a sit in exhibit. Anyway he spent much of his assignments at MCAS Beaufort after Vietnam. I spent much of childhood there on the flight line & in the hangers having the time of my life. As for the RF-4B, I'm only going to do one in 48th & one in 32nd from VMFP-3. I have no shortage of the F-4S decals in USMC TPS, however, none in 32nd. Just about all of the popular decal brands from the 2000's have put out TPS markings for the F-4S in 48th. My first one will be an Academy F-4B from VMFA-542 (BuNo 151424). I will use some markings from the Furball USMC Phantom sheet & some homemade. Like I said in a previous thread, I did this about 15 years ago but certain world events caused me to be gone an aweful lot with not much time for modeling or artwork. I just wanted to be able to do the entire process of decal making. Now it will just be artwork. Thanks for all those who offer their insight.

Masterguns

ETA: Here's his bird

1424_zps8qp9cnjt.jpg

Edited by Gunny

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