Can I use waterslides on my vehicle?

This decal has been on this ungaraged vehicle for 1 & 1/2 years

Other side of the vehicle

I spend years telling people that waterslides weren’t appropriate to use on vehicles.  Thanksgiving 2014 we put both waterslides and vinyls on my brother’s car.  When he came back out for Christmas, he had already removed the vinyls but the waterslides were still there.  He had removed the vinyls because they had started to gather dust along the edges of the vinyls.  He wanted to remove the waterslides and reapply a different design of his own choosing since he is not a lover of vintage pinup art.  It took us about 15 minutes of a hot soapy washcloth to get the decals to loosen, most of it was then removable however we did have to take the edge of a credit card to some of it.

We reapplied the decals of his choice and they are still going strong a year and a half later… Please see pictures he sent me about 3 weeks ago at my request.  We live in California and the vehicle is NOT garaged.

The advantage to the waterslides is that they are thinner and leave less of a lip around the image… That and the fact that they won’t gather dust.  I think if the decals are applied correctly they should hold up much better than either the cling or the vinyl.  Our little trick is a very clean surface and a drop of “Dawn” in the very warm water.  Use a moist paper towel to press all the liquid from behind the decal and then follow that up with a dry paper towel.
It may be worth a try to apply a single decal first and see how that works for you.  You can also get a bit more life out of the decal if you treat it with two LIGHT coats of Rustoleum clear-coat 2X (about 4 bucks a can) BEFORE trimming the decals and applying them.  The Rustoleum has a UV protectant in it which will protect the decal against the sun for a longer period.

Most clear-coat products have some degree of acetone (similar to nail polish) which doesn’t get a long well with plastic.  Since the waterslide decals are in fact a very thin piece of plastic, applying acetone will actually fry the decals.  The key to  applying Rustoleum to the decals is to initially apply very light coats.  The clear-coat actually goes on as a mist and dries before it has time to do any damage.  Once you have several coats of misted clear-coat, you should be good to go.  The Rustoleum has a UV protectant in the formula that will help protect your decals from the harsh sun.

We have a lot of chopper shops that opt to embed the decals permanently into the finish of the vehicle.  We generally recommend misting the decals prior to application to create a barrier between the decals and the clear-coat the shop will be using.  Since we don’t know how their clear-coat will react with the decals, it is just better to be safe than sorry.

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We just added some new pin-up images

We added a few new Pinup images to our web-site.  Think Zombies.

So What do you think?  Enough Gore?  We created these images to honor Zombie month – October.


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Applying a water slide decal to a guitar

Cut out your image using a standard pair of sharp household scissors, for intricate decal you may need to use an Xacto Knife to clean out tight corners.  Many vendors recommend using an Xacto knife to completely trim the decals, but we have much better luck with scissors.

If you will be clear-coating the decal you may wish to give the decal two THIN coats of rustoleum clear coat so that the decal will not react with the clear coat you will be using, this is especially important if your clear coat is acetate based as acetate does dissolve plastics.  Not certain you want to clear-coat your decal?  Check out our other guide on clear-coating here.

  • First of all make certain that the object is clean and void of all wax and oil.
  • After cutting your decal but before placing it into water, lay the decal on the object and position it until you have a general idea where you will be applying it.
  • Place decal into a cup of clean warm water that has a drop of dish detergent in it  for a few seconds and remove, we like Dawn.
  • Lay the entire decal on a paper towel for a minute or so until the thin decal film begins to slip along backing when pressed between the thumb and other fingers your decal is ready to apply.  DO NOT FORCE IT.  You may have to check it a few times until it starts to move on the paper backing.
  • Drop a few beads of water onto the object you will be applying the decal to.  This will give you a bit more time to actually move the decal around until it is where you want it.
  • Slide it onto the surface as you draw the paper backing out from behind it. (Discard backing material after the decal has been removed).  The dish detergent in the water is not mandatory, however it may give you a bit more slip as you try to position your decal.  Press all air bubbles and water out from under the decal with a moist paper towel working from the center to the edges.
  • Pat dry with a dry paper towel.
  • Let dry at least 24 hours prior to using your guitar or object you have applied the decal to.
  • Do not attempt to apply a decal to a surface that has been sitting in the sun and is too warm,  room temperature is fine.  We only mention this because we have had people attempt to apply the decals to a hot car or motorcycle (that was going to be clear-coated) and rip them trying to move them about.  The heat will evaporate the water too fast and you will have a difficult time.
You can see some great examples of both white and transparent water slide applications here.
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Should I clear-coat over my water slide decal or not?

The simple answer is… It depends on where you will be applying the decal and how permanent you want the decal to be.  If you will be applying your decal to an item that will be exposed to the elements such as a vehicle, then the answer is absolutely!!!  But what about a guitar, do you need to clear-coat over the decal?  Once again, the answer is… It depends on where you will be applying the decal and how permanent you want it to be.  If the item is in an area that will get a lot of friction, handling or sweaty hands then you may opt to clear-coat the decals.  However if you want to be able to change out the look of your guitar in the future then clear-coating may not be the appropriate option for you.  Incidentally, Fender’s custom shop does not clear-coat over their decals.
So once you’ve determined that you will be clear-coating, how do you do this?  Truth be known, I’m not a luthier… I produce decals. So, I contacted my good friend Drew Basford of Saloon Door Guitars and asked him to help me out when asked about apply clear-coating over a guitar guard: Tell your customer he should take the guard off the guitar and spray the whole decal and guard with a rattle-can of nitro-cellulose clear paint. VHT make these cans and you can get them in most auto accessories stores. You gotta spray light coats – the more light coats the better – 8 to 10 light coats is enough. Give it a day to cure. He should then carefully and gently wet sand the guard starting with 800 grit paper, taking care over the decal. Finish with 1200 or 1500. He can then polish as much as he wants. If he tries polishing the decal without the protective clear-coats, it will come right off.

To make the decal permanent, however, he should have sanded the guard first with 400 or 600 grit paper. Then he should spray the whole guard with 2 or 3 coats of clear nitro – once this has dried, he wet and dries those coats till smooth and then he applies the decal. The decal sits better on a few coats of nitro and will not “lift” down the track…He should then overcoat the whole guard with the 8 – 10 light coats and wetsand/polish – the plastic pickguards are generally too smooth for a decal to adhere to properly, and the waterslides always need to be applied over nitro and then coated over with more nitro to seal them in permanently. If he got multiples of the same design I’d suggest he scrapes off the first one and start again.

You can get some pretty dramatic results.

I hope you found this review helpful.

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Why use Water slides on Guitars instead of Vinyl Stickers?

You would NEVER get this look with a vinyl decal. What’s more, did you know that vinyls can damage the finish of some guitars? The adhesive in the sticker has a solvent in it that actually attacks a nitrocellulose finish. Most manufacturers with the exception of Gibson have moved away from nitrocellulose so the high risk guitars would be vintage guitars.

Waterslides never damage the finish of a guitar because they use a natural vegetable gum for an adhesive. The only way you would have damage on a finish of a guitar involving a waterslide is if you actually leave the guitar in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. The reality is that the finish under the waterslide remains protected while the remainder of the guitar becomes sun bleached. Kind of like applying sunscreen and forgetting to do the back of your neck, your neck fries while the rest of your body remains protected.

Posted in Tips and Trick of the Trade | 3 Comments

Peter Driben

Peter Driben may be one of my favorite artists for creating decals, the images are  well drawn, proportional and a bit naughty while at the same time looking like the girl next door.

(October 22, 1903 – September, 1968), an American pin-up artist, was perhaps one of the most productive pin-up artists of the 1940s and 1950s.  Although both Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren have extensive catalogues of work, neither came close to the output of Driben. Driben’s pinups delighted the American public from the beginning of World War II until the great baby boom of the 1950s.

Born in Boston, Driben studied at Vesper George Art School before moving to Paris (circa 1925). While taking classes at the Sorbonne in 1925, he began a series of highly popular pen-and-ink drawings of the city’s showgirls. His first known pin-up was the cover to Tattle Tales in October 1934, and by 1935 he was producing covers for Snappy, Pep, New York Nights, French Night Life and Caprice. Driben’s popularity continued to rise in the late thirties with covers for Silk Stocking StoriesGay BookMovie Merry-Go-Round and Real Screen Fun.

Driben’s career expanded into advertising with his move to New York in late 1936. He created original three-dimensional die-cut window displays for Philco Radios, Cannon Bath Towels, and the Weber Baking Company. Perhaps his most famous work being the original posters and publicity artwork for The Maltese Falcon. Peter Driben was also a close friend of publisher Robert Harrison,  and in 1941 was contracted to produce covers for Harrison’s new magazine Beauty Parade. Driben went on to paint hundreds of covers for that publication and for the other seven titles Harrison was to launch – Flirt, Whisper, Titter, Wink, Eyeful, Giggles, and Joker.  Driben would often have as many as six or seven of his covers being published every month. Driben’s work for Harrison established him as one of America’s most recognized and successful pin-up and glamour artists. Just before he began to work for Harrison, Driben married the artist, actress and poet, Louise Kirby.

In 1944 he was offered the unusual opportunity, for a pin-up artist, of becoming the art director of the New York Sun, a post he retained until 1946. During the war, his popular painting of American soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima sparked a considerable amount of media attention.

In 1956, Driben and Louise moved to Miami Beach, where he spent his retirement years painting portraits (including one of Dwight D. Eisenhower) and other fine-art works, which were organized into successful exhibitions by his wife. Driben died in 1968, Louise in 1984.

Below are some Driben images we’ve made into decals


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Is it disrespectful to place a pin-up on a flag?

Lately I have been posting a new pin-up with a background to greet the day on Facebook and posted just such a pinup on Memorial Day.  I also sell on eBay and am active on a few forums there.  This last Monday I posted my Facebook posting to the forum on eBay.  It was of a well known pinup that I had placed on the Liberty Bell clad in an American flag.  The background was a faded picture of the Riverside national cemetery with an American flag placed at each grave site.  Kneeling next to one of the grave sites was a soldier dressed in fatigues paying tribute to a fallen comrade, I thought it a fitting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  The reception to my posting was very positive with one exception, one person felt it was disrespectful to place “a half necked woman” on the American flag.

I and others posted numerous examples of traditional Bomber Art to try to educate this person on the use of Pin-ups as a part of history.  Posted below is our tribute, what do you think… disrespectful or not?


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New Image with a story

When I first started selling decals I was contacted by a man in Norway by the name of Steinar Gregertson and asked to do some custom decals for him.  We hit it off and stayed in contact.  He played a mean slide guitar and I loved his music…. He loved my decals.  He sent me one cd and I ordered the other one.  Time passed and I hadn’t heard from him for a while so I dropped onto his facebook page and found myself confused by what I was reading, much of which was in Norwegian.  It appeared that Steinar had passed away rather suddenly, he posted 2/22/12 and he was gone by 2/29/12.

I still cherish the music he sent me, one of my favorites was his version of Bad Moon Rising.  I couldn’t find that piece on youtube, but did find a piece he did called Northern Lights.  I hope you enjoy it

I put together this image in his memory and I hope he would have enjoyed it.


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White Waterslide Decals

I recently was perusing the internet and found a post in a forum from some guitar owners expressing their dissatisfaction on white decals for dark surfaces, they weren’t our decals that were mentioned but the facts are the same.  I felt compelled to answer the post and this is generally what I ended up posting:

I actually may be able to shed a little bit of light on the white decal situation.  The problem with waterslides is that currently there is no economical way to print in white so opaque decals are achieved by printing on white paper.   It is possible for manufacturers of waterslide decals to die-cut their waterslides, but they would be much more expensive to produce.  As everyone knows the more expensive something is to manufacture, the more expensive they are for the consumer.  The manufacturer of the decals you purchased have some nice images and though they are a tad more expensive than we are, their pricing structure is not out of line at all.

The great part about waterslides is that they are very thin which makes them great if you will be lacquering over them… no prominent ridge.  That having been said, it is not necessary to lacquer over waterslides, even Fender’s custom shop does not lacquer over their waterslide decals.   The rule of thumb for waterslides is… water on, water off.  Since most of you will not be placing your guitars into situations where they will come in contact with water, it is a safe bet that your decals will be safe unless they are in an area that will be getting a lot of surface friction.  A few years ago we did a great project for Gibson Guitars for their limited edition Steve Jones Les Paul and I do know that they did coat over the decals, of course they did quite a relic job on our decals as well.  So, if ever you see a limited edition Steve Jones Les Paul, just know that that cute little record girl pinup decal and well as the ukulele cowgirl pin-up decal are ours.

If I might also make a few suggestions if your guitar is dark and you do need to order the white decals.  When we have customers who contact us and let us know they will be placing the pinups on a dark surface.
First, we do recommend that they stay away from images that have thin objects protruding beyond the body of the image.  We have a number of decals that have bow strings or fishing poles or lettering and these are difficult to trim and many times not all of the image survives the transfer.  Though waterslides are pretty durable once they have dried, they are pretty tender when being applied.
Second, we actually recommend very sharp scissors and not an xacto knife to trim the decals.  Save the Xacto knife to trim out any tight little corners that you couldn’t get with the scissors.
Third, to get rid of that prominent white around the edge of the decal, go to your local office supply store and purchase a marker similar in color to your guitar.  Once your waterslide has dried, carefully trace around the decal and then wipe off any excess from the guitar.

Look at it this way, you have a well loved piece of equipment that you want to dress up a bit with a decal, that decal whether you clear-coat or not is probably going to last you for years to come.  Take your time and do it right.  I know it isn’t fun to trim those decals, but even if it were to take you several minutes look at what you have once it is finished.  With a sharp pair of scissors I can generally trim any of my white waterslides in less than 5 minutes.

I do hope some of this helped.  I went ahead and uploaded a cigar box purse that I did with one of the white decals.  The box had a dark finish so I had to use the white.  I did end up lacquering it but I did NOT use the marker method that I recommended in this post.  I don’t really think it looks bad.

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Elvgren’s Inspirations

I thought it would be fun to show some of Elvgren’s original models next to the art he produced.  As I was writing this post all I could think of was Queen’s
Bohemian Rhapsody…..”Is it the real thing?  Is this just fantasy? I hope you enjoy them.


The position of the legs is obviously different and it appears that Elvgren filled in the candy.  I actually like the position he chose as well as the use of the smaller gold pillow.

Once again position is key, notice that the actual model seems a bit awkward while the drawing does not.

Many of Elvgren’s models are not what I would consider particularly “pretty” models, just gals with great bodies and presence.  This model I thought was an exception to this statement.

Elvgren again shows his ability to improve on the real thing. The picture of the model seems somewhat trampy and seedy while Elvgren’s picture has the flair of the 50’s pin-up… Sexy while still remaining playful and fun.

Caption on the left… Look what I did, I’m just so darn proud of myself. Caption on the right… I made you a great Valentine’s gift, guess what it is.

Elvgren has a certain “look” to his Pin Ups, the round cheeks, the twinkle in the eye with the raised brow.  As you can see from comparing model to finished picture, Elvgren took artistic license with most of his pictures… This picture is an exception with the ending result be a “photo” likeness.

We have quite a few other pictures to add to the gallery, but that is for another day.


Posted in Pinup Artist | 87 Comments