I first found a fin shape I liked online and copied it to my computer. I then opened the picture in my photo editing program. ( I'm using an old copy of Paint Shop Pro, but if you don't have a photo editing program I've heard there are several good free ones online. ) Once the picture was opened in the editing software I erased everything but the fin. I continued to clean up any ragged edges from the initial erassure and then used the smoothing tool on the edges to smooth it out even more. All details inside the fin were erased as well. The outline of the fin was fairly thin so I increased the width of this line by several pixels. When I was satisfied with the outline I drew in the lines that were to represent the rays or cartilage or bone structure or whatever it's called. Once I was satisfied with the image it was time to print it out. I had left the image fairly large so it would be easier to work with and the final sizing was done with the printer. Using the printer software that is included in my photo program I printed out several images until I got the desired size. The picture can be sized using the adjustable "aspect ratio" feature in the printer software of my editing program. I would print out an image and check it against a bait body and make adjustments accordingly until it seemed correct. I then printed them out onto water slide decal paper, sprayed the printed images with the ink fixative and allowed them to dry. Now we can move on to the next step.
Laying some frisket paper over one of the printed images I cut out the outline of the sized fin in the frisket paper. It's very important that you make the cutout as close as possible to the same size as the outline of the printed fin. Then two squares of clear plastic were cut from the same material I use for decals. Any plastic that is fairly stiff should work as long as it's clear so you can see through it. Windows a little larger than the size of the fin outline were cut into the clear plastic. The frisket paper was then placed between the two pieces of clear plastic and glued into place making sure the fin cutout was centered in the windows. As you can tell from the photo below I got a little carried away with the super glue when gluing the frisket cutout between the pieces of plastic. I will probably be making a new one of these, but this one worked for the experiment. The picture of the plastic with the frisket glued between them was taken against a brown background so the window and cutout would show more clearly. The whole purpose of this plastic "window" was to make handling and holding the template easier.
After all this was done it was time to cut out the fin outlines from the decal paper. I didn't try to cut the exact outline of the fin, but chose instead to leave a small border of decal paper around the outline. Maybe 1/16'th of an inch. This makes for a little easier handling and the decal edges will disappear once it's smoothed out and clear coated. ( a pair of tweezers proves invaluable when handling a decal this small ) I use a small, pointed artists brush that has a little stiffness to it to move the decal paper around and smooth it out once it's on the bait. After getting the decal applied, smoothed and dried it's time for painting. Placing the bait in some type of holding device you will hold the plastic window with the fin cutout over the applied decal. You will need to line up the inside edges of the cutout with the outside edges of the fin decal and spray through the window. Holding it fairly close will cut down on any overspray, but you will still need to turn your air pressure way down to avoid any splattering. I had my regulator turned down to less than 5psi when doing this. This probably means you will need to thin your paint quite a bit as well. You will need to use a transparent paint when painting the fin so the "skeleton" of the fin will show through the paint. This is where the details of the outline and rays start to come in play and make for a more realistic fin. A few light coats work much better than trying to do it all at once. And don't forget to heat set the paint between coats. Another thing that helped me was waiting to paint the fins until after I had clear coated the bait one time. (MikePaintsBaits told me about doing detail work like this. Thanks Mike) Doing it this way makes any mistakes a lot less troublesome. You can also scrape away any overspray that might have gotten "outside the lines" of your decal by doing it this way.
This is something new for me so I have no doubt that some of you can come up with things that will make this process easier or make it look better. Like I said in the beginning, this is not meant to take anything away from the guys whose skill levels I most likely will never attain. This is just meant as a way of doing something for those of us less talented.
If you have any questions or comments, good or bad, about any part of this please feel free.
To the moderators..................If I have posted this in the wrong forum please move it to the appropriate spot.
thanks for reading,
Edited by RayburnGuy, 05 October 2010 - 12:56 AM.