Poor Results From Lexmark Inks / Bel Decal Paper
I have now had an opportunity to try out the Lexmark Z816 printer on a "good" sheet of Bel Decal paper.
I am not happy at all about this combination, and I still don't know if it's the ink at fault, or the paper, or BOTH.
To be more specific:
I have no major complaints about the printer in normal use, with regular paper or cardstock printing jobs. The text and images are, in fact, far more "in register" with this printer than with the Epson I was using before. The printer creates the output image crisply, and cleanly, and it is very fast compared to the Epson. An example of this is a printing I made of the Centuri Vulcan shroud and fins which looks beautiful...
When printing on Bel Decal Ink Jet Paper, the image prints well, with none of the "orange peel" effect found with the Epson inks. It is necessary to print as "photo" on a "coated" sheet to get the cleanest image, however. In this mode, it produces a complete image, and the ink shows no hint of the problem which is to come. When you apply the clear acrylic, the image stays solid, and there is no reaction between the spray and the ink.
So, I apply two or three coats of spray, and allow to dry completely between layers...
The problem is when I dip the decal into water. The ink immediately starts breaking up between the acrylic outer layer and the paper's adhesive/sealer layer. It is as if the protective layer is only partially there, or is highly permeable to water.
Under these circumstances, all of the decals I have printed this way aren't worth their weight in horse crap.
To say that I am really po'd would be an understatement, and what really chews my haggis is the lack of compatability information from Bel Decal about which inks and/or printers produce the best results with their papers. One would think this would be the kind of information Bel would WANT people to know!
To be sure, I've seen NOTHING in print on the web about ink/paper combinations that work as expected. When one considers this hobby, plus the model car hobby, PLUS the model railroad hobby (which uses custom decals far more than we do!), PLUS the model airplane hobby -- you would think someone has compiled a list somewhere based on their own experiences.
This is beginning to sound like The Neverending Story, in that there may really be no combinations that work correctly. Right now, the feeling I get is it's the paper that is the issue. The paper's protective-adhiesive layer is just not doing its job. This layer is supposed to keep the ink from coming in contact with the water -- certainly a "well duh!" if you think about it: Ink jet printers use water-soluble inks.
To this point, the only ink that I've had any real success with has been the HP line. Fortunately, I have access to a low-end HP All-In-One printer that I'm going to try, and see if I can get at least one good decal from this $25 pack of sheets. As soon as I can test it out, I'll post here to let you know.