Friday, October 15, 2010

Fly's Studio: Part 8 - The Sign

Last summer, I began chronicling how I prepped and painted Fly's Studio from Old Glory's line of 25mm Western buildings. I enjoyed the project, learning a great deal usually from mistakes. Even though I declared the project finished in Part 7 , I always knew it wasn't. Two unfinished bits have been bugging me: the building needed a sign and it needed porch roof posts.

As in all the older Old Glory buildings in their Western line, the main roof over the building, the building's upper false front, and the porch roof are one solid piece, forcing the porch roof to sit on any posts I might add. A year ago, I avoided adding the roof posts because I was unsure how to add them, afraid they would break off during a game. Building the Hartley House project taught me otherwise. It also taught me to paint the posts before gluing them in place--a mistake I will not make again!

But this article isn't about adding the roof posts. This article is about adding a sign. So let's get to it!

A Bit Of Tombstone History
Camillus Fly was a frontier photographer during the height of the Wild West in the late 1800's . He spent the best years of his career living in Tombstone, AZ, where he ran the small photography gallery in the above photo. The building entered into legend after the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place in a 15-foot-wide empty lot between Fly's building and the Harwood House.

Comparing the vintage photo of the real photography gallery to Old Glory's model, you can see the Old Glory building only has a passing resemblance to it. This doesn't bother me one bit, since I'm not modeling the city of Tombstone.

Freehand v Transfers v Photo?
You might notice that Fly had his "sign" painted onto the building's false front, a common practice at the time. For the past year, I debated if I wanted to hand paint my sign on the Old Glory model. One slip of the brush, however, would ruin the entire model! So hand painting a sign was out of the question.

I then considered using dry transfer lettering, which I've done before on other models. Unfortunately, finding Western-looking dry transfer lettering is difficult in my area and online. What I did find was a too expensive. So no dry transfers this time.

Instead, I settled on using a photo of a real sign. After searching the Internet, I came across the sign you see here. It's a photo of a real sign from a real building, but not the real Fly's Photography Gallery. It's a sneaky imitation trading on the famous name--perfect for me! So in my world of Gun Town, the gallery belongs to the second-rate photographer Martin Fly, Camillus Fly's distant cousin. Like any good greedy relative with little talent of his own, Martin relies on his cousin's famous name for an income.

Resize The Sign The Right Way
Loading the sign into Paint Shop Pro, I cleaned up the original photo until all that remains is what you see here. I then shrank it to fit the model.

The first instinct many people have is to hit the "resize" button to shrink an image. Don't do this!!! Don't even use the higher quality "bilinear resample" function to resize the image. Both techniques will compress the image leaving squiggly "artifacts" in it--not good when printing signs.

Instead, increase the photo's dots per inch, its DPI. The higher the DPI, the smaller the photo will print while keeping the text sharp without artifacts. I knew I wanted my sign to print at a specific size in inches, so I increased the DPI from 72 upwards, clicking the DPI button until it matched the printed size I wanted. The photo above is the actual gif I printed. I left the ball trim in place in case people would like it.

Print The Sign
I printed the sign on good plain paper using the high quality setting on my printer. Since the paper needed more thickness to look like wood, I glued it to a handy scrap of thick cardstock. This combination looked better than printing the sign directly to cardstock printer paper, which still would have been too thin.





Trim The Bottom Of The Sign
Using a steel ruler, I trimmed the straight bottom section of the sign. Cutting this portion of the sign before gluing it to the cardstock is easier I feel. I then freehand cut the "Gallery" portion of the sign using a sharp Xacto knife. I tried keeping the small balls in each corner but decided to cut them off. Freehand cutting a teeny circle is difficult!





Glue The Sign To Cardboard
Next, I sprayed the back of the sign with 3M Super 77 glue. Super 77 may be a bit more expensive but is the best spray glue out there. I aligned the bottom of the sign with the straight cut on the cardstock and pressed it in place.








Trim The Entire Sign
Using the metal ruler and Xacto knife, I then trimmed the entire sign.








Color The Edges
Once the glue dried, I trimmed the entire sign. Since I didn't want the white edges of the paper showing, I grabbed a colored pencil ("carmine") that matched the sign's color. Believe it or not, I bought the pencil in the photo is 30 years ago!





Affix The Sign
I did not glue the sign to the building. Instead I used small bits of blue tack to affix the sign to the building. The tack holds the sign perfectly while allowing me to swap it out with other signs when needed. Nifty, eh?

I experimented with putting the sign on the false front and hanging it from the porch roof. I like both ways. Affixing it to the false front, however, might be safer during a game than affixing it to the porch roof. We'll see how it holds up either way. (You can also see the new posts test-fitted in the right-hand photo. I'm also finishing the bases on my Western figures this weekend, so no more 'naked' metal!)





Conclusion

Printing your own custom signs is easy and adds realism to buildings with little work. Some modelers are taking photos of actual buildings, scaling them to size, printing them on photo paper, and creating actual models that look amazingly real. A couple fellows are building an entire HO layout of modern Miami this way!

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