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Applying Decals

Applying Decals

by Chuck Theidel    

I have often been asked many questions on applying decals to models. Although there are various methods one can use, I will describe the one that I feel works the best.

I always use a flat finish on my models, so before I apply any decals I spray two or three coats of Model Master Semi-gloss #1959 over the entire model. This is most important: without a gloss finish the decals will not lie down properly and the decal film will dry with a silver effect.

When the gloss coats are dry, I soak my decals in warm water making sure most of the adhesive is removed from the decal. Then I transfer the decal from the paper to the model using a soft paintbrush. Never touch the decals with your fingers. Once the decal is located where I want it, I apply Micro Sol setting solution with a brush. (There are two products you can useto get decals to stick better: Micro Set or Micro Sol. Both improve adhesion, acting like a glue. Sol is a stronger solution than Set. It softens the decals making them conform to the surface, particularly over recessed areas. The instructions say it “makes the decals a part of the paint.”

At this point leave the decal alone until the solution has dried. If the decal still has some areas that have not laid down due to air being trapped underneath, use a pin and poke a hole where needed and apply another coat of Micro Sol. Repeat this step if needed. When all the decals have dried, I add another one or two coats of semi-gloss to seal the decals. Apply a few coats of Testors dullcote to bring the model back to a matte finish.

The other type of decal is the dry transfer type. Instead of using water to remove the decal from the sheet, pressure is applied to it.

Cut the image you want to use from the decal sheet. Place a piece of Scotch tape on it to tape it into position on the model. Rub the decal with a burnisher or ball point pen. When you think you’re finished, slowly peel the tape back on itself. If you notice that not all of the decal has transferred, stop peeling the tape: Re-lay the tape and rub again. The tape holds the decal’s original position, so if you don’t transfer the entire image on the first try, the decal will still be in position for a second attempt. If you’re worried that the adhesion of the tape will pull off the paint, press in on some fabric to reduce its stickiness.