Decal Tutorial

By Loran

Waterslide decals are sort of a staple of model kits. I’m not quite sure how far these things go back, but my dad was using them on airplane models when he was a kid. Sure, most Bandai kits these days use those tacky stickers and those frustrating dry-transfer decals, but a lot of older kits use them, and Bandai makes special decal sheets to enhance some of their other kits. You can also buy some from third party sources.

For tools, you’ll need some tweezers and small scissors. In addition, you may want some sort of Decal Application System, like this one here. It includes two types of solvents; one for flat surfaces, one for more complex surfaces. It’s relatively inexpensive; only about $4-5.

It’s generally suggested that you should make the surface of your kit glossy before applying your decal. I don’t do this often, but it makes positioning the decal on the surface easier. If you used flat paints, apply a coat of Gloss Topcoat to your kit.

Using a very small pair of scissors (I’d suggest cuticle scissors), cut the decal from the sheet as closely as possible. You’ll want to leave a bit of the paper on the edge for placing your decal in the water and sliding it off the surface.

Dip the decal in water for about ten seconds. Hold it on a part of the sheet that doesn’t have the actual decal on it.

After placing the decal in the water, remove it and place it onto a tissue for about a minute.

While the decal is sitting on the tissue, apply your decal set or decal solvent to the area you’ll be working with. This will allow for the decal to stick to the surface better and not flake off as easily.

Carefully slide the decal off of the backing with your tweezers or a toothpick, depending on the size of the decal. Decals are useful for very small decals, and tweezers (varying in size depending on the type of decal) work for medium and large-sized decals.

Adjust the decal to fit the area you’re placing it onto.

You may notice some wrinkles and little air bubbles in your decal. This is normal. To smooth these out, just take a q-tip and gently smooth out the surface of your decal. The bubbles will go away after it settles.

Now you’re done! Well, almost. Your next step is to put on yet another layer of topcoat, this time to protect the decal. Don’t do this until after at least a few hours. Topcoating while the decal is still wet is just going to screw things up and make your decal all nasty.

Okay, NOW you’re all done. If you’re wondering, I got this decal from an old MSV kit-the High Mobility Zaku, and the kit here is a kitbash of Shin Matsunaga’s Geloog Marine-made from the two Gelgoog Marine kits, but don’t worry, I’ll get to a special on this and many others soon enough.

Hope you had fun learning about decal application. Most of it’s pretty straightforward, but I hope this tutorial helped you in some way!

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