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How To Apply Decals

How To Apply Decals
With Ruben Torregrosa

Water-slide decals are highly favoured by wargamers and scale modellers for their convenience in creating national or army symbols, surpassing alternative options such as transfers and stencils. The application of decals is relatively straightforward, but a common issue arises from the transparent backing sheet that accompanies the symbol on the decal paper. If not applied correctly, this transparent portion can turn grey or whitish, resulting in what is known as the "icing effect." Naturally, we strive to avoid this issue at all costs. In this tutorial, we will closely examine the techniques employed to apply decals by our experienced counterparts in the world of scale models.

Step 1: Glossy Varnish

Properly preparing the surface for decal application is crucial. There are three main types of varnishes: matt, satin, and glossy, and their names are quite self-explanatory. Wargamers typically use matt varnish to eliminate any undesired satin effects caused by certain paints or techniques like washes. However, in this instance, we aim to use glossy varnish to create a smooth and polished surface, ensuring the decal adheres optimally.

To achieve this, after painting the base colours on the tank, and before applying any washes or additional weathering effects, we must seal the entire vehicle or the specific areas where we intend to apply a decal. This should be done with a couple of thin layers of gloss varnish, such as A-STAND Aqua Gloss Clear A.MIG-2503 using an airbrush. If you do not have an airbrush, you can opt for a spray can such as TITANS HOBBY Gloss Transparent Varnish TTH114. It is important to avoid applying the varnish with a brush, as brush strokes often leave visible marks, which defeats the purpose of creating a smooth surface.

How To Apply Decals

Step 2: Cut The Decals

Decal sheets typically feature multiple options. After consulting reference materials in books or online to determine the specific symbols required, we carefully cut them out using a sharp modelling knife. Our goal is to minimize the amount of transparent backing material that accompanies the decal.

How To Apply Decals

Step 3: Soak The Decals

We soak the cut decals in sink water until they begin to detach from the paper sheet. At this point, we have two options: we can either wait for the decal to completely detach and then use a brush to capture and apply it on the tank, or we can leave it on the paper sheet and then gently transfer it onto the surface using a brush. The latter option is particularly handy when working with large decals, which can be prone to folding.

How To Apply Decals

Step 4: Apply The Decals

Regardless of the option we choose, we prepare the surface with a specific product for decal application, such as Ultra Decal Set A.MIG-2029. We apply a small amount of this product to the surface and then place the decal with the assistance of a large brush. We can adjust the decal until we are satisfied with its placement.

How To Apply Decals

Step 5: Set The Decals

And then we can apply a bit more Ultra Decal Set on top. We let it dry completely for a few minutes before continuing.

How To Apply Decals

Step 6: Fix The Decals

Next, we need to make the decal material soft so that it conforms to the surface. To achieve this, we use a second specialized product, Ultra Decal Fix A.MIG-2030. We apply a small amount to the decal, and after a few minutes, we gently press it with a brush to mould the decal to the surface's contours. In cases with complex or bulky surfaces, like the numeral being applied to a visor hatch here, we may need to repeat this process several times for optimal adhesion.

How To Apply Decals

Step 7: Seal And Protect The Decal

Once the decal has completely conformed to the surface, and the fixing product has evaporated, it is essential to protect the decal by applying a fresh layer of glossy varnish, just as we did at the beginning. This step is particularly important if you plan to apply a wash. In such a case, it is advisable to cover the entire vehicle with a general layer of varnish, as the glossy varnish will facilitate the distribution and accumulation of the wash into recessed areas.

To remove the glossy effect at any point, we can apply a layer of matt varnish using an airbrush or a spray can. For instance, you can use products such as Lucky Varnish Ultra-Matt A.MIG-2054 or TITANS HOBBY Transparent Matte Varnish TTH110 respectively.

How To Apply Decals

Step 8: Weathering!

As we mentioned at the beginning, it is crucial to apply the decals before any weathering effects, including the wash. This sequence ensures that the decals will be seamlessly integrated into the final result. Additionally, take note of the excellent adaptation of the numerals, even on a bulky surface, and the absence of any "icing effect."

How To Apply Decals

Summary for the correct application of decals:

⦁ Prepare the surface with glossy varnish.
⦁ Soak the decals in water.
⦁ Apply the decal using an appropriate setting product.
⦁ Adapt the decal using an appropriate fixing product.
⦁ Seal and protect the decal with a new layer of glossy varnish.
⦁ Proceed with weathering effects, or remove the glossy effect by applying matte varnish if desired.

~ Ruben

Last Updated On Friday, February 23, 2024 by Kevin