How to apply decals?

Decals can prove to be one of the aspects of building plastic models that cause the most headaches when it comes to achieving a satisfactory result. Most of the common problems can be solved by following a few simple steps.

How to Apply Decals?

Before embarking on adding the decals to your model it is important to have the correct surface for them to adhere to. Decals stick best to a clean, gloss finish so most modellers will apply a gloss varnish or use gloss paints to achieve a hard, smooth surface on which to apply the decals even when the desired result is a matt or satin finish.

Once the gloss surface is dry, decals can be soaked for around 30 seconds in warm water and left to one side whilst the adhesive softens.  Do not be tempted to try and slide the decal off the backing paper until it moves easily, if the decal is forced it is likely to tear and be unusable. Once the is free of the backing paper it can be slid into position on the model and when it is positioned correctly some paper towel can be used to remove any excess water. If you are using any softening solutions, then now is the time to apply them to the surface of the decal. These will result in the decal becoming very fragile as it settles into or over any surface details such as panel lines or rivets etc. This is best done at the end of a modelling session so you aren’t tempted to ‘help’ the decal settle in.

Should the decal need to conform to any compound curves or larger surface lumps and bumps then repeated gentle applications of softening solutions may be required. Should any ‘silvering’ appear underneath clear sections of the decal’s carrier film the surface can be pricked with a pin and more softening solution used to help them conform to the surface better. The silvering is due to tiny air bubbles becoming trapped under the decal, but a good gloss surface and removing excess carrier film can make this less likely to happen.

When all the decals have been added to the model and you are satisfied with the result they can be sealed in with a second coat of gloss varnish, this helps to blend their appearance in with the rest of the finish as they tend to be fairly shiny when printed.

After the second gloss coat is dry any weathering washes can be employed before these are then sealed with a matt or satin clear coat depending on the desired result.


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