Friday, February 27, 2015

Model Building 101 - Decals

NOTE:  You can click on most pictures to get a larger view of them.

As I am writing my review articles, I sometimes come across a challenge that I encountered that first time modelers would benefit from having some advice for.

I have finally started reviewing some kits that I applied some sort of decals to.  I figured we should finally talk about the art of decal placing.  At least in the realm of water slide decals which is the majority of the decals you will encounter.

For the longest time, I shied away from putting decals on my models.  I'll admit it, they intimidated me.  Some of them are tiny and I have big hands.  And yet, some of them are are pretty darned big and if I try to pick them up, they will curl up and make my life miserable.

Eventually though, I could no longer avoid using decals.  I finally built some models that required the use of a decal because my intermediate painting skills would never have been able to accomplish the level of details needed to give the model any sort of good look.

Hornet Class Landing Deck Decals

And so, I did LOTS of research on how to best do decals on a limited budget.

The first thing you will hear is that they are best applied to either gloss or flat coat paints. Since I have heard both sides of the fence, I don't think that it really matters.  Where it will matter is when you are done applying the decals and everything has dried.  You will see what I mean later on.

The base instructions for applying decals are as follows:

1. Cut apart the individual images from the sheet.
On garage kit decal sheets, you will need to cut the shape of the decal as well.  Store bought kit decals already are shaped properly.

2. Dip the decal into lukewarm water for 1 or 2 minutes.
Once the decal can slide off the sheet, it is ready to be applied.

3. Put the decal and backing on a paper towel for a few seconds to remove the excess water.

4. Then simply slide the decal off of the sheet onto the area it will cover.

5. Using a Q-itip or something else small and absorbent, adjust the decal and dry up any excess water.
If there are any air bubbles under the decal, gently push the bubble toward one of the edges of the decal with a wet Q-tip

6. Let it dry.

That is all fine and dandy... HOWEVER... these instructions make it sound so very easy.  My experiences have been that this is not the case.

First, I have experienced that AMT's Round 2 model decals are SUPER fragile.  You really need to decide and VERY carefully place those decals because they do not like being slid around without tearing.  And the same goes for forcing out those air bubbles.  Be extremely gentle when doing it.

I have found that the decals from the garage kit makers are much better.  They must use a different kind of decal material when they print them up.

One of the tools I have found very useful was borrowed from my stamp collecting hobby.  They are called stamp tongs.

The rounded ends are more gentle on your decals than your standard tweezers.  These come in very handy when dealing with tiny decals that are too small for your fingers to properly handle.

As for large decals, I found a better way of applying them to a model that doesn't require a lot of sliding, thus cutting down the risk of tearing the decals.

This technique is called floating.  The trick involves leaving the decal in the water and having it come off the paper.  You then submerge the model underneath the decal and then bring it up, aligning everything to your liking before raising everything out of the water.  Then you just use your Q-tip to remove water, wrinkles and air pockets.

Once your model has dried, you are not quite done.  You see, if you don't do anything after this, those decals will eventually yellow and they will most definitely curl and fall off.  And this is what I was referring to when I said the dull or glossy coat would become important.  At this point, you should coat your model with some sort of clear-coat paint.  This will help seal the decals, as well as protect your model's paint from being rubbed off.  If you used dull coat paint, then you should use a dull coat clear and if you used a glossy coat paint, then it is only logical to use a glossy clear.

One last piece of advice, and this holds especially true for those working with resin.  I have found from personal experience that super glue will bleach decals.  So you want to be extra super careful when putting that kit together if you've already applied your decals.

And that is it for you on this subject.

I hope you found this article, as well as my entire mini-series of articles as useful and informative as I did while writing them.  Please feel free to leave any comments, questions or suggestions below.

So for now, "Live Long And Prosper!"

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