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Applying decal question


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I have been an automotive modeler for years and have finally decided that it's time to start on some different projects, mainly fighter type aircraft. My question is how do you apply decals over flat paint? I have noticed most military planes have flat finishes, but decals usually adhere better to a glossy surface. Do you put a coat of gloss than go back and do a flat coat? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.



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In a word, you DON'T!


You have to apply decals over a glossy surface on planes too. You either paint them with gloss paint (few camo paints in gloss), or simply apply a clear gloss over the camo before decaling. It also helps to apply another gloss coat to seal the decals. You can then apply your final clear coat (gloss, semi-gloss, semi-matte, or flat) as you see the need.


GIL :smiley16:

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Gil has it right. Shoot a clear glosscoat over the whole model, apply decals after it's dry; then shoot another clearcoat. After that is dry again; dull it down with a flat coat. That is the best technique for making decals appear painted on.


Good luck on your new direction; I'm looking forward to seeing what you do. Also, don't hesitate to keep asking questions; we got your back.

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The conventional wisdom says gloss coat-decals-flat coat. However, applying a gloss coat over flat paint changes the reflectance and makes the color appear darker. So if you have carefully mixed paint to get the proper color, or bought paint in the proper color you have just undone your work by overcoating it with gloss, unless you lighten the paint to compensate. Here's are two alternatives:


1. Spray your model with satin or gloss paints to begin with. Humbrol makes satin versions of most current camouflage colors, and Xtraclour makes gloss paints in camouflage colors.


2. Use flat paints, but trim away all clear film from the decals. Here's my method:


A. While the paint is drying, carefully trim away all the clear film surrounding the decals while they are still on the paper backing. It's not necessary to cut all the way through the paper, just into it enough to separate the clear film.


B. Once paint is dry, apply decals. Remove one item at a time from the sheet with scissors, float it on top of your decal water (distilled is preferred) for a few seconds, then remove it and place it on a paper towel. Use a small brush to brush away the excess clear film from around the edges.


C. Apply some Micro Set to the area where the decal is to go. Using a brush, carefully slide the decal off the paper onto the model, and position it. Once the decal is where you want it, use a piece of paper towel to wick away excess Micro Set.


D. Now, apply some Micro Sol to the decal. This will cause it to shrivel temporarily as it works, but don't worry about it. Watch it carefully as the Micro Sol does its thing. When the "shrivels" all appear to be nearly gone and the Micro Sol is almost dry, use a soft cloth (such as a microfiber cloth) to gently press the decal onto the model. Conventional wisdom says you're not supposed to touch the decal while it's setting, but if you wait until most of the Micro Sol has evaporated and are careful, no harm will come to it.


E. Allow decals to thoroughly dry and examine model carefully to see if there is any residue from the Micro Set/Micro Sol left on the surface. If so, use a dampened cotton swab to gently remove it.


F. When model is completely decaled, clean, and dry, spray on a light coat of your favorite clear satin finish. Why satin and not flat? Looks more realistic. Most aircraft have a slight sheen to them from oils, fuels, hydraulic fluid, etc. A clear satin acrylic is preferred here, as clear acrylics do not yellow as much as clear enamels or lacquers, if they yellow at all. You can mix your own clear satin from Future and Tamiya's Flat Base.


For very small decals such as stenciling, where it is impractical to trim away all the clear film, apply just a light coat of clear gloss in only the area where the decal is to go and apply the decal on top of that area once the gloss coat is dry. Most modern aircraft use decals for this and applied in the same manner. I've cut paper masks to the shapes of stencil decals and sprayed gloss through those so as not to alter the overall flat finish.


Once you get into the rhythm of applying decals in this manner, you will find that it takes no more time than the conventional method. And the results are better than the conventional method, IMHO.


And regardless of which method you use, you should always use Micro Set and Micro Sol.

Edited by SkyKing
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float it on top of your decal water (distilled is preferred) for a few seconds,


If your tap water is anything like mine, then distilled water is required to avoid white deposits.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Using solvents (like Solvaset or even Micro sol on very thin decals) underneath the decals, as well as over them, melts them into flat paint with no silvering at all.


The difficulty is the limited time and poor mobility of the decals with just solvent underneath: They deform or stick quickly.


This method is the best to avoid silvering and permanent decal adhesion, but is more difficult and risky to use.


Another difficulty is there is no second chance: They are melted into the paint and you have to strip the paint off to try again....


I find Solvaset sometimes make varnishes "milky" so I avoid glossing.


Using Future as a setting agent is also possible directly over flat paint: It is close in my book in results to over/under solvents, but not quite as neat: Useful on some of the Pyn-up decals that won't work with solvents.



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