Friday, February 18, 2011

Adventures with decals

Yesterday I decided to finish the first batch of Assault Marines, really finish them, get all the details, varnish them up, pull out all the stops.  I painted all the little bits that I had missed or avoided the first time around, did squad markings, and applied static grass last night.  I decided to put on chapter badge decals and seal them up this morning.  I got an early start on the day, early-ish at least, in hopes that I could have all the varnish applied before noon so they would have plenty of time to dry.

The beginning of the end?
I'm not an absolute amateur when it comes to decals.  I've used them before, and with success, but as I was moving around winged blood drops this morning I realized I had never used a transfer that big before, nor do I think I have applied a decal to a curved surface before.  You can probably guess where this is going, and you're mostly right.  The decals didn't sit quite right, and the edges were very visible, all the little problems decals cause.  I got them to good enough status, then brought out the varnish.  I'm in the midst of the second coat of gloss, and the decals look pretty bad.  They've come up at the edges, and the wings look like they're far too close to flapping away for comfort. 

Things have not gone well with the decals.  Not quite as bad as the great zeppelin debacle of 2010, but bad enough to put a sour finish on models that I am otherwise very pleased with.  I'm holding out hope that the varnish will help things out, but my skepticism grows with each passing minute.  I'd hate for these decals to spoil the whole models, not just for those models but for the ones that come after as well.  It took me long enough to get over my reluctance to finish models with these guys as it is, so if finished them also diminishes them then I'll be that much more hesitant to finish others in the future.  And that's not good eats.  I'll have a more complete post about this process when I'm all finished with the varnish.


  1. For decals on a rounded surface you should try Microsol and Microset - however the GW decals tend to be on lower quality thicker decal medium making them difficult to work with on round surfaces in the first place. I have always had to cut a small pie shape out of the transparent part to help the decal fit on shoulder pads better.

    My cure all for decal silvering is Matte Varnish. One coat of that and silvering is gone. For decals that are coming up I expect Matte Medium (acrylic, not watered down) directly over the decal will correct that problem.

    You can Matte Medium and Matte Varnish after sealing the model with no harm. You can get both of these at any craft store (Michael's, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby) near the acrylic and oil paints. (Matte Medium also puts static grass on bases - dries 100% transparent and stronger than Elmer's glue - and can be used as a slow dry medium to improve color gradation).

    Microsol and Microset you can find online or at my store. I have had mixed success with Micro- on GW decals so YMMV.

  2. Well, having decal-ed up an entire Salamanders army a few years ago, let me ask you a few questions:

    One- do you have any Decal Set (A.K.A. Solvaset)? It slightly softens the decal, causing it to conform to the surface it sits on.

    Two- Do you have a pot of gloss varnish? Believe it or not, a thin coat of gloss varnish over the decal helps greatly to hide where the seam between the model and the decal is. Also, it helps to hold the decal in place.

    Unfortunately, should the decals be set in place (and wrinkled) I don't really have any suggestion for you other than to scrape the decal off with a hobby knife, touch up the surface, and start all over- this time with decal set and gloss varnish. I can give you a tutorial on one of your "spare" minis if you want, as I have both things here, and there's a technique for removing excess liquid with the corner of a paper towel that really has to be demonstrated rather than described.

    Sorry if the minis got messed up, but please, please, please do not varnish a mini you're not 100% happy with. They look too nice!

  3. I don't have any sort of decal fluids other than water. I wanted to give it a shot with the basics before getting any specialty tools. Now that the varnish has had an hour or three to dry, the decals are horrible. They look like stickers that a child applied hastily with little regard to adherence. The good news is they look like they'll lift right off, so no damage incurred to the figures as a whole, or so I hope. I'll take pictures of the debacle for the bigger post still to come.