Decals. Love them or hate them, it's impossible to deny that when used right, they really make a model pop. (Unlike marmite, which would just make them sticky and smell bad.)
However, for a lot of people, using decals can be a daunting prospect. I counted myself amongst this group until recently, until I finally set myself the goal of learning how to use them and apply them correctly.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying, today I'm going to be talking about decals; how to apply them, and the two products that helped me get my head around using them - Micro Set and Micro Sol.
For this you'll need a couple of tools; scalpel, cutting board, water pot (with clean water), tweezers, an old brush some kitchen roll, a bottle of Micro set and Micro sol.
As an avid Warhammer painter, I have collected a fair number of Games Workshop Waterside Decals over the years, and so I will be using these for my examples. However, this guide should work with any waterside Decals.
When setting out to apply a decal, the first stage will be deciding upon what decal you want to apply to your model and where. This may sound obvious, but is a step I've failed to do a number of times, resulting in a wasted decal as it’s too big or small for the area I want to apply it to. At the same time, you also want it to suit the feel of the unit. T'au Empire markings on Space Marine tanks don't make much sense after all (at least, in my opinion).
Once the decal has been selected, use scissors or a sharp scalpel and a cutting mat to cut out the decal from its card, making sure you don't get too close to the design. And remember, you’ll need enough room later to grab the paper the decal is printed on with a pair of tweezers.
The next step is to soak the decal in water, and it’s very important that the water is clean. I've tried applying decals with my paint water a few times, but the results tend to be much poorer, everything from staining the decal to the thing just dissolving altogether. So yes, make sure you use clean water.
After a minute or so, the paper should be soaked. At this point, grab your tweezers and transfer the paper onto some kitchen roll. This will soak up any excess water. Then, with a brush, gently see if the decal has detached from the paper. If It hasn't, simply put it back in the water. If it has, time to move on to the next step.
The area you wish to apply the decal to should be clean; no oils, dust, or anything that might prevent the decal from making full contact with the surface. Apply some Micro Set to the area you want to place the decal, followed by your pre-prepared decal, by lifting it gently off the paper with a brush and placing it where it needs to go. You’ll have a minute or so of wiggle-room to correctly place the decal how you want it. Once your decal is in place, gently dab a moist paper towel on the area to ensure it's adhered correctly and isn’t going to slide or split.
If you want a tougher decal, however, use Micro Sol instead. The process is about the same as with Macro Set; apply some Micro Set to the area you want the decal, then place the decal itself. The difference is that once it's in position, you can very carefully dab off any excess Micro sol and then apply a little Micro Sol over the top to seal it. Do this with a soft brush and gently apply it, making sure not to move or split the decal. Once this has been done, let the area completely dry.
After this, you can weather and such to your heart's content.
When done right, decals can really make your models stand out. A number of sites offer different designs, and even some custom designs, so go out there and give it a go.