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This is my best guess as to where to post this beginner's question.


I have been afraid to put the registration decals on my little boat for fear it would look, not like a painted ship registration, but like...well, not to put to fine a point to it, "like a decal."


Is there some secret to blending in the decal so t doesn't stand out?


(I have looked, if this was discussed elsewhere, a link would be most appreciated).




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You don't say what you are working on and how the finish will be. Typically, decals are applied once the basic paints are on. Some people apply a glossy varnish at the place were the decals go - this prevents air from being trapped in the pores of matt paint, which manifests itself by a silvery sheen in clear parts of the decal. Any wheathering etc. is then applied. Finally, a light matt or satin overcoat will blend everything together.





panta rhei - Everything is in flux



M-et-M-72.jpg  Banner-AKHS-72.jpg  Banner-AAMM-72.jpg  ImagoOrbis-72.jpg
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Wefalk has it right.


I would just add that I tend to give the whole area a coat of gloss paint before I add the decals. if you just put gloss where the decals are, it can sometimes darken the area behind the decals and make it look worse.  Spray a light coat of gloss then apply decals with a decal 'setting solution' When dry, spray over with matt or satin or whatever you want your finish to be. The decals should blend pretty much completely.

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True, a partial coat of gloss may locally change the 'depth' of the lustre of the paint.


Actually, if the decals aren't too complicated, I would cut them with a sharp scalpel as close as possible to the printed area. This avoids this 'silvering' effect.





panta rhei - Everything is in flux



M-et-M-72.jpg  Banner-AKHS-72.jpg  Banner-AAMM-72.jpg  ImagoOrbis-72.jpg
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Our friends in aircraft and railway modeling use Micro Sol decal solvent (or transfers as we call them in UK) to soften up the decals to get them to lie better, particularly on irregular surfaces. ( see http://www.microscale.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=MI-2 as an example source ).  


But please note it is a solvent so it is best to hone your skills with it on test decals before you let rip on your best ones.


Ian M.

Ian M.


Current build: HMS Unicorn  (1748) - Corel Kit


Advice from my Grandfather to me. The only people who don't make mistakes are those who stand back and watch. The trick is not to repeat the error. 

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  • 1 month later...

I have used a gloss spray paint on the surface. I put the decal in warm water until it became loss for the backing paper. I applied it to the surface and smooth it out with a que tip and let it dry. Around the edges it look like it was comming off the surface and I scraped it off . Which you should not be able to do. Is there anything else you can tell me to do?

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Decals can be finicky depending on how they are made but there is an easy way to make them look "painted" on.


Make sure the surface is clean.

Trim the decal as close as you can to the inkwork to minimize decal flash around the edges..

Soak and apply the decal

Put on a coat of decal set (there are several kinds out there) over the top.

Once completely dry seal it.


The decal set is what helps the decal settle into cracks and form around raised detal so that it sets into the detail instead of on it and solves the problem of the decal looking like a decal.




That is really all there is to it :)






Current Builds

Santa Maria - Artesania Latina (1:65) POB

MayFlower - Model Shipways (5/32"=1') POB
Blue Shadow - Mamoli Revolutionary War Brigantine. (Fict) (1:64) POB (Recommissioned as the Kara June)


On The Shelf Waiting so Patiently

USRC Ranger - Corel (1:50) POB

18th Century Longboat - Model Shipways (1:4) POF

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Phantom NY Pilot Boat - Model Shipways (1:96) Solid Hull


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(Time and conditions were not good to these. They have been cancelled =( )

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USRC Harriet Lane - Model Shipways (1:128) Solid Hull


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I haven't used decals on wooden kits yet, as all of mine have been plastic/resin. As others have said, decals set best to a glossy surface, which reduces the chance of silvering, too. Nobody has mentioned using Future as a base for decals - it can either be brushed or airbrushed on. It has excellent self-leveling properties and when dries produces a smooth surface, assuming, of course, that the surface isn't pitted or the like. I use it all the time over matte or flat paints - it does make the surface glossy but I always use a satin or matte coat to seal everything. It also is an excellent base for metallic paints that demand a smooth surface (that is, depending on what effect you are going for). If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!



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I have used a gloss spray paint on the surface. I put the decal in warm water until it became loss for the backing paper. 

Nope! Sorry, but the correct method is to put the decal in water for just a couple of seconds, then lay it flat on tissue or paper towel. Touch it with a tooth pick gently until you see the whole decal moving over its backing paper. (Always "push" the decal. If you "pull" and the part you are moving is loose and the other isn't, you may break it!. Hope this is clear!) If you let the decal in water for too long, the glue used on it to stick to the surface  dissolves. Use the decal setting solution mentioned above for better results. As always... if doing something new EXPERIMENT OFF your model. Buy a cheap plastic airplane or car and use those decals as practice. Hope this helps.

Edited by Ulises Victoria

There aren't but two options: do it FAST, or do it RIGHT.


Current Project Build Log: Soleil Royal in 1/72. Kit by Artesania Latina.

Last finished projectsRoyal Ship Vasa 1628; French Vessel Royal Louis 1780. 1/90 Scale by Mamoli. 120 Cannons


Future projects already in my stash: Panart: San Felipe 1/75; OcCre: Santísima Trinidad 1/90;

Wish List: 1/64 Amati Victory, HMS Enterprise in 1/48 by CAF models.


So much to build, so little time!



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I've made custom decals for several years and, for the most part all, the advice here is spot on...

But what I can't emphasize enough is for the surface to be absolutely smooth.  Applying several thin coats of clear gloss  with an airbrush is the best way.


Several thin coats will build up the surface without "globbing it up."


Once the decal is in place and you apply the SolvaSet (setting solution)  DO NOT TOUCH IT... and keep the surface flat...  

As the Solvaset  begins to attack the clear film backing, the decal will get all  shrivelly and krinkly..

Again, this is normal   DO NOT TOUCH IT...


When the solvent evaporates, the decal will smooth out and conform to a the surface contours, looking like its painted on..  


wait about 24hrs   before proceeding  ( this is the hard part!!!!)


Then once everything has dried,  apply several more thin coats of clear gloss... this will help seal the finish..

Finally, apply a thin coat of matte to kill the shine.  and you're done..




see attached photos

  Doing this on a Black surface is the hardest: see Mercury capsule...








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