Re: Help with decals

Nelson Moyer

I use Tru Color for most freight cars, and decal setting solutions can soften the paint with repeated applications, so I always airbrush Model Master Clear Gloss on the areas to be decaled, to produce a smooth glossy surface. I have Future, but I’ve never used it, as we tend to go with what we’re familiar with .


Tim pretty much reported the method I use, except I never let a decal float off of the backing paper in water. This is especially important for the new thin decals from Speedwitch, which are prone to curling and require delicate handling. I pour distilled water into a black plastic coffee container lid and let the decal soak just long enough to slide when gently touched with my fine tip blunt nose forceps, then I remove the decal while still on the backing paper and place it on a small piece of paper towel to blot of most of the water. For the thin decals, I place a drop of distilled water on the car where I intend to place the decal (it will bead on a gloss surface), place the decal and backing paper next to the drop of water, and gently slide the decal onto the car surface. Do not use a setting solution for this step with Speedwitch decals per Speedwitch instructions. Next I use a small piece of paper towel to blot off most of the water and place the decal. Then I apply a small amount of Micro Set over the decal and let it wick under the film as I make any additional adjustments to get the decal exactly where I want it. At that point, I don’t touch it again until it visibly dry. Next I wet a brush with Micro Set and gently blot the decal to rewet it, being careful not to exert pressure on the film. I touch any bubbles under the film with  the tip of the brush to push them to the edges of the film, then I let the film dry again enough to see any areas that didn’t settle over rivets or other details or into wood grooves. If settling is necessary, I switch to Micro Sol and repeat the blot technique, allowing the liquid to dry undisturbed. After the Micro Sol  is visibly dry, I inspect the decals for tiny bubbles  or areas that didn’t settle over details under a x7 Optivisor. Usually, that’s enough setting treatment. With thin decals, never try to adjust the position of a wet decal after the first Micro Sol treatment. If you find silvering or bubbles the next day after the decals are thoroughly dry, prick them with a #11 X-acto blade or a sharp fine needle and apply Micro Sol. This works after you’ve sealed the decals with Dullcote if the silvered areas aren’t too large.


For all other decals besides Speedwitch, I slide the decal off of the backing paper onto a drop of Micro Set on the car, wick off the excess, then place the decal quickly and let it dry. The rest of the process is as described above.


The only tools I use are an X-acto knife handle with a #11 blade to rough cut decals from the sheet, a single edge razor blade to close trim the decals, Dumont fine nose forceps with the tips slightly rounded off, a sharp needle mounted into the end of a ¼ in dowel ( I used my biology dissecting needle until it was no longer sharp), and #2 and 3/0 paint brushes. Supplies include distilled water, paper towels, Micro Set and Micro Sol. I have Solvaset, but I’ve only used it once for some very thick decals that Micro Sol wouldn’t settle completely.


The goal is to make the decal lettering look like it was painted on the car. That’s easier with thin films than thicker films, but it can be done.


Nelson Moyer


From: [] On Behalf Of Tim O'Connor
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2020 2:40 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Help with decals


Yep - what Pierre said!

And ALSO -

use fresh distilled water - tepid warm water seems to work better

make sure the decal slides off the paper or is even floating in the water
  before you pick it up with tweezers - don't drag it off the paper

make sure the car side is clean and free of ALL particles - and of course
  a glossy smooth finish is best (easiest)

wet the car side before applying the decal and use your solution generously
  and (capillary action) siphon off excess slowly with a Q tip or piece of paper towel
  while making fine adjustments to the location

let it mostly dry and adhere, and wet it again - at this stage I like to use
a strong setting solution. I may do this several times with a stubborn decal or
trying to conform to a rivet or rib

On 4/21/2020 3:16 PM, Pierre Oliver wrote:

What paint did you use? And how long did you let it dry?
If it's Scalecoat you need to let it fully cure for 3-4 days.
It looks like lots of blushing, brush MicroSol(red bottle) and poke at all the blushing with a sharp pin or knife tip. You want setting solution in behind the entire decal.
It takes persistence

Pierre Oliver

On 2020-04-21 3:10 p.m., Chuck Cover wrote:


I have problems with the decals on some of my freight car builds.  I have attached a photo of one of my models and in places you can see the decal film between the lettering where it ideally should be invisible.  On some models this does not occur, on others, as this D&H boxcar, there is some sheen visible.  Are there specific steps that can be taken to prevent this?  If this occurs after decal application, are there ways to make it disappear?  Thanks in advance.

Chuck Cover
Santa Fe, NM


Tim O'Connor
Sterling, Massachusetts

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