Tutorial: Testors’ Decal paper and decals in general

My trio of Yakuza Zeds have a dark and dirty secret. The beautiful side motifs are actually water slide decals! That’s right, even experienced painters can cheat. Anyway, water slide decals is just another tool available to make your miniatures shine a little bit more.  And here is how you do it.

What I used was the following, Testors Decal system, more specifically, 9201 clear decal sheets. Now Testors would have you believe that you need all the stuff, add-ons and software they sell to able to utilise their decal paper, but that is not the truth. All you need is one of their decal sheets and an inkjet printer.

Of course, getting a design onto the sheet can be a hassle as well. First of all you need to consider that the paper is 5.5 x 8.5 inch in size. This can cause some trouble for Europeans, like myself. Also, you might need to know your way around Photoshop or similar programs. Before even considering printing a design onto the actual decal sheet, try using normal paper to see if the design work, that the size is correct, the motifs are aligned properly and so on.

The above picture shows one of my first attempts, just a low quality version to see if every setting I had tried out on normal paper was correct. One thing I immediately discovered was that anything you print on to the decal paper is very easy to smudge. It can take days before the ink has dried to the point that it won’t be erased by even by the lightest of touches. To prevent this I sprayed a light mist of varnish onto the sheet. DO NOT use varnish from a bottle, that will completely ruin the design.

When the decals are safe to handle it is time to cut them out from the paper. I usually try cut fairly close to the design so the transparent outline around a decal is kept to a minimum. Next the decal gets put in a bath of water. Unlike most decals I’ve tried, the Testors paper release its captives fairly quickly, just 10-15 seconds with the backing paper in water should be enough.

Before I apply a decal to anything I first prep the surface with some gloss varnish and right before I put the decal in place I also use a chemical called Micro Set. Micro Set does several things, it softens the decal, increases the adhesive qualities and prevents air bubbles. When the decal is in its final position I brush a bit of extra Micro Set on top, wait a few minutes and then press it down with a piece of tissue paper. This is then allowed to set 24 hours before the next stage.

To finish the decal I first brush some gloss varnish on top of it. This is then followed up by several layers of matte varnish concentrated around the edge of the decal. I do this to hide the edge, otherwise it can be visible and quite frankly ruin the look of a model. To be honest, the above picture isn’t the best example of how it should look as I didn’t wait for the decal to set properly. Who has time to wait 24 hours when doing a tutorial? Not me, that’s for certain! Anyway I hope this will help. Enjoy!

Re-posted with permission from Macross_VF1 of The Alternative Wargamer


2 thoughts on “Tutorial: Testors’ Decal paper and decals in general”

  1. This is such a game changer for me. I never really thought much of decals before talking to you about them Ken. Thanks so much for writing and posting this article.

  2. ‘To prevent this I sprayed a light mist of varnish onto the sheet.’ I guess you mean you spray after the decals are printed? Or do you prepare the clean decal sheet before you put it into the printer?

Leave a Reply