How to apply decals

August 13, 2008 at 14:35 | Posted in How-to | 57 Comments
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I don’t know why, but applying decals is my favourite part in building gunpla kits. Maybe it has something to do with my habit of slapping stickers everywhere (TV, fridge, furniture, cars etc…) when I was a kid. Anyway, decals are basically stickers you apply to your finished gundam kit. They add some sense of ‘realism’ and makes your kit look unique.

Basically there’s 3 types of decals:

The green one on the top left are just stickers. You peel them and just apply on the surface of your kits, just like you would for any sticker. The white one on the bottom left are dry-transfer decals and the blue one on the right are water-slide decals. I’ll explain how to use them in a bit. In general, all Master Grade kits come with sticker type and dry-transfer decals, while 1/144 HG kits just come with stickers. The water-slide decals are sold separately; the official Bandai ones cost ~400yen while custom decals vary. Personally, I don’t recommend using the sticker types. They stick out too much and look unnatural. I’ll be showing how to apply the dry-transfer and water-slide decals here.

Dry transfer decals

1. Cut out the specific pattern/design you want from the decal sheet using any sharp blade

2. Using a clear cellophane tape, pick up the piece of decal you just cut out

3. Place the decal where you wish. The cellophane tape helps to keep the decal in place

5. Rub on top of the decal using whatever stick-like material you can find e.g. toothpick. I used the bottom end of my paint brush. The decal will stick on you gunpla surface. In case of large decals, make sure you rub the entire surface. You can peel back the tape a bit to check if there are any bits still left on the decal sheet.

6. Peel away the tape. The decal should be on your gunpla and the tape should have an empty decal sheet.


Water slide decals

1. Again, cut out the design you want from the decal sheet

2. Using a pair of tweezers/forceps, pick up the decal you cut out and dip in water for roughly 8 seconds. I found that Bandai water-slide decals need less time, maybe 4-6 seconds while custom decals might take longer than 8 seconds. The purpose of this step is to detach the decal from the decal sheet.

3. Using a cotton bud dipped in water, gently ‘tease’ the decal away from the decal sheet and onto your gunpla. If the decal won’t budge from the decal sheet, dip in water for a couple more seconds.

4. Once the decal is on your gunla, you can still adjust or reposition the decal. Once you’re satisfied with the position, use the dry end of the cotton bud to gently roll over decal to absorb extra water.

I would also recommend using Mr Mark Setter. The purpose of Mr Mark Setter is to make the decal stick better to your gunpla surface and to give the appearance that the decal was actually ‘painted’ on your gunpla.
This is how you’re supposed to use it:

  • Apply some on the gunpla surface before applying the water-slide decal.
  • After applying the decal, absorb the remaining liquid with a slightly damp cotton bud. Don’t leave Mr. Mark Setter on your decal too long because it will soften the decal and make it wrinkled.

I use Mr Mark Setter mostly to remove decal silvering. This refers to the whitish or silver-ish outline around the decal, caused by air pockets between the decal and gunpla surface. To remove this undesirable effect, this is what I do:

  • Dab a bit of Mr Mark Setter directly on top of the decal
  • With a sharp hobby knife, gently ‘stab’ the decal so that Mr Mark Setter can seep underneath the decal.
  • After the silvering effect is gone, absorb the remaining liquid with a damp cotton bud.

Another item you can use is Mr Mark Softer.
As the name implies, it is used to soften your decal to make it conform to the uneven surfaces and curves on your gunpla. I personally don’t use it because I feel the softening effect of Mr. Mark Setter is enough for my needs.

I hope that by reading this post you’ll find that applying water-slide decals is a relatively painless process. It is definitely a step-up from regular stickers and will make your gunpla look better. Enjoy decalling!

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