Gundam Modeling Tutorial - Decal

Applying decal makes your gundam comes to life. Since this is almost the last step in your building process with all the paint job finished, you have to be very careful when applying the decal. In general, there are three types of decal you can apply on a gundam model:


Sticker Decal

Sticker decal is basically sticker. Sticker as in printed paper with graphic on one side and sticky materials on the other side. It is the same kind of stuffs that your kids (or little brother) will play with. You can tell from a mile that the graphic is a sticker once it is applied to the model. Stickers are ok for BB gundam or toys. But for more serious marking, water slide decal or dry transfer decal should be used.


Water Slide Decal

Water slide decals (or slip decals) are water-mounted decals generally printed face up and rely on the dextrose corn sugar residue from the decal paper to bond the decal transfer to a surface. A water-based adhesive layer can be added to the decal to create a stronger bond or may be placed between layers of lacquer to create a durable decal transfer. There are solutions you can use to help you apply water slide decals.

Here are the general step for applying water slide decal:

1. Clean up: Make sure the surface that you are going to apply the decal is clean

2. Gross up: Make sure the surface that you are going to apply the decal is grossy. If you have a flat finish, you can top coat it grossy, apply decal, then top coat flat it again.

3. Apply setting solution: I usually use "Micro Set". As describe in the bottle ... Micro Set Is A Very Versatile Decal Setting Solution That Does Several Things To The Microscale Decals To Improve Application. Micro Set Should Be Applied To The Surface Of The Model Where You Will Be Sliding Off The Decal. Micro Set Prepares The Surface With Special Wetting Agents That Cuts The Oils In New Paint And Converts The Adhesive On The Back Of The Decal To A Stronger And More Lasting One. And Finally, Micro Set Slightly Softens The Decals Film To Make It More Flexible So That It Can Conform Better To The Model's Surface. Better Adhesion By The Decal To The Model Prevents Tiny Air Bells From Occurring And Results In An Invisible Carrier Film Or The So Called 'Painted On Look'

4. Apply the water slide decal: DO NOT put your decal in the water for extended period of time. Otherwise, the sticky-ness of the decal will be gone. Just put the decal in the water (covering the surface) for 5-10 seconds depending on how big the decal is. The decal should still be on the backing paper when you take it out. Take the decal out of the water and place it in a non-absorbing surface such as a used plastic gift card to let the excessive water slide away. Don't put it on paper towel since that will dry up the decal and makes it non-slide-able later on.

With Micro Set, you are sure your surface is ready on the model. Now, slide the decal in place. Since you have micro set solution on the model, you can slide it around until you are happy with the position. Just apply more micro set if you want to move again. Now, be very very gentle when you handle the decal. If there are bubbles on the decal, use a very soft brush with micro set to smooth it out. Practice enough of times and you will have it done correctly.

5. Apply the decal finishing solution: I use Micro Sol. The finishing solution should "desolve" the decal into the surface you apply the decal onto. Just apply the solution on top of the decal when it is dry from the steps before. As said on the bottle ... Micro Sol Setting Solution Is For The Most Difficult Irregular Surfaces You Find On Models. It Completely Softens The Microscale Decal Allowing It To Drape Down Onto The Surface Of The Model Conforming Perfectly And Without Distortion. You Can Get The Most Amazing Results In Seemingly Impossible Places, Because Micro Sol Actually Makes The Decal Part Of The Paint. For That Reason You Should Coat Micro Sol On For Only A Few Seconds And Then Leave It Alone, It Does The Work. Do Not Touch Until Dry As The Decal Is Very Soft At This Stage And Could Be Easily Damaged.


Dry Transfer Decal

I used to be a big water slide fan. As time goes by, I use more and more dry transfer since I want to avoid a big mess with water and all :) The adhesive on dry transfers is pressure sensitive. In other words, if you press on the decal, the decal will be transfer to the surface. However, dry transfer decal can pick up dirt, dust and any other lose substance it comes in contact with. So, make sure you store them nicely in a dry ziplock bag.

Here are the steps of using dry transfer:

1. Clean up: Make sure the surface of where the decal is going is clean.

2. Cut out the decal: Locate the decal on the sheet and cut it out using a sharp hobby knife.

3. Position the decal: Use normal sticky tape to position the decal on the surface. I usually fix it from one side to another where I can peel off the decal from one side to another when I am finished. So, in case, you miss a part in the decal, you can just hold it back down while the other side is still held by a sticky tape. (Picture below). You don't really need to use expensive masking tape to fix the position of the decal, sticky tape will do. Save your masking tape for painting. They are expensive.

4. Apply the decal: Use a pencil to "draw" on top of the decal from left to right. Then, right to left and then top to bottom ... just to make sure you apply pressure on the whole decal so it will transfer to the surface. Pencil is good since the lead tip is a lot softer than a steel object. So, using pencil prevents you from apply too much pressure that will demage the surface or decal.

5. Pressure the decal: After the dry transfer, use the backing paper of the decal to apply pressure on the decal as a whole to make sure it will stick.


After applying decals, you can leave them alone or apply another coat of topcoat to seal them.

Here are some pictures to illustrate various processes:

Here is a packet of crossdelta dry transfer decal I bought from It is 1/60 scale. Very nice product.

There is a couple decal sheets and a marking picture.

You can study them before you pick and apply the decal.

Cut out the one you like and pick it up.

Yes, they are small.

Sometime, you can pin it using a hobby knife for pickup.

Position it from left to right just like this.

It looks good after you apply it :)

The knee without decal.

The knee with decal.

Try to plan your decal correctly, so you don't stick them everywhere. Some parts are better left alone.

More positioning examples.


Here is one after using pencil to apply and before I peel it off.

Nice :)

You have to make sure the positioning is right on.

While a part might look good as it is ...

It just look better with the decal. You just need to take the risk to go ahead ...

After the application of the decal, use your thumb to pressure it down once or twice to make sure it stick well to the surface.

The little guy just looks better with decal. Again, practice makes perfect.

Here is another item I used both water slide and dry transfer.

I forget to gross it up, so there is some silvering on it ...

Ending up redoing the whole thing to use dry transfer ...