Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Tutorial: Testors Decal paper and decals in general

Since there seems to be an interest in the decal paper I used for the Yakuza Zeds, I've decided to do a short tutorial on how I used them.

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 nothing but a fat lie. 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!


  1. woot! This is such a good tutorial. Thanks you!

  2. well the thing with their software is that it will print more opaque then MSWord will print on white paper. The result, as seen on your test, will be that the decal will be much more visible on the dark background then yours is. What you honestly really need is a piece of software where you can tell the software on what color paper your printing and it will adapt accordingly.

    When applying to light models you wont have this problem.

    thanks for the review

    1. Sorry but I almost forgot to answer this. Anyway, what you say is probably true, I wouldn't know since I haven't used their software. On the other hand, this is a common problem with many water slide decals, even factory made ones. I've lost count of how many decals that doesn't look quite right when not applied to a bright background, the colors on the decal just aren't opaque enough.