How to Apply

Hey, all those models you built as a kid were just getting you ready for decaling 1/300 miniatures. (translation, if you can do these, larger models are a chip shot…)

Decal background

There are 3 common types of decals (transfers) for models.

  • Dry transfers, where the image is applied to the model by rubbing/burnishing it on through carrier paper and onto the surface of the model. Better suited to larger models with not as many features requiring high conformance. For 1/35-1/72 armor, Archer Fine Transfers has an excellent product line.
  • ‘Stickers’. Peel’n’press. They have their place, and it’s not here.
  • Waterslide transfer. This is all we make and sell.

When we acquired Beacon in early ’02, most if not all of the decals were printed with a solid carrier film, meaning each image (decal) had to be cut out and trimmed to use. A pain, though not bad for rectangular or geometric shapes.. Many were (and are, we replace what makes sense to replace as we go) on a white / cream colored paper.

Effective with our late 2003 run, all of our releases and reprints have been single image carrier film (except for numbers/letters, which are in strips). This is a better, costlier expensive product to make. These are printed on a blue background paper, the colors are more opaque and the whites more vivid. Truly, a better product..

How to apply

What makes the decal adhere to the model is a thin layer of water soluble adhesive (glue). For best results without trapped air (usually not a problem with decals as small as ours), no silvering and good adhesion, make sure the model is clean, dust free and clean of fingerprint marks. Those fingerprint marks have oil. Note, there are a number of finishing techniques which folks use. An internet search should turn up a number of satisfactory methods and techniques. What follows is mine.

What you’ll need

  • A dish/tray of clean warm water.
  • Small scissors (we’ve found those on ‘Swiss Army knives’ to work very well. This in spite of very large hands)
  • Comfortable tweezers. We like ones with a bent nose.
  • Decal setting solution (We prefer our setting solution (Part IN-1066, released 14Sep09. Microscales’ or Testors’ products work well also).
  • Paint brush (#1, reference)
  • Clean cloth/rag, lint free is best
  • Prepped miniature


  1. Cut / trim decal as needed.
  2. Place decal in water.
  3. Apply setting solution to area of model when decal will be placed
  4. After a period of seconds (new decals as often as little as 7-10 seconds, older ones will take longer), remove decal on its carrier paper from water. Using the tweezers and paint brush, slide the decal off the paper and onto the model.
  5. Manipulate the decal into position using the paint brush. If there is an excess of water or setting solution, wick away what you can with the brush, repeat as needed.
  6. Confirm decal is where you want it.
  7. Gently roll (rag around little finger) across decal until it’s in position and well seated.
  8. Now make sure it’s really where you want it.
  9. Apply a bit more of setting solution to decal edges. Blot dry.

Multiple piece decals

We have some, most notably small concentric or symmetrical images as found on BR 107, BR 111, US 102, 134. You can work to apply the top image over the bottom one before the bottom is dry, but it’s not advised. The lower decal will likely loosen and move around. It’s usually best to let the decal dry, overspray with a ‘Dullcoat’ (flat lacquer or similar) material, let the dullcoat dry and apply the next image.

Note concerning ‘dullcoats’

These products are usually lacquer based, and as a pretty aggressive solvent, views your decal film as a snack. Actually, that’s how it works, ‘melting the surface, both of the decal and of the paint beneath it, blending the two together. It’s much, much better to put on several very thin (sprayed) layers than one thicker one. A thick layer may well end with the decals’ colors looking runny. And, do not apply dullcoat (flat lacquer) with a brush. What gets put on is far too much for the decal’s top coat to handle and you’ll wind up with a frustrating mess.