Model Airplane Decals: Applying and Problem Solving


1/72 Airfix Strikemaster

I thought it timely to discuss the topic of decaling and the reason you ask? I’ve just finished a nightmare decaling session with my latest non World War Two build, Mk88 Strikemaster by Airfix, as flown by the RNZAF. (See a theme here??)

The decals were brittle beyond belief, not printed on the usual blue paper I normally associate with Airfix decals, but a tan colour. Although in good register they shattered like 40 men without fathers!! Can you say the word BRITTLE??

I have also noticed errors in the decals regarding colours. As case in point; the triangle. This denotes ground attack aircraft in the Luftwaffe and should be black, in the Airfix Hs123 it is in fact red!

So I decided that in light of this disheartening revelation that NOW would be a good time to discuss what remedies are available to us to repair or prevent such tragedies.

So as is my usual habit, I retired to my PC and consulted the web. Here is what I found! (in no particular order)

Plastic Model Info and How To’s.

Now lets face it, since this hobby began we modelers have been creating model stashes! And one of the inherent problems with said stashes is that decals get old and brittle if not looked after properly.

Even if looked after properly can be damaged by excesses of moisture, atmospheric contaminants (Cigarette smoke for instance) and sunlight (fading).

Having said that however the cure for yellowing (this is where the glue used yellows with age) decals is to put them in a plastic bag or picture frame and leave them in a window in direct sunlight!

Old Model gives an excellent article on exactly how decals are made and the problems associated with old decals.

How to Apply Model Decal Resources


1/32 Hasegawa F16

I also think some ideas of how to apply decals would be of help.

Try this web page  Short concise and to the point.

Have a look here The Model Makers Resource. This is an English resource site for the modeler.

Model Airplane  Building is another excellent resource site authored by an enthusiast.



Decal Application Aids

So after looking on the web I’ve bought myself some Microscale Liquid Decal Film which I will apply to my Airfix decals, before applying them, in an effort to short circuit the whole shattering like 40 men without fathers drama!

A word of caution regarding the use of decal softeners

Use them only after the decal’s are in place and excess moisture has been removed or the decal will stretch and deform if you try to move it. Take it from me, I know!

Also to ensure proper adhesion of your decals I strongly recommend you ensure a gloss surface before placing your  decals as  this will prevent silvering of the decals. Silvering is when the carrier film doesn’t adhere to the surface with matte paint because the surface is microscopically rough and air gets trapped underneath.

After Market Decals


Twobobs Decals

Last I’d like to say a few words about aftermarket decals. By that I mean decals made by other people for modelers making versions of aircraft not available from the options supplied within the kit you have purchased.

Lets face it, if you’re buying a kit from eBay that’s not new or still factory sealed (wrapped in plastic or sealed shut) the decals may be missing (as was the case with my 1/32 scale F16, but I knew they weren’t supplied when I got it) or too old to use.

Enter the aftermarket decal fraternity.

I’d personally like to recommend Twobobs Decals for modern American military aircraft. Their decals are thin, in register, and settle well with Micro Sol Setting Solution and  Micro Set Setting Solution. These are awesome decals and well worth their asking price! (And the price is modest)

The reference material and instructions are clear concise and first rate! I’ve put up pics of my F16 for your information see for yourself just how awesome these decals are!!

The service was first rate, the communication excellent and delivery was prompt. The decals arrived well packaged with my invoice.

I honestly can’t recommend enough to modelers of modern American military aircraft this manufacturer. Made by enthusiasts for enthusiasts – what more can I say??


Avid WW2 aviation enthusiast and modeller. Been making model kits since age nine and I now model mostly ww2 model airplanes. (my wife is an understanding one!)

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