How to Print and Apply Decals

Hey Waz-‘Ere-ers (lol)

Today I’m going to do a piece showing you how to print your own decals or transfers, and then if that’s not enough, I’m going to teach you how to apply them to tricky surfaces like Space Marine shoulder pads.

Making Decals

First of all, does your decal contain white? This will dictate what decal paper you buy. Second, do you have access to an inkjet printer, or a laser one? Again, this determines your paper.

White decals need white decal paper*, everything else you want clear (because printers don’t actually print white you see, so white decal paper starts off white). Make sure you pick the right type of paper for your printer too, it matters!

I bought mine from here, but it’s not hard to source from eBay. A single sheet of paper might cost you about £2, but economies of scale apply for larger orders.

I have an inkjet printer and I’m printing the Blood Ravens logo which doesn’t contain any white so I went with clear inkjet paper.

Blood Ravens

Blood Ravens


You’ll also need to buy some clear acrylic gloss spray, I used PlastiKote Clear Gloss Sealer which retails for about £6


PlastiKote Clear Gloss Sealer

You’ll also need an image of your decals. I googled mine, and came across the Bolter and Chainsword‘s really good resource, so you might have some luck there. Or you could make your own if you have fancy Photoshop skillz!

The Technique

  1. Print out your PDF image onto the decal paper, make sure your printer is set to the correct settings – Colour, A4, 100% etc. You can’t undo mistakes here!
  2. Be super careful not to smudge the ink. Put it somewhere safe to dry for about a day
  3. Take it outside, and give the whole page a generous spray with your acrylic gloss spray. Give it about an hour to dry. The reason you’re doing this is to protect the ink once you start wetting and applying chemicals to your decal paper, else you’d find your expensive decal paper ruined!
  4. Repeat stage 3!!
Blood Ravens Decals

Blood Ravens Decals

Once you’ve done this, congratulations, you’ve made some decal paper. It works in exactly the same way as Games Workshop’s, but in case you need to know how to use it (and applying decals to shoulder pads and other funky surfaces can be tricky) then read on for the second part of this guide!

Applying Decals

If you want to do this as painlessly as possible, go buy some Micro Sol from Microscale Industries. It’s not expensive and it’ll last forever (maybe).

Micro Sol

Micro Sol

You’ll also want some paint on gloss varnish, such as that made by Vallejo. But use whatever brand you have already!

Gloss Varnish

Gloss Varnish

The Technique

  1. Paint your gloss varnish on the area to be covered by a decal. Let it dry before you try to stick a decal to it!
  2. Cut out your individual transfer as close to the design as possible. You want to minimise the excess from the edges, as the more of this you have, the harder it will be to apply your decal without warping. Use a very sharp hobby knife so you don’t accidentally tear your decal paper.

    Blood Raven Decal

    Blood Raven Decal

  3. With a wet brush, coat some water over your varnish. DON’T let this dry!
  4. Grip your decal with tweezers and dunk it in water for about 15 seconds, then take it out and set it down on something you don’t mind getting a little wet.
  5. Gently tease the decal off it’s backing paper. I use the tweezers for this, but you could also use a brush. Once you’ve got it started, use the tweezers to very very carefully pick it up by the edge and apply it to your wet model. You want to get it as close to right as you can do here, but perfection isn’t required until the next step.
  6. Use your wet brush to very very gently stroke the decal in order to position it correctly. If your model was wet, this should be much easier than if it was dry.
  7. Once its in position, dip a paintbrush in your Micro Sol and super dooper gently dab the chemical on your transfer. This is a solvent that actually slightly shrinks the decal to eliminate any bumps and raises in the decal. Let it dry.
  8. Once it’s dry, if it’s still not perfect, apply a second coat of Micro Sol (you might have to do several). If the problem is that you have a bubble under your decal, use a very sharp pin to prick the bubble before applying the Micro Sol again.
  9. Once its dry and perfect, you might notice that you can see the edges of the decal. You can reduce this effect by applying spray mat varnish. You can reduce it even more if you use Quickshade Dip (or another coat of your gloss varnish) on the model, followed by mat varnish once it’s dry.

Go you, you’ve got a smooth professional looking decal on your model there!

WIP Blood Ravens, patiently queuing for their dipping and mat varnish

WIP Blood Ravens, patiently queuing for their dipping and mat varnish

Let me know if this “How to Print and Apply Decals” was useful to you. If you want more tips, check out how to cast your own bases, or how to paint lightning effects

Thanks for reading.


* For white decals, you may have an additional complication, if they’re going on a black background, you’ll want to print some black around them like this:


Flesh Tearers Decals

If it’s a coloured background, your best bet is to print a background that is similar, and then paint over it once it’s applied.

3 thoughts on “How to Print and Apply Decals

  1. Sound guide. My suggestion to improve the decaling even further, especially since we tend to apply decals to complicated areas / curved surfaces:

    Use lukewarm water to separate the decal from the paper. Do not time it, just put it in the water and wait for it to be moveable or straight off float away. Use some sort of plastic “shovel” (just make your own from leftover sprue and some blister), load the decal on it and then move it over to the model – this makes the final placement even smoother and while being more tedious, has less risk of ripping or damaging the decal.


  2. Pingback: How to Paint a Savage Orc Bloodbowl Team – Part 2 | Jimmi Waz 'Ere

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