Applying Water Slide Decals

Most modelers have at one time or another applied a water slide decal. The method and materials have not really seen any changes over the years, but we have a few tips on achieving excellent results by using some application tools we find very useful. Water slide application supplies can be purchased in our Online Store, Pilot's Hanger, Decal Application Tools section. Following are the basic instructions we include with our water slide decals.

Needed Tools
  • Bowl or other container for water
  • Scissors or hobby knife
  • Napkin or Paper Towel
Tools Handy to Have on Hand
  • 1" foam paint brush (any paint store has them)
  • Foam wedge used by ladies for applying or removing makeup (any dept. store)
  • Foam-tipped swab or Q-Tip for smaller decals and nomenclature (NO STEP, OIL HERE, etc.)
Step 1 Trim the decal from the backing sheet to within 1/8" around the printed image. Avoid sharp corners, especially outside corners.  Keep your trim line smooth and even all the way around.  
Step 2 Place the decal in the water. Use room-temp or slightly tepid water. Warm or hot water is not recommended.  
Step 3 The decal will curl up and then uncurl. After it begins to uncurl, check it by trying to slide it on the backing sheet. Be gentle, you can damage the decal if too aggressive. Do not become distracted and leave it in so long that the decal floats free from the backing sheet.  
Step 4 When the decal just begins to slide on the backing sheet, remove it from the water and bring it near to where its final position will be on the model.  
Step 5 Carefully slide it from the backing sheet onto the model, taking care not to distort or tear it in the process. The decal should slide smoothly and easily onto the model close to where its final position will be.  
Step 6 Ensure that the decal is laying flat (not folded or creased) and in its final position.  Place the paper towel or napkin over it and gently apply downward pressure to remove most of the moisture.  Avoid using a rubbing motion as you will displace the decal and may damage it.  
Step 7 When you remove the napkin or towel, your decal will probably have drifted out of position.  Use your fingers, the foam brush, foam wedge or swab to gently move the decal back into position. At this point it should begin to adhere to the model.  
Step 8 Use your finger or one of the foam tools to squeegee the remaining moisture out from under the decal working from the center to outer edges.  
Step 9 Continue smoothing the decal without moving it until it is laying perfectly flat and most or all of the moisture has been removed.  Look at it from a different angle in reflected light to make sure you have all the bubbles and wrinkles removed.  
Step 10 When you are satisfied that no bubbles or wrinkles remain, allow it to dry overnight.  

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