Decaling Technique originally posted elsewhere

Here is the link to earlier in depth How-To Decaling technique recently posted on another military thread. We (I) sort of got carried away with the explaination over there and this topic has now taken on a life (or at least a thread) of its’ own:

more . . .

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I 100% endorse Mikes method, been using it myself

Honestly Robin, thank you for the support.

In the past others have not been so kind but just the opposite!

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My thanks.

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My answer to your last question might possibly surprise you as it flies in the face of everything this group has been taught . . .

I spray the model with Matte Clear (Tamiya TS-80) BEFORE applying the decals!
I spray it on very dry to give the decal a slightly rough “toothed” surface to adhere to. I then BRUSH ON some Future just in the area where the decal is to be applied and while the Future is still wet I apply the water soaked decal. As this starts to set I will apply another top coat of Future to completely entomb the decal.

(This also does wonders to build a tiny transition curve/ramp between the model surface and the edge of the decal film, usually making the edge disappear entirely.)

I allow this all to dry completely (overnight) and then go over the decal area with several more coats of Matte Clear to hide the shine of the Future.

I try to preach this technique far and wide on this site but usually I get responses like “no way”, “old fashioned” or “Solveset is better.”

So . . . To those folks that scream NO, I just say “whatever is working for you keep doing it!”
BUT . . if you are having problems in successfully applying your decals then you MIGHT just want to try it my way! *

*Not really even my way. This technique was taught to me by Monte Kelch of Cincinnati. He is now retired from modeling at age 83 but the man has way more “wood” hanging on his walls and more first place trophies than I will ever hope to have!

Honestly NOT trying to beat a dead horse here but simply trying to exhibit unassailable proof of the technique.

Click on any of the photos in the post to enlarge for a better view:

I consider the following to have been my greatest decaling challenge:

A pair of repainted On30 (1/48th scale) Plastic Narrow Gauge Railroad Boxcars.

First an all over spray of Tamiya Matte Red Oxide Primer (Rattle Can)

Then I flooded the entire side of the car with Future and applied the decals to this wet surface. Followed by a second top coat of Future (while everything is still wet) using my brush, or a knife or my wet finger tip to push the decal down into the scribed siding.

Final finish coat of Tamiya Matte Clear (TS-80 rattle can) to seal the decals and kill the shine of the Future. Applied extremely dry!

Pigment weathering “scrubbed” into the tooth of the matte surface with a stiff brush. Using pigments over this rough matte surface makes them almost completely permanent with no further sealer coat being necessary.

A much easier car to letter using the exact same process:

And finally a Caboose thrown in for good measure:

One more in the Railroad Division:

This one is a much shortened American Flyer, S Scale, “Frontiersman” single door baggage car.

An Additional Note: This car was BRUSH PAINTED with Home Depot, computer color matched, Berr Brand matte house paint. (One pint will cost you about $6 - no charge for the color match.) I used a 1 inch wide soft brush and only vertical strokes to paint the yellow and keep the brush strokes to an absolute minimum.

Going over this matte yellow, first with Future while applying the decals and then with several coats of Tamiya Matte Clear you will be hard pressed to find any visable brush strokes. Also the color is more or less a “dead on,” exact match for the AF factory painted cars being hauled right next to it in the same train.

I do hope the group finds this information of some interest.


The technique also works on VERY LARGE decals!

Each of these large area decals is a single sheet and NOT individual letters.
(1/32nd scale Arado 196)
The rear tail area however has been masked and spray painted bright red but the white dot and the insignia are once again more decals.


I take it you a) apply the Future with a “hairy stick” rather than an airbrush, and b) you don’t use any setting solution at all? The pics are stunning!

Bark - you are correct Sir!

Even when I do use an airbrush I hate doing color changes and clean-ups.

If I can achieve the same effects using a hairy stick or a rattle can, WITHOUT using the AB, I will most certainly do so.

Respect! :beer:

When I use this method it goes like this:

  1. Airbrush the whole thing with Future or diluted Tamiya clear, increased distance
    and lots of air to get a satin finish. This darkens the matte paint enough so that the
    decals won’t sit on dark spots.
  2. When the model is dry I soak the decals, usually until the decal glue has been washed away.
    Some have too little, some are drenched in glue and I don’t want to mix the chemistry.
  3. Use hairy brush to deposit a puddle of the same stuff used for the satin coat.
  4. Plop decal into the puddle. Press it down as usual.
  5. Hairy brush the excess “clear” over the decal to seal it. Soak up the excess with lint free
    cloth (I used strips torn from worn out white cotton shirts)
  6. Let dry thoroughly.
  7. Another satin or matt coat to blend in the differences in sheen

Proceed with weathering et.c. according to individual taste and preferences


I must say I learned to apply decals ling before this site exited. :sweat_smile:

I use the same technique but never thought of it as that revolutionary. I spray the model with flat clear, then only apply Future with a brush to where the decals go. Then I spot spray flat clear over that again. My reason is simple: I want to limit the number of layers on the model’s finish. Also, no need to spray the whole thing with a gloss coat as that just wastes product and my time. Not to mention it’s another opportunity to get a run. Yeah, they do happen occasionally…


And runs are much more likely to happen with the gloss clear rather than matte.

The Future drys very thin and is extremely self leveling. I have the suspicion that the Future actually draws down the decal against the model surface as it dries.

Yep. That’s the big idea behind all this.
Liquid Future/Tamiya clear to fill out all the little porosities under the decal.
The filling dries hard and glues the decal rock solid to the surface. No worries
about old decals or wonky decal glue.

I’ve always wondered how the Future technique works. Ya, I know, I could have asked at the hobby shop… none the less, I appreciate the step by step. Just one question, and it may be a “duh!” question:
what do you use to clean the Future out of your airbrush?

Upon re-reading the above question, I realize it has profoundly cosmic overtones. :exploding_head: Too much for my simple mind to comprehend, as struggling to clean the past out of my airbrush is work enough for me. So to be clear (no pun intended) the Future to which I refer is the “make your floor (or canopy) shiny” one.

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Maybe my nose is making a fool out of me but in my opinion
the floor polish stuff (insert brand/product name here) is awfully
similar to Tamiya Clear. It should be possible to clean the airbrush
the same way as after spraying Tamiya acrylics.
The floor polish I used could be cleaned with water and
some alcohol. (I would not go so far as to say that alcohol removes
your Future …)
The bottle says that ammonia based detergents will remove the
floor polish but ammonia may not always be the best friend of your airbrush.

I have also used nail polish remover, not the acetone based though, I used
the type containing ethyl acetate. That stuff is also moonlighting as
styrene solvent/glue (dual use bottle).
I never had any issues so I never spent much thought on it.

Thank you for clarifying. There are a couple of Future techniques mentioned here that I am going to have a go at… on a cheap kit.

…but it has been known to soften the past.

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and it blurs the present as well :grin:

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…to a degree, if I am to admit to my misspent youth, that you wake up the next morning to deeply regret the blurred “present” from the night before that is asleep beside you. :scream:


Too much experimenting with chemicals past and present. :grin:

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The expression ‘coyote arm’ comes to mind …

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