How long do decals last?

I store my kits decals in a ziplock bag, inside the kit box in my garage, I ask this because with over 90 kits in the stash (I really am trying to cut back) I don’t want to have to purchase 50 sets of decals because the originals went bad. A few years ago I purchased a set of car decals for a Ferrari 512 and half of the decals just died on the wet transfer paper. How long should a set of decals be good for?

As far as I know, there is no answer for this question…depends on the manufacturer and storage conditions. Maybe current decals have a different technology and last longer, but my old Italeri and Tamiya (25-30 years) seem in bad shape, plus the carrier strongly tends to yellow.

I would say, without factual data, that over 10-15 years there is a good chance they become unusable.

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In my experience if you buy an old kit and the decals are just loose and uncovered in the box then they might show signs of age and yellowing. If you’ve got them sealed up I doubt you need to worry.

I think the ink and or transfer film becomes brittle with age regardless of storage conditions - unfortunate but time marches on…

If you have decals that are turning yellow just tape the sheet to a window that gets a ton of sun. In a couple days (not including cloudy days) they are not so yellow. Down here in Arizona yellowing decals are not a problem

:beer: :nerd_face: :beer:


There is also a product that I’ve used before due to the deterioration of some older decals. It’s called microscale liquid decal film. Just brush it on and let it dry and it’s almost as good as the original water slide decal.

Not long enough!!!

My thought was many of us have stashes of kits and knowing the shelf life of decals might be helpful… I know reducing the exposure to dampness is helpful. That is why I put my decals into a zip lock bag. I have heard that not letting them get too hot or cold will help. I have no proof of this though. I have used the sunlight trick to reduce yellowing. Using Microscales liquid decal film sounds helpful on older unreliable decals.

I’m going to pick this up. I take it that where the decal film is will become part of the decal, so you need to trim them close around the marking itself. Is that correct?

Well, Maybe. Two thoughts not all decals are alike.

  1. The decal is thicker in the middle and thinner at the edges. So there should be less “edge” to the decal if left untrimmed. However if there is yellowing, the clear might be seen. If the overall decal is thick, it will still show the edge as being thick.
  2. If you trim to the edge it might show a thicker edge but might look better overall.

Well, it depends. If you keep decals away from moisture they last decades.

I have used ESCI and Matchbox decals more than 40 years old, no problem. Dragon decals more than 25 years old, no problem.

In my experience it is all about avoiding moisture.

Exactly. Also where you store them helps. For many years I had my decals stored in my garage, where little creepy crawly critters that like paper could get at them, so some decal sheets were damages that way. Besides trying to keep them in zip lock baggies, I also like to put in those silica desiccant packs that come in various products in the bin where I keep my decals as an extra measure of protection. Last but not least, keep some Micro Scale Liquid Decal film on hand. Test your sheet by perhaps using the identification info on the sheet first into the water before committing to the actual kit markings. If that portion self destructs, treat the decals with the Micro Scale Decal Film. I’ve been able to use decals that were roughly 40 years old in that manner.

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When using the liquid decal film, that film becomes part of the decal so to speak, so if I slop it out over the edge it will be clear film on the model when applied? Hence my question about the need to cut close to the marking…

I guess the blockquote thing didn’t work…

Correct, it will become part of the decal itself. If you put too much on, simply trim off the excess prior to dipping it into water. It will also make the decal slightly thicker.