In this blog post we will look at something slightly different: Putting decals/transfers on your models. As this is continuing with the series on how to paint Iron Hands we will focus on them, but I also recorded a handy video on how to use decals, which you can find by clicking here.

(Go here for the last stage of painting Iron Hands)

The first thing to do when using decals or transfers is to prepare your model’s surface for the transfer. The best way to do this is to use Gloss Varnish. You can use any gloss varnish, either spray or or brushing it on. When I’m putting lots of decals on a model, or doing something like a tank, I’ll just give the model a spray coat of gloss varnish. I usually use Halford’s Clear Lacquer.


Don’t worry that it’s designed for cars, it’ll be fine on your miniatures.

Or if it’s just a shoulder pad of a Space Marine, or some other small area, as we’re covering in this post, then I will just brush on some gloss varnish. Something like Citadel’s ‘Ardcoat will do (other gloss varnishes are available):


Be careful when you’re brushing on that you give a thick enough coat. If it is too thin then the brushstrokes will show up in the varnish, and then the decals will conform to this when you put them on. What we are after is a perfectly smooth surface.

Once the gloss varnish has dried – leave plenty of time for this, you do not want it to still be wet when we apply the decal – you can then cut out the decal you are going to use. Use a sharp hobby knife, and be careful while you are cutting.

The decal will usually come on a backing sheet. Most of the time this is a grey dyed paper. You will want to remove this so that the decal can go on the model. The most common mistake people make is to submerge this in water and wait for it to fall off. Don’t do this. Firstly, it makes the decal very difficult to get out of the water, secondly, there is glue on the back of the decal, and by submerging this in water you are essentially washing the glue off. It will be harder to stick to the model!

Instead, what you want to do is a get a shallow saucer, or plate, and put a little water in it. Then lay some tissue or kitchen towel on top of this, so that it starts to absorb the water. (You want it to be damp, not sodden).

Lay the decal on this sheet of kitchen roll. What this will do is allow the backing paper to absorb the water and come loose gradually:

ruukan decal

While you are waiting for this to happen it is a good time to further prepare the place where the decal is going to sit. Brush on a little Micro Sol. Or you could use Vallejo Decal Medium, which is a good alternative. When you put the decal over this it will help it conform to the shape of the model, which is especially useful when it is a curved surface such as a shoulder pad.


Use a brush to see how well the decal is moving on the backing sheet. When you can move it freely, then it is time to apply the decal to the model. Use some tweezers to pick it up and place it next to where you want it, then using the brush again gently move it into place.

Then, very gently so that you don’t move the decal out of place, brush another layer of micro sol on top of the decal.

Here you can see what this looks like when the decal has been allowed to dry:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can see, the decal is a little bit bobbly. This is due to the nature of the decal. It would fit a bit better if it was a rectangular shape, rather than a circle, but this is fine, because we can fix it.

To do this, just apply more coats of Micro Sol until you are happy. Another method of fixing this is using a hair drier. You will need to make sure that the decal is soft and pliable, again Micro Sol can help with this. Then on a light heat just hold the hair drier over the decal. Make sure you don’t heat it up too much, especially if it’s resin which will warp the model.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now you can see that after another coat of Micro Sol that the decals are starting to look a lot flatter, and more like they are painted rather than being printed. You can keep applying coats of Micro Sol until you are completely happy with this. It won’t affect the model, or the paint underneath.

Once you are happy that the decal conforms to the surface of the model, there is one final stage to do to finish the decal. Make sure that everything is dry first, then gently paint some Micro Set (again Vallejo do Decal Fix which is a good alternative) onto the decal.

Leave this for a couple of minutes, then using a damp piece of kitchen roll, lightly press against the decal. This helps to remove to carrier film, and as you can see below, helps to make it look less like a decal:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check back soon for the next article in my series on how to paint Iron Hands: Weathering.

Thanks for reading!

If you have any thoughts please comment below, and please consider following us on other social media listed below:

Facebook / InstagramTwitter / Youtube