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I got some waterslide-off decals from a seller on e-bay...his instructions were to dip them in warm water and let them slide off the backing, and then apply. I used to do this as a kid in model building. Unfortunately, after doing this and applying to my Railking building, they're crinkling and falling off.

I've spent countless hours weathering Railking structures and then go to this final step and have this happen...I can only think to put some Elmer's glue underneath them, likely will make a mess. I've got Elmers School Glue and Elmers Glue All...does it make a difference which to use or is there something better?

FWIW: I've also purchased decals on e-bay with the self-adhesive...only to have the decals lift up over time...

Last edited by Paul Kallus
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weathering should be your last step. the surface needs to be gloss or semi gloss wich ever matches the decal film first. then use some Micro set to get them to set in place and Micro sol if they have to go over rivets or siding. then a coat of Dullcoat or other flat spray to seal them in , then Weathering.  if you do not come close the the sheen that the decal film has you will not be able to hide it.  long process but that's what it takes .  hope this helps.  

I use Future floor polish which is clear gloss water base acrylic available in supermarket and hardware stores

Lots of info for using it on internet.  Brush some on surface to be decaled ,a gloss surface is best but use a little extra and you can decal on flat surface.

Apply decal , future may make decals difficult to position but you can thin future with a little water, blot up any excess future, use setting solution to help with making decal settle in,  but I found that as the future dries it pulls the decal down.  When finished Dullcoat decals to flatten finish

Before cutting off desired decals  spray decals with a thin coat of clear gloss rattle can spray to give old or super thin film decals extra strength

@Paul Kallus posted:

Wow, so I guess I got it backwards? I painted and weathered the structure first, latex paints, some india ink & alcohol...and then applied decals. I never imagined doing it any other way...and the guy who sold the decals said it would work over the weathered structure!

If you can get the decals off now you can still spray with a gloss, apply a fresh set of decals, then hit it will flat clear. Rick pretty much laid out the correct steps above. Paint, spray high gloss in the area you plan to put the decals, use the appropiate setting solutions, then finish to taste.


@Paul Kallus posted:

Wow, so I guess I got it backwards? I painted and weathered the structure first, latex paints, some india ink & alcohol...and then applied decals. I never imagined doing it any other way...and the guy who sold the decals said it would work over the weathered structure!

Just as a test, if you have any of the decal material that you will not use, try to take a sample and apply it to a clean plastic surface with the techniques listed above. If the decal sample sticks to the piece of plastic, then you know the decal material is good. If good technique is used and it still does not stick to the clean plastic, then the decal material might be suspect.

Hope this helps and keep us posted. (pictures).


If I weather a structure before decals it is always with paint. I save powders, chalk etc after decal placement and cover spray. Before decal placement I use Testors Dullcote - never had an issue with this stuff. The common wisdom however is gloss coat. Once the decals are in place you can use Dullcote to tone things down. Just make sure you seal the decals with some kind of cover coat before doing anything else to the structure.


Gloss base is primarily to prevent "silvering" where the decals backing takes on a frosted appearance. MicroSet is applied first to prepare the surface, then the decal, and then MicroSol. MicroSol is more aggressive and I would test it on a decal off the model before using it. If the decals you bought are aged, buy some MicroScale Decal Coating or get some Testor's Spray Decal coating. Either of these can rebuild the decal's surface and prevent if from behaving badly. I would say that decaling over pastels or chalks is a bad idea. After the decal is fully cured (about 24 hours) then spraying it with Dullcoat is the way to go to seal it and blend it into the surrounding surface.

I would not let the decal fully leave the backing paper unless it's some tiny thing that needs to be applied with Tweezers. When it's off the backing paper it can get out of control quickly. If it folds back on itself, it's hard to straighten out again and may be scrap.

Dip it in the water, take it out and put the wet decal on a non-porous surface. Occasionally test it to see if it's breaking loose. When it starts to move, slide it just off the edge of the backing, put that exposed edge at the starting point of where it's supposed to go, hold it there with a Q-tip or a small brush and slide the backing paper away from the decal leaving it on the surface and just about in its final position. If it's a bit off, add a drop of water and push it around with the Q-tip.

And one more...

Some of articles I've read on this subject in other modeling periodicals (military equipment comes to mind) use an interesting technique....that I've never given a fair chance to, though!

They suggest soaking the decal in water and removing the decal from the backing paper.  Then they turn the decal over, glue side up, on waxed paper.  Using a fine camel hair brush and distilled water they carefully brush all of the glue from the back side of the decal.  (This is to prevent 'yellowing' of the film on the model over time, exposure to light, atmospheric malevolents, etc., etc..)

Once the decal has been thus 'washed', they apply Future (clear acrylic) to the model surface to which the decal is to be applied.  The decal is then applied (right side up, of course) to the model onto/into the wet Future.  I can't recall any commentary regarding difficulty with poking/prodding the decal into position while the Future is still wet, but, again, I've never tried this myself, and I know I'm may be overly simplifying what else they are doing.  I can only say that the photography shows an incredible end result these pros have achieved thusly.

I'm sure there must be tutorials galore with some diligent searching.  Having worked more than 20 years at our LHS I've heard the better builders of static models (military, aircraft, automobiles, etc.) speak enthusiastically of shows/meets they attend featuring their special area of modeling and attending one or more of the tutorials and demonstrations the pros put on.

There's always something to be learned 'on the other side of the tracks', isn't there?

Come to think of it, these pandemic times would be a good opportunity to try some of these new techniques  with all those old decal remnants I've got lying about.

Last edited by dkdkrd

Interesting techniques all around.  I have since my teenage years just gone with decals sliding off the paper onto a glossy surface, take the excess water off the top with a moist towel, and finally use good old fashioned Solva-Set.  A brute force technique no doubt, but it works well.  Once the decal dries, I pop the bubbles, if any and hit it with conservative amounts of more Solva-Set.  Upon final drying I apply a dull coat, or other coat depending on what I want the final model to look like. 

Then as suggested above, I will apply weathering and if using chalks I will apply another coat of finish to keep the chalks in place.  Old fashioned but very simple.

For old decals, I have either applied a gloss coat to them prior to use or I sometimes scan them and trace them in the computer.  That is a pain in the you know what though.

Good luck!

Since Testors is dropping all of their products that were used by model railroaders, including Dullcote, there have been various internet postings looking for an acceptable substitute. This one has concluded that Tree House Studio Clear Acrylic Matte Coating is the best available. Here is the url of the post (replace the "dot" with a dot (.)):


There are more opinions out there if you search "testors dullcote discontinued".

Hope this helps if you don't already have a can of Dullcote and your LHS or other suppliers are sold out

@Paul Kallus posted:

Wow, so I guess I got it backwards? I painted and weathered the structure first, latex paints, some india ink & alcohol...and then applied decals. I never imagined doing it any other way...and the guy who sold the decals said it would work over the weathered structure!

Think about it.... would the building be filthy and then someone put the sign on? Or would the building (or at least the sign board) be clean when the lettering was put on.

Chances are its going to be clean when the lettering is put on. Even an old building, getting a new sign will get a spot of paint where the sign goes (at least to cover the old sign up).

If you want everywhere but the sign to be weathered, cover the sign board in tape so it stays clean. Or weather it, then mask it off and paint over the signboard with fresh paint.

I dont usually wait for the decal to float off in the water.  10-15 seconds in the water then transfer to a wet paper towel to sit until it releases. You can then float it on with water or Microsol. Once its where you want it, either solvaset or microset so it nestles down on the surface.

Like everyone said, decal over a gloss coat so you dont see the edges. It also helps to cut the decal off the sheet as close to the design as practical, to avoid having excess clear film around the decal.

Last edited by Boilermaker1

Guys, I think that the decals I got simply did not have enough sealant applied when the creator made them...because the DPM building surfaces, while painted, were not dirty, and essentially were finished brick work in a very light gloss finish. The other building was just a Railking plastic building with a thin layer of latex paint and india ink/alcohol in certain places. I honestly cannot imagine applying the decals before doing the brick mortar work or painting the would look sloppy I think.

The maker is sending me some new ones with extra sealant and I'll see how it goes. If I a no-go, then maybe some Elmers white glue...but I wouldn't want it to leave a sheen around the edges.

With so much layout work to do, working a full-time job, taking care of a home, stopping and trying to make a building look better really takes a lot of time. I've been doing some Railking buildings, brick work, interior details, etc., and boy as I get older these projects eat up the hobby time. This is all well and good if a person is retired. I need to get back on track and run some trains.

Last edited by Paul Kallus


If the surface isn't smooth enough, hence all the talk of gloss finish, the decal won't "stick"  to the surface, on a flat type of finish the decal is essentially resting on the "peaks" of the surface. You can paint and morter your bricks, I'm guessing you are going to have to paint where you would like to place the decal with gloss and then go over it with flat and finally weathering. When the decal floats off the backing it shouldn't carry anything with it that kept it affixed. 

The only time I've ever used glue has been to stick paper signs to buildings for replicating painted bricks.

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