Monday, April 18, 2016

Tiger Tank, Part 2

I have a love/hate relationship with decals. When I was young and before I got into miniature painting, I did model kits, primarily aircraft and warships. Most of them had waterslide decals, and applying them was pretty straight forward: soak them in water until they come off the paper, and use a paintbrush to put them on the model and adjust them...and voila, all done.
This technique worked well enough, provided the area was flat. You could also tell it was a decal because of the shine of the decal compared to the usually matte finish of the rest of the model.
When I was building model kits, my skills were limited so this was the best I could do, so it didn't bother me.

When I started painting miniatures, some of them came with decals--the most prominent being the shoulder pad decals for Space Marines. I never had much success with them--they would never go onto the shoulder pads without folding due to the 3-D curvature of the pad. I had heard about things called "decal softeners" that would help the decal conform to the shape of whatever you were applying it to, but I never bothered to get any. So in the end, for models like my Raven Guard Company, I resorted to painting all the chapter symbols by hand.

For my Bolt Action miniatures, I wanted to try to go the extra mile and "do it right".  I had already airbrushed my Tiger tank, so I wanted to see if I could apply decals the "right" way, and see if I got good results. I found a blog post on Vallejo's website that explained the process.

First you apply Decal Medium to the area where the decal is to be located, then apply the decal as normal, and when it's dry, apply Decal Fix, which softens the decal and causes it to conform to match the surface. Once you're done you apply some Matte Varnish to protect the surface.
So I bit the bullet and bought some Decal Medium and Decal Fix. I would be apply some decals over the Zimmerit on the Tiger, a rough surface if there ever was one, so I was skeptical as to how well this would turn out.

I applied the Decal Medium to the surface and then applied the decals themselves to let them dry. As I expected, they dried like a piece of dry paper laid on a rough surface: they did not conform at all. So onto the Decal Fix. It says to apply "a little", but I slathered it on because in order to work, these decals needed lots of softening! According to the Vallejo website:  Vallejo Decal Fix will do the rest! A few hours later, the decal will look just like it has been painted on the model. All the recessed or raised details will be visible under the decal.

Yeah, right.

I waited a little while, and looking back afterwards, it appeared that the decal had softened...a little. Instead of a piece of dry paper laid on a rough surface, now it looked like a blanket laid on a rough surface. It sagged over the rougher parts, but did not really "conform" to it. In fairness the Vallejo website does say "A few hours later..." So I let it dry overnight.

Here is the result:
Holy crap, it does work! As the Vallejo website claims, you can see the recessed or raised details.  As for looking like it has been painted on, well not quite, but that's because it looks almost too perfect.

In any event, I'm very pleased with the result. I painted some matte varnish on to seal it, and as I continue the weathering process I am sure that it will look even better.

In Part 3 of this series I will start the weathering process.

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