Aaaah, water slide transfers......a modelers greatest ally and worst enemy. For those of us that have been building and painting models for a long time, we are no stranger to the water slide decal. These are colorful decals, printed on a translucent paper, and have a fixative on them that are activated by water.
When building wargames models, we all want to add those extra little details. Beautiful banners, army and squad markings, honor badges, and kill markings. For those of us without the skill to freehand these with paint, the water slide decal can be a godsend.
I work primarily with Games Workshop models. GW supplies us with a beautiful sheet of transfers to be used on the models. They also sell separate sheets, as does GWs sister company, Forge World. While the same in manufacture, the Forge World decals are printed on thinner translucent paper, making them finer to work with.
The new Warhammer 40k Dark Imperium starter box set, releasing on June 17th, that Jake so kindly cut off his own head to un-box for us, has a gorgeous water slide transfer sheet, and I am anxious to get my hands on it!
Okay, enough jibber-jabber about water slides, let's get on with the tutorial!
There are a couple of tools that are necessary for applying these decals:
SHARP hobby knife
Clean, warm water
Clean paint brush
While you can apply them with just the above, here are some additional items I use to make the decals go on a bit better
GW paintable 'ArdCoat (gloss varnish)
Microscale Industries MicroSet (helps with getting the decal fixed on the model)
Microscale Industries MicroSol (makes the transfer conform to contours on the model)
Okay, got all my supplies gathered up. Notice that the paint brush has blue painters tab on the handle. This is to mark it out as my decal brush, so I don't get it dirtied up painting with it. Also notice that I have the tops of the blue and red bottles numbered 1 and 2. That is the order that they are used in.
I selected 2 transfers for the model. The one on the left is a GW transfer, and the one on the right is a FW transfer.
Place 1 transfer at a time in the clean warm water for 15 seconds. Any longer and the transfer will come off and dissolve all of the fixative that holds it in place.
During this 15 seconds, load up the area where the transfer is going to go with MicroSet (blue bottle). If not using MicroSet, get that area wet with water.
Using the tweezers, pinch a small corner of the transfer and pull it out of the water. Dampen a finger and test to see if the transfer slides easily. If it does not, put it back in the water for another 5 seconds. Once it slides off easy, use the paint brush, moistened with either MicroSet or water, to slide the transfer onto the model. Don't worry about getting it straight yet, just get it on there.
As can be seen from the above picture, the chalice bottom is not level with the bottom of the pauldron. Using the moistened paintbrush, gently tap the transfer as needed, or making adjustments to its alignment.
Once the decal is where it is wanted, moisten a corner of a paper towel, and use it to gently dab the transfer, pushing out the excess moisture. Notice the little white "arrows" around the bodies of the transfer? These are ripples caused by putting a flat decal on a rounded surface.
If using just water, take that extremely sharp hobby knife, and carefully cut the "arrows" to produce relief cuts. This will help the transfer lay down flat. If using MicroSol (the red bottle), relief cuts are not needed. As long as the transfer is 100% dry, put a layer of MicroSol on it and set it aside. MicroSol melts the translucent paper, molding it to the model, removing the ripples.
Repeat this step as many times as needed to get that transfer flat, being sure the MicroSol is fully dry between each pass.
Once fully dry, seal that transfer on with a thin coat of GW 'ArdCoat gloss varnish. Technically, this can be done first, before the decals go on, but is not necessary. I have found no difference to doing it before and after, and just doing it after.
Once fully dry and based, the model will be matte varnished, which seals the model and will further protect the transfer.
Okay, go paint some models and throw some stickers on them!