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Important Points About Applying Inkjet Decals

Inkjet printers, and most laser printers, use water soluble ink. This decal comes with an acrylic sealant over spray called Crystal Kote, or its substitute nuart Picture Varnish, used by artists to seal acrylic paintings. It provides basic protection to allow handling without smudging within reason - but is thin. I only do one layer so the modeller can then brush or spray on a gloss, semi-gloss or matt finish without the decal getting too thick. This provides modeller choice as to the desired finish. Without further coating the decals will probably bleed in the water and will have a tendency to curl up, especially the bigger pieces.  

The main thing is to overspray or brush paint them, before use. I have used Tamiya X22 clear acrylic gloss, and Humbrol, White Ensign Models Paint and Xtracolour enamel gloss, semi-gloss and matt. I have also used Microscale Liquid Decal Film. However, make sure you don’t “drown” the decal or use harsh brush strokes if brushing, for the first layer at least. Multi-layers of Crystal Kote/nuart could also be used. One modeller contacted me after using a lacquer product with disastrous results - I definitely would not use lacquers - they are harsh. I have used Micro Sol, Micro Set and Humbrol Decal Fix during application to help with difficult larger decals.  

Please note that most inkjet and laser decals, and some silkscreen, do not like being over-soaked. Dip them enough to become wet and leave for a minute or so until they are ready to slide off. Generally are extra bits and/or options on most sheets – I suggest you play around with them and then do the "real" decal application.

Why Do I Use Inkjet Decals?

I use inkjet decals because, with a few exceptions, the market for NZ subjects is small. Commercially produced screened or silk-screened decals require minimum runs of hundreds of decals with a price tag in the thousands - and that is per decal sheet. Clearly the economics do not add up.

Whilst I could use a laser printer, inkjet printers (or at least the high quality photograph printing capable ones that I own) have more than caught up on the quality side and are a fraction of the price.


In general the digital decals are less sharp than the photo quality inkjet decals but are of a comparable quality to the decal sheets provided in the kits. This generally shows up in the readability of small writing and general “crispness”. A combo photo (top to bottom) of a kit decal, my inkjet decal and my digital decal of the RNZAF NH90 is shown below.

Whilst this jpeg of the photo is not as sharp as any of the decals, it treats all three equally so comparisons can be made. The inkjet is the sharpest, closely followed by the kit and digital decals.