I love decals & marking stuff since they improve the details of the mecha.
Bandai kits usually comes with a sheet of dry-transfers and a sheet of stickers (green-backed). More traditional kits uses decals that you need water to work with.
- To apply dry-transfer, cut out the piece you want and secure it on the destination. Securing can mean hold it down with your fingers or better tape it down with some scotch tape. Then use a blunt round object to gently rub the marking on to the kit surface. I have a higher success rate with a blunt round toothpick that I sanded down myself than a ballpoint pen. And force does not help! The idea is to coerce the sticky backing of the dry transfer to stick onto the kit and leave the transfer sheet. The success rate also increases if your kit surface is glossy, because the dry-transfer has more surface to grip onto. In this diagram the blue is the paint surface - gloss paints are level and smooth, while flat paints are jagged and grainy. In general, dry transfer are quite unforgiving and more difficult to apply than the other alternatives, so I'd suggest practicing with those alphabetic dry transfers sold in bookstores first.
- Stickers. They suck :) The main problem is they're very thick and doesn't really stick very well to anything excep completely flat surface. The stickers are pre-cut, but they usually leave too much excess materials surrounding the marking and looks really bad when applied to the kit. So if you must use these stickers, trim those excess away should improve their appearance quite a bit. Again a glossy surfaces helps.
- Decals. Traditional and my favorite. To work with them, first cut the markings and soak them in water for 30 seconds. Use tweezers to remove them from water and gentally slide the marking onto the kit. Use a piece of cloth and gentally press on the decal surface to soak up the excess water. Then apply some decal solvent (such as Solvaset, Mr. mark softener (?) or Mirosol/Supersol). The solvent helps to weaken the decal so that it'll conform to the surface. Brush the solvent on and leave it. At first the decal will look all wrinkled and messed up, but if you leave it there, it'll eventually level out and becomes nicely conformant. Decals should always be applied on a glossy surface. A flat or rugged surface will result in "silvering" and you'll get a sticker-like appearance.
What I usually do is
- Paint the kit, apply panel lines.
- Spray a layer of Future Floor Wax. This stuff is very glossy and dries pretty quick and cures tough. You spray it unthinned, with high pressure and hold your airbrush farther away from the kit as usual. Spray in thin layers. The goal is to get the liquid on to the kit so that you form a uniform layer, but not so much that it runs. When the floor wax runs you're in trouble... spray about 3 layers and your kit should be very glossy. I usually spray all of the model, not just the area decals are to be applied, because otherwise the decaled area will have a different color tone than other pieces. Wait between 30 minutes - 1 hour between successive layers, and after the final layer, let it dry overnight so that the floor wax will completely cure.
- Apply decals and solvent. Wait for the solvent to do its work, which usually takes a couple of hours or more.
- Spray another couple of layers of Future. This is an attempt to eliminiate the raised edges of the decal.
- Finally flat coat (with Testors Dullcote or Mr. Super Clear flat / Mr. Topcoat flat) the model. The decal is completely blended in with no visible edges.
- I like to apply a very thin layer of base color over the decal afterwards. This essentially dulls down the decal, so that they look less stand-out and blend in better with the kit. It also looks like they're fading.
Allow me to rant a little on the recent stupid markings put out by Bandai. Starting from the Perfect Grade RX-78, they come up with very verbose markings such as one where you have GUNDAM and below it the expanded acronym. This is like having UN tanks with the UN logo and then United Nations underneath. The point of this escapes me. Verbosity aside, the marking hurts aesthetics - a retangular block of essay written on the shoulder of a cool mecha, oh let me take a minute and read the darn thing while I get shot. In Max's PG Gundam build up he wisely disposed of the acronym expansion part. I'm also biased against the WB (White Base) logo, watching too much Merry Melodies WB will always mean Warner Bros. to me. I expect Bugs to jump out of the logo anytime. Why can't they just come up with a cool iconic logo? I guess the moral here is choose your decals wisely, don't be fooled by the "official" Bandai notations from hell.
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