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How to prepare and apply clear background naval decals

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Clear naval background decals:

  • The majority of naval clear background decals are for non CV ships like Cruisers & Destroyers which have limited colors other than white lines. 


  • Using clear background allows for the builder to use whatever paint color they want to use for the rest of the ships deck spaces.   

  • Regardless if you are applying Navwar, GHQ, pfc-CinC, Viking Forge clear background decals the process is the same. 

  • The decals are not precut to exact shape. You will need to neatly cut out the decal with an X-Acto blade. The very tip of the blade will be doing all the hard work so make sure it is in perfect condition. A used / worn blade tip will make it significantly more difficult to cut out the decal. Do yourself a favor and use a new X-Acto blade. 

  • Do not apply too much pressure while cutting longer lines. If you do, the blade will bow, and you will end up with a curved cut rather than a straight line cut.

  • You will want to cut out the decal as close to the white lines, leaving the smallest margin clear material as possible. If you leave too much excess material, it will get in the way of other structures / vertical surfaces on the deck. Be especially attentive to ensure the excess does not overlap the edges of the ships deck onto the hull. 

  • ALWAYS DRY Test Fit the decal before you place it in water. Depending on what options you placed on the deck (antennas, etc.) you may need to do some additional trimming.  

The decal must be applied on top of a gloss clear coat. Failure to follow this step will result in decal failure. Click here for more info:


  • Place the decal in a small container of water. Smaller is better. Water should be room temp. Not hot, not cold.

  • DO NOT leave the decal in the water for more than 60 seconds. You do not want the decal to detach from the carrier paper while it in the water.

  • Place the decal on a wet paper towel for an additional 30 to 60 seconds.  This will give the starch binder time to release the print sheet matrix from the carrier sheet - to better understand the component pieces of decals see the “Transfer Paper & Printers” tab.

  • Wet the model deck. This will make it easier to apply and maneuver the decal to its final position.

  • Do not pull the decal off the carrier sheet.  Place the carrier sheet on the model deck, then pull the carrier sheet out from underneath the decal.  A common mistake is removing the decal from the carrier sheet while it is in the water and then trying to lay it out over the model.  Doing this will make applying the decal to the model much harder than it needs to be. It can also cause the decal to stretch and or color chipping.

Better to use a Q-tip than a finger. Hold the deal and then pull the carrier paper out from underneath. 


The smaller the decal, you are better off placing the carrier paper on the model and then brush the decal onto the model

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  • If you push/pull the decal too much you will stretch it and probably fracture the print matrix - See "Why Gloss Coat?" tab for more info.

  • Once the decal is in its final location, use a new dry brush to soak up / brush off the excess water.  

  • For clear deck decals you will absolutely need to use decal setting solution.  It important to short & long-term adhesion. 

  • Make sure you do not have any air pockets.

  • Now apply the decal Set Solution.  I use Micro Set, Vallejo & Testors set solutions. See "Decal Setting Solution" tab. 

  • Do not touch the decal again until the solution has done its thing.  Just leave it alone.  it is supposed to look like that.  Once it is done, all the crinkles and bubbles will disappear.

  • Once the decal has set and dried (minimum 6 hours), apply topcoat clear sealer and you are done.  If you clear coat too soon you can cause “silvering" and or “spotting" on the decal. See "Why clear topcoat?" tab

  • With all that said, this is not a complicated or hard process.  Just follow the steps and don’t rush.  You will love the results. 

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