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Why you should use gloss clear coat & decal setting solution


Part 1: Why you need to use a GLOSS clear coat.

Using a gloss coat before applying decals serves several important purposes:

  • Smooth Surface: A gloss coat creates a smooth surface for the decals to adhere to. Without it, the decals may not adhere evenly or may wrinkle, resulting in an unattractive finish.

  • Prevents Silvering: Silvering occurs when air becomes trapped under the decal, creating a silver or white appearance around the edges. A gloss coat helps prevent this by providing a barrier between the decal and the surface, allowing for better adhesion and eliminating air bubbles.

  • Enhances Color: Applying decals over a gloss coat can enhance the color and vibrancy of the decals, making them stand out more on the model.

  • Protective Layer: The gloss coat acts as a protective layer, sealing the decal in place and safeguarding it from damage such as scratching or fading.

  • Overall, using a gloss coat before applying decals is a crucial step in achieving professional-looking results and ensuring the longevity of the decals on your model.


Using a gloss clear coat under decals indeed addresses several issues that can arise from applying decals directly onto a flat surface. Here's a summary of why using a gloss clear coat is essential:

1. **Smooth Surface**: Gloss paints dry with a flat, smooth surface, providing an ideal base for decal application. In contrast, flat paints can leave behind micro ridges, which can interfere with decal adhesion and contribute to a less-than-perfect finish.

2. **Prevents Silvering**: Silvering occurs when air becomes trapped under the decal, often due to the micro ridges present in flat paint surfaces. Using a gloss clear coat helps eliminate these micro ridges, reducing the likelihood of silvering and ensuring a smooth, professional-looking finish.

3. **Chipping/Fracturing Prevention**: Applying decals over a flat surface increases the risk of chipping or fracturing during application. The resistance caused by the micro ridges can lead to overworking the decal carrier sheet, resulting in small chips or stretching of the decal. Using a gloss clear coat provides a smoother surface, reducing friction during application and minimizing the risk of chipping or fracturing.

4. **Edging/Curling Prevention**: Similar to chipping and fracturing, edging and curling of decals can occur when applied over a flat surface. The reduced surface area for adhesion and the presence of micro ridges can cause decals to lift or curl over time. Applying decals over a gloss clear coat provides better adhesion and reduces the risk of edging or curling, ensuring decals stay in place for the long term.

In summary, using a gloss clear coat before applying decals is essential for achieving optimal adhesion, preventing silvering, and ensuring a smooth, professional-looking finish on your models.


Tamiya "Strong" and Walthers are both very strong. They are designed for very thick decals. The may damage thin decals. 

Part 2: The Importance of Using Setting Solution
I am not overly particular about the type of setting solution you use. In fact, I am more concerned about the one you should avoid If you have never used setting solution before. See above. Before we proceed, it is important distinguish between decal setting solutions and decal softening solutions.

Using a softener is necessary only for applying decals on a 4 way conical surface. A space marine's shoulder decal is a perfect example of when to use a decal softener. Failure to use a softener may result in wrinkled decals. Unless you are working on a similar surface, using a softener is not required.

Using a decal softening solution on carrier decks with planking detail is also a good idea. You do not need to use it on a completely flat surface. 


Ok... Now back to decal setting solution. To understand why setting solution is necessary it is important to understand how it works and what it does.

  1. It chemically interacts with the decal carrier sheet. That reaction dissolves the print matrix into the gloss coat and thermal bonds them together.​

  2. The thermal bonding also reshapes the decals into seams or crevasses. 

"How and how not" to use decal setting solution:

  • The gloss coat needs to be both completely dry and fully cured. This means a dry time of at least 24 hours before applying decals. I recommend a dry time of 72 hours.  

  • Water has a neutralizing effect on setting solution. Wisk off any remaining water droplets from the initial application with a dry brush.  Do not use cotton swaps or cloths.  

  • Please Do not follow tutorials that advise using swabs to press out air bubbles or shape the decal into seams and crevices. Instead, use a paintbrush to remove air bubbles and wipe away excess water.


  • Remember not to let the decal dry for more than 10 or 15 minutes before applying the setting solution. Allowing it to dry for too long is counterproductive. You should apply the setting solution after removing the excess water, but before all the moisture has evaporated.


  • The decal setting solution should be applied on top of the decal, not underneath. Despite what some decal "experts" may suggest, it's important to trust that it goes on top. Using it underneath can cause time delayed green/teal discoloring or spotting of the decal.


  • After you apply the solution put the mini down and leave it alone. Let the solution do its thermal thing. If you continue to touch the decal even with a brush you will destroy the decal.


  • DO NOT PANIC!  It is supposed shrivel and bubble like that. Remember it is dissolving the decal print matrix into the gloss coat. Just don't touch it until it has done its thing.


  • Let the decal dry for at least 24 hours.


  • Final step is top clear coat the decal and or the entire mini - see "Why clear topcoat" tab. 


  • Decals are not difficult to apply. They require some patience, but you will love the results.

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