How to prepare and apply naval deck decals

Single piece aircraft carrier decks decal directions:

  • All the decals are specifically designed and sized in exacting detail to their corresponding ship model by manufacturer.  Keep in mind that a decal for a GHQ model will not fit correctly on a different manufactures ship model. See FAQ for reasons why.


  • The decals are not precut to exact shape. You will need to neatly cut out the decal with an X-Acto blade.  You just spent $ on the decals. Do yourself a favor and use a new X-Acto blade.  A used / worn blade will make it much more difficult to cut out the decal.


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


  • 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.  


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

  • DO NOT leave the decal in the water for more than 20 seconds.  Have you ever stay in a hot tub for too long?  Do not do that to your decals.  If you leave them in the water too long, they will end up looking the same way.  They will also not adhere correctly to the model.

  • Place the decal on a wet paper towel for an additional 20 to 30 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 also make it easier to maneuver the decal to its final position.

  • Because the CV deck decals are single piece and large decals (do not do this with the smaller DDG, aircraft etc decals) dunk the entire decal back into the water. Immediately remove it and start application to the model.  This quick coat of water will help make final placement a lot easier.

  • 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 – see the pic of IJN Shinano.  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 much harder than it needs to be and can also cause color chipping.


  • 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.


  • For the love of all that is holy, do not listen to those You Tube videos “decal experts” that tell you to use Set Solution on the underside of the decal.  It goes on top not underneath… Using large amounts of Set Solution underneath the decal can cause long term discoloration. Ever see decals that 3 months later turned green? Yep, you got it.  They watched one of those “expert’s” videos…. To better understand the component pieces of decals’ see the “Transfer Paper & Printers” tab.


  • I do strongly recommend using a decal set solution.  It will help with placement and long-term adhesion. 

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


  • 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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