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How to prepare and apply printed background 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. 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 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.  

  • 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. Water should be room temp. Not hot, not cold.

  • I have switched from decal paper made in China to paper made in the U.S.A. This paper requires a longer water soak period than the clear decal papers. Also, the larger the decal, the longer the soak period. You can expect to have to leave a 1-1800 scale decal in the water bath for up to 2 minutes before it activates and is able to be released from the paper carrier sheet.  

  • Place the decal on a wet paper towel for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.  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.

  • If there is still resistance to the printed decal design matrix sheet releasing from the carrier sheet, dip the decal back into water and place back on the wet towel for another minute or two. 

  • 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 above 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 to the model much harder than it needs to be. It can also cause the decal to stretch and or 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.

  • I do strongly recommend using a decal set solution for best results.  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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