Exito great test of decal setting solutions - part II - extreme surfaces.
Before you is the second part of our article in which we test the performance of the decal solutions and the behaviour of the markings themselves. In the previous episode, we tested these properties on typical details and surfaces - most commonly found on aircraft models as these usually have the most decals included.
However, this work isn’t always so straightforward. Sometimes the decal has to be applied in a place where there is, for example, a large step between surfaces or a very protruding detail. How liquids and decals will cope with such places - you will find out later in this article.
To get a full picture you can read the first part of our test here.
For this entry, we have prepared styrene plate as you can see below:
There are strips of styrene about 0.5mm thick at the top, while the cubes at the bottom are about 1mm tall each. Of course, such differences between surfaces don’t appear very often on a model kit, but this is an extreme test to show what will happen in such cases. Especially since - particularly on military vehicle models - chances of having to apply decals to an armour to which we have already glued some strongly protruding element or which is criss-crossed by screw or rivet lines - are considerable
We painted the test plate in the same way as we did with wings previously - with AK Real Color grey-blue paint, but this time we didn’t cover the surface with a gloss varnish. This is because sometimes - especially if you paint the model with e.g. satin or glossy paints it's tempting to save yourself some work and put decals straight onto such surface....
Here we go!
We will use the same set of liquids and decals as before - read the first part of the test if you want to know exactly what we have chosen.
This is how the plate looks after applying the decals according to the method in the first part i.e. for two-step solutions we used 'under the decals' part, and in the case of the one-step liquids, we have moistened the surface of the model/plastic gently with the same liquid.
We didn't help the decals to set in any way. You can see the key at the bottom - the stars are Cartograf markings, the white circles are Tamiya and the British roundels are Techmod older type decals.
After a short while, we added either another go of liquid or applied the "over the decals" part of the two step solutions.
This part is more of a clash between the two leading brands, Microscale and Tamiya's basic version. As you can see with each manufacturer, the decals lay down quite well on the bumps. Techmod, as always, shows the least willingness to undergo a softening treatment. At this stage you can mainly see the differences in hardness of the individual decals and slightly less activity of the Tamiya liquid.
We’re moving lower, to more difficult terrain. Cartograf decals were subjected to various liquids - as you can see even with a 1mm cube, the marking wants to wrap around it. You can also see the first air bubbles forming around the protrusion - this is where some help with a needle or pin is necessary. This is the only help we will give the decals. In the case of Mark Fit Super Strong liquid - the decal is already practically placed tightly around the cube, not counting the need to prick it. There’s a little more trouble with Strong liquid where wrinkles appear. Chematic is also doing well, but the decal is wrinkling in a rather uncontrollable manner..
Meanwhile, the Wamod “under” decals... caught our Cartograf marking the moment it touched the surface and started to react aggressively with it - that's why it's so skewed. It also dissolved the paint layer... It's worth bearing this in mind if we want to apply it to unprotected paint.
And while it handles Cartograf marking on such detail quite well, clearly there are problems on the Tamiya decal. The circle is starting to wrinkle, but not wrap over the cube.
Mixed results in the Polish-Japanese section. Wamod didn't immediately eat the Tamiya decals, but it still leaves horrible stains and dissolves the paint. Definitely a let down. On the brighter side, liquid works pretty well with this large roundel and chances are that it will do the job. Tamiya shows that the Super Strong liquid was made for such extreme applications, because just Mark Fit Strong is not enough. Chematic is doing well - those four wrinkles are the result of the lack of help and a fine incision of the decals, that would normally have had to be made.
Techmod, in the armoured edition, behaves exactly as you can see. It cracks. The liquids are unable to soften it enough to start to form around the cube. In general, it can be said that with both Tamiya Strong and Ammo Mig, there is no reaction. The Mark Fit Super Strong, on the other hand, led to the marking breaking through the cube and that was it. The decal applied great on the flat surface, but that's not our goal...
Wamod continues to dislike paint. Chematic tries its best, but the shape of both decal and detail - doesn't make it any easier. The decals don’t look good at all. Virtually every time a slightly stronger liquid is used - cracks appear.
Sometimes you might forget something, so for three shots we are getting back to see how Mr Hobby fluids are doing. In the case of the step - Mark Setter handled it flawlessly.
A tall cube and Tamiya decals are a tricky subject even for Japanese liquids - the marking softens, but if you were putting this on the model instead of a test plate, you would need a lot of help with a scalpel and needle to get the right effect. Nevertheless, you can see that the reaction is quite strong and the fluids try their best to conform the markings to our highly irregular surface.
Techmod decals are very consistent in their behaviour - they crack instead of softening and don’t react with Mr Hobby products. Of course, it should be remembered that on a typical model aircraft (and most Techmod sets are for aircrafts) there won't be such extreme steps and surface details, so the risk of the marks cracking is somewhat lower.
We've used all the liquids from our test at this point, on all the decals, so there's nothing left to do but to let them react and evaporate.
On the second day, the effects looks like this:
Tamiya, Microscale and Mr Hobby behaved very well on such irregularities. In the case of Mark Fit liquid and Techmod decals - a crack can be seen at the edge of the step - this characteristic of their markings will come back to us in this test... Apart from that, everything is as good as it can be, no wrinkles or damaged paint can be seen.
The Cartograf combined with the tall cubes and the Wamod and Mark Fit Strong liquids ended up looking exactly like this... There are some air bubbles left and the decal is damaged in a few places. Nevertheless, what is left on the cube wraps it nicely, so on a typical model this combination of decals and solutions will work in every situation. Maybe not counting the hideous marks that Wamod left on the unprotected paint.
Mark Fit Super Strong is made for situations and decals like Cartograf. The star - not counting one unfortunate spot, wrapped perfectly on the cube. Yes - you can see a little bit of air cushion around it, but by gently pricking the decal while the liquid was recting we would have eliminated these problems too and probably even avoided that slight tear. Chematic has again become a victim of its own power - even though the cube is nicely wrapped in the decal and nothing has torn - unsightly wrinkles remain, which are the result of the fluid working too fast and too hard. Fluid’s strength can also be seen on the decal that has a texture of paint underneath and it looks like it melted into the paint. The Ammo liquids worked inconspicuously at first, but as you can see, they softened the marking and started to sit on the detail. Here, the best solution would have been to keep an eye on the liquid's performance and add the “over” decals variant, as the previous applications were evaporating - then the decal would have stretched over the whole detail and not wrinkle in three places.
Now a segment with Tamiya decals. Mark Fit has started to work, but it would take several applications of this product to achieve the perfect effect. Chematic as always was aggressive. Despite the high strength and flexibility of the Tamiya decals, just one application perforated the marking, and the fast action wrinkled the circle beyond its ability to straighten and smoothen.
Mark Fit Super Strong went further than Chematic and rather than soften it ate the decal. Wrinkles, holes - it is impossible to keep control of such a strong and fast process.
Meanwhile Wamod behaved decently - didn't cause excessive damage and reacted rather slowly - with extra help the decal placement it would have performed even better.
Similarly, Mr Hobby liquids - they work, but to get the best effect you would need to reapply the liquid from time to time and gently touch up the decal. In all such cases it is clear that the process of softening and pulling the decal onto the detail has started, but the liquid has evaporated before the decal has reached the target position.
The very unsightly streaking from the Wamod solution is not worth mentioning again…
Time to check the effects of the fluid clash with the Techmod decals.
Mark Fit Super Strong being unable to deal with the marking simply made it pierce the cube. Note that in this case even an X-shaped centre cut won't help - the decal is not softened at all. Here, the only advice would be to cut off the torn parts and repaint the whole detail red.
The weaker version - Strong - did little at all. The stiff and hard decal looks the same now as it looked just after being applied to our test board. However, comparing to the effects of the stronger variant of this liquid - it’s not surprising.
Ammo liquids did a nice job though - clearly the decal has started to stretch, but not crack. Of course, with the low strength of these products - you would have to apply them at least a dozen times to get a better effect.
Techmod decals were unimpressed by both Mr Hobby and Chematic products. The decals are cracked and torn, but you certainly can't say that they have started to conform to the details' shape in any way.
Finally: Wamod. The decal looks similar to the one after using Super Strong liquid, but you can see that the torn parts of the marking have nevertheless started to wrap around the detail. This suggests that there would be minimal retouching if the decal was cut in the middle for easier application. Also we have a strange suspicion, that the Wamod liquids formula was tested and adjusted especially for these Techmod decals - it might be worth keeping in mind especially if we have some of their older, stiffer prints in stash.
Time to summarise the second part of our test.
This stage was definitely more difficult, we specifically made our test plate in a way to make the task as tough as possible for both decals and liquids. Chances that you will encounter details of this kind on your models and you would also have to apply the decals - are slim. Still, it gives you an idea of how prints and liquids behave in such situations - especially for details with many sharp edges, like our test cubes.
Again - as in the first part of our test - we will divide the conclusions into two parts: those concerning decals and liquids.
- Cartograf didn't surprise us. They are still the best decals - of course they can tear and perforate, but initially they were able to be well applied to difficult details which reduces the risk of damage. When they react with the right fluid they wrap around the details tightly and accurately. So there will be no problems with them on the models, even if we place them on more challenging areas.
- Tamiya proved to be very durable and also applied well even on the most difficult surfaces. After applying decal solutions it becomes highly stretchable, which comes in handy especially on vertical details where there is a risk of tearing the marking. All this shows that, despite its thickness, there is no need to worry about the decals not conforming to the uneven surfaces of the model.
- Techmod of the older type practically refused to cooperate at all. Achieving a reasonably satisfactory result was possible on on small irregularities of the surface. On protruding details markings cracked, tore and remained stiff without yielding to softening liquids. These were also the conclusions drawn in the previous part of our test, but here they became much more apparent. As before - practically only Wamod “over decal” liquid is able to do anything with these markings.
- Strong products such as Wamod, Chematic and Tamiya Super Strong have proved to be a prominent aid in laying down decals even on such extreme surfaces. They do, however, require caution, a little practice and moderation in application. The strong reaction they produce can cause holes in the decal when it is stretched over the details too quickly. There is also a risk that the markings will wrinkle and can no longer be straightened.
- Products that work more gently such as Microscale, Mr Hobby, Ammo or Mark Fit and Mark Fit Strong give more control over the process of fitting the decal to the surface of the model, and therefore more time for possible corrections. They also reduce the risk of the marking being torn by too much tension during softening. Their disadvantage will be the need for repeated fluid applications and keeping control over a longer period of time.
From the results of the second test we can safely assume that if there are difficult areas on your model - with large steps on the surface or strongly protruding details - initially it is worth applying the decals with less aggressive liquids added several times, and only when the marking is more or less aligned with the surface - it is worth using a stronger product such as Mark Fit Super Strong or similar for the final effect. This will avoid wrinkling and probably also tearing the decal. Of course, such tricky areas need to be supported by ingenuity and, for example, strategically cut lines on markings so that they can be more easily pre-positioned on the detail which reduces the risk of cracking or bending.
So, as you can see - decal liquids are needed and they work in virtually every situation. We also tried to show possible difficulties and pitfalls when applying the markings in both parts of our test.
I hope that reading our article has shown that - if you haven't already used them - decal softeners are essential in the modelling workshop or - if you do use them - you have found encouragement to test new products and expand your toolbox.
As with everything in our hobby - practice makes perfect, so it's worth testing different liquids to see what works best for you, to make applying decals an enjoyable stage in building your model!
See you in the next article!