Decals or transfers are a great way to add detail to your miniatures without all that complicated freehand painting. Curved surfaces such as shoulder pads can, however, add complications such as the decal not sitting flash against the surface or having folds. Fortunately, there’s a way around this.
I use Decal Medium and Decal Fix from Vallejo, but MicroSol and MicroSet are also widely used alternatives that give you the same result. The theory is that the medium softens the decal while the fix keeps it in place.
Step 1: Preparation
I’m going to put a decal on this Salamander’s shoulder pad. First up, the area needs to be prepared. A layer of gloss varnish gives a smoother surface for the decal to sit on. Don’t worry about it making the surface shiny – we deal with that later.
Step 2: Add the Decal
Soak the decal in water and slide it onto the glossy surface. Then let it dry! You may be able to see a ridge around the edge of the decal and some folds on its surface where it doesn’t sit flush against the pad.
Step 3: Decal Medium
Here’s where the magic comes in. Decal Medium softens the decal, pushing it flat against the surface of the shoulder pad. You don’t need much, just cover the decal and let it dry. If you can still see folds in the decal, add another layer and let it dry.
Step 4: Decal Fix
Now that the decal sits against its surface and the folds have disappeared, you’ll want to make sure it stays there. Add a layer of Vallejo Decal Fix over the decal. Parts of the pad will look a bit washed out and patchy after this. Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in the next step.
Step 5: Tidying Up
To finish, we’re just going to add a layer of the shoulder pad’s base colour. This is the only part where you need to be really careful. Paint the whole pad right up to the edge of the detail of the decal. This gives a smooth transition between pad and decal, making it look more like it was painted on rather than a decal.