Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Adventures in Decal Making - Or How to Mark Your Tanks

One of the key aspects of 502 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung that attracted me to the project was a unique numbering scheme it used in early 1943 in Russia.  The unit was down to only five Tigers, so they renumbered them using a single digit one through five.  Tanks one through four used a black numeral while number five used a white numeral.  At least one of the remaining Panzer III Ausf N also still retained the earlier elephant unit insignia.  Only one problem, there are no decals available for the unit in 1/100th scale.

Undeterred, and tired of not being able to find the markings I want for various Flames of War projects, I decided to go out on a limb and make my own.  I found the DecalPRO system online, and decided it looked like my best option because there is the option of creating white decals and transfers.  The catch is their system makes dry transfers, not waterslide decals.  So I picked up some blank decal film from Archer Fine Transfers which I would actually use as the transfer medium.

The DecalPRO guys have a tutorial and some tips and tricks online, so I won't go through the full process here.  Be forewarned, there is a learning curve associated with their technique and some experience with a laminator is helpful.  For black decals you can transfer the toner as printed onto their special release paper, or you can put a black pigment on top of it (I had the best results with black pigment).  For white you'll need to print in black and then put white on top of it.  

The first step is to work up the artwork based on your references and then scale it appropriately for the miniatures. It is then printed out on a special release paper and then goes through a series of processing steps. As you can see from the shot below, I was only partially successful in getting the numbers to transfer. It wasn't a big problem as I only need two of each for any one vehicle. Bear in mind it took about 4 tries to get a transfer that looked this good.

White had a similar learning curve.  It is hard to see, but though all of the decals are there, some of them have either extra or missing pattern.

However, the end results were nothing short of spectacular.  The numbers came out literally perfectly. They match the photos and drawings of the actual vehicles I have.  Bear in mind I haven't finished the wash on these vehicles, so there's a little pooling of wash in spots.

The real test would be the white decals, though.  I decided to go ahead and put the elephant on Tiger number two as the artwork and photos I have show that the turret box is still in the original gray, and I don't have a rear view showing that it has been oversprayed.  The only other tiger I've completed with a gray turret box is Tiger number one, and I have photos showing that the rear elephant is not present on that vehicle.  I've also put one on the Panzer III Ausf N as I have a photo showing it is on that particular vehicle.

As you can see, the decal looks absolutely perfect, and it's WHITE!  Without an ALPS printer!  I still have work to do on the wash on this particular tiger as well, the final product will be a bit neater.

So there you go, it took me the better part of a morning to get enough decals to come out properly to actually complete my vehicles, but the end result was worth every minute of it.  The fact that the technique actually worked so well bodes well for future projects where I'll hopefully overprint the white pigment to create multi-color decals with white.  

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