A lot of the new rockets come with “peel ‘n stick” stickers these days, rather than decals. Many rocketeers call these “peel ‘n cuss”, because they are not much fun to apply (especially roll patterns and long names) due to their stickiness – very little room to make a mistake. They are also pretty thick and often show bubbles and other raised areas. As a result, many of us will scan the stickers and either print them out on decal paper or get Excelsior or Tango Papa to do this for us. Regular decals are nice – they are thin, adhere well to the rocket without unsightly bubbles and blemishes, and are generally very forgiving when it comes to placement.
Applying decals is more than sink in water for a few seconds, then stick on rocket. Here are a few tips I have learned over the years:
Wait a few days after painting before applying decals. This gives the paint time to thoroughly dry and outgas. A good rule of thumb is “if you can smell the paint, don’t apply the decals.”
Be sure you have a small clean rag to wipe away water and smooth out bubbles on the decal.
Submerse the decal in warm water for 30 seconds or so. Some rocketeers – like me – also add a drop of dish soap to the water, claiming that it helps the decals slide off the backing easier. Be sure the water stays warm; if you have a fair number of decals to apply, you may have to change it a few times.
Wet the area of the rocket that will receive the decal before you apply it – this will allow you to position and move the decal around until you have it just right.
Thin decals, such as those from Excelsior, or old ones will require a coat or two of Microscale Liquid Decal Film before application. This stuff coats and thickens the decal, preventing tearing or shredding. You can buy it online or in real hobby shops like R.C. Hobbies. The pic above shows details on the bottle.
Here is a pic of the finished Aero-Hi:
That’s all there is to it… Go forth and have fun building rockets!