How to apply Mighty Brush waterslide transfers / decals

The following steps are recommendations for the application of screen printed waterslide transfers (decals) purchased from The Mighty Brush. These transfers are formulated for easy application with water alone, and setting solutions such as Microset are not usually necessary. If, after following the steps below – but before top coating with varnish – further softening of the transfer is required, you can brush some Microsol over the top.


  1. Ensure the surface onto which you intend to apply the transfer is clean and grease / dust-free. The surface should preferably be of a gloss finish. The more gloss the finish, the more likely successful adhesion will take place and the less likely the carrier film will show up.
  2. Cut the transfer from the sheet, allowing a margin of backing paper around the image. Do not cut into the printed image unless you are deliberately reducing the area of transfer to be applied. A set of reverse action tweezers is extremely useful and highly recommended for gripping the backing paper while you work with the transfer.
  3. Immerse the transfer in a saucer or shallow basin of warm water for about 10 seconds (note that transfer release times can vary). The container of water should preferably be large enough to accommodate the full, flat transfer. Owing to modified chemistry, it is now recommend to add a drop of washing up liquid to the warm water. The transfer will initially curl up, then partially flatten out. Test whether the transfer has become detached from the backing sheet by gentle pressure with a finger or soft brush. Use warm water – not hot, not cold – and certainly not of boiling temperature!
  4. When release has occurred, remove the transfer from the fluid (still sitting on its backing paper), position in the required location and hold the image in place with the tip of a brush, while sliding the backing paper out from underneath.
  5. Make final adjustments to the position and allow to dry for a few moments. Gently dab off excess water with an absorbent cloth or blotting paper. Ensure there are no air or water bubbles trapped between transfer and surface by gentle outward stroking with a soft, pointed brush toward the edges of the transfer.
  6. Allow to dry completely, preferably for 24 hours. When all transfers have been applied and allowed to dry, it is strongly recommend that a protective coat of a suitable varnish in gloss, satin or matte finish is applied over the transfer. This should be carried out particularly in circumstances where the transfer is positioned where the model will be handled and definitely where the transfer is likely to come into contact with chemicals of any description.


  • Ensure that the transfer is properly soaked before you attempt to remove it from the backing paper. A simple test is to check that there is no ‘drag’ on the paper, and that the transfer slides off smoothly.
  • Where, for instance, a long line of otherwise unsupported lettering is involved, slide the transfer backing paper in such a way that the transfer has to move the minimum distance, i.e. not lengthways. This will lessen the stress of the carrier film and reduce the likelihood of the transfer breaking up.
  • The less handling and adjustment your transfer receives to position correctly, the better the adhesion is likely to be, and the less likely it is that damage will occur.
  • In certain circumstances, you may find it necessary to manipulate a transfer for quite some time to obtain your desired position, eg. around small detail. This may involve the application of extra water to maintain the transfer’s mobility. To avoid over-diluting the adhesive on the back of the transfer, it is avised that any amount of extra water required has lain on scrap transfer backing paper prior to using it to further move the transfer (thus also transferring some of the adhesive from the backing paper itself).

Don’t forget!

  1. The best surface for adhesion of transfers is a gloss surface. When the transfers have cured, you should over-varnish them for protection with a clear varnish of your choice – matte, satin or gloss.
  2. Do not touch the surface of the model where you intend to apply transfers. Even your fingers can leave greasy deposits which will impede successful application. Ensure the surface is dust and grease-free.
  3. Do not rush application of transfers. You have no doubt spent a long time building and painting your model, and the same care and patience should be employed in the application of your transfers. Your patience will be rewarded with a model you’ll be proud to display.

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