Applying Waterslide Decals with a Modeling Tray


Welcome to Gunpla 201, a new column written by Ashe Blitzen. An award-winning Gunpla modeler, Ashe touches on advanced tools and techniques for experienced building. 

In her inaugural column, Ashe shares a technique for applying waterslide decals, also known as “wet transfer decals,” which look more professional than the easier-to-apply dry transfer decals or stickers. Since they are more difficult, they rarely come included with Gunpla kits, but you can buy them separately from Bandai. 

Waterslide decals make our Gunpla look like a dream, but can be a nightmare to apply for even the most seasoned modeler. Everyone who’s worked with them knows the terror of losing a small decal, the agony of fishing around in a shallow dish of water, the pain of being unable to apply them to the right area before they dry out and tear. Fear not, my friends, there is a solution! I recently found a wonderful tool for applying waterslides.

I was skeptical at first, but I’m a believer now. The Trumpeter Decal Modeling Tray has made working with waterslides so much easier and more efficient.


The key detail here is the water reservoir with a partitioned tray above, which allows the decal to absorb the water below and separate from the paper backing without you having to fish around in a bowl of water for it. You can use the guidelines on the top tray to arrange your decals and keep them organized (and from getting stuck to each other.)

The tray comes with a little ‘scoop comb’ that you use to lift the decals out of the tray and gently slide into the desired position on your model kit. While the ‘comb’ does take a bit of practice to use effectively, it’s extremely useful for tiny decals and longer decals that tend to curl up when you try to apply them. I find that using a flat makeup q-tip (moistened so you don’t tear your decal) is the best for sliding and repositioning your decals from the ‘comb’ to your model.


Always remember to use decal softener before and after you apply to avoid creasing and get a nice, smooth decal that looks natural.

Ganbatte, friends. Build on!

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  • Toñito Acuña
    September 7, 2015 5:27 pm

    Where do I can get one og those trays?

  • Hi, this is my first time commenting and I have a question. I have just finished building an HG Kampfer, and that was the first time I dealt with Water-slide decals; my problem isn’t that I ruin the decal in the process, it’s that no matter what I do the decal just won’t slide off, or come off at all; I have botched those decals, that’s for sure, but for future reference I want to try to get it right. Did I wet it wrongly? It seems from that GIF that I am not supposed to fully submerge the decal? Or perhaps I cut it wrong? It almost feels as if the decal wouldn’t slide off the backing because I didn’t cut it exactly the shape of the decal. Thanks in advance!

    • Good question, bandai decals are different from most other waterslide decals that they tend to take longer to soak than others. Do you remember how you soaked them and what you did? The tray makes it easier to work the decal but i have a simple process, i quickly dunk the decal in water fully, then bring it back up and let it soak for about 30 seconds before i lift it up and start sliding it off the paper to the part. So long as you dont cut on the decal itself you cant ruin the decal itself.

      • Basically I got a shallow dish, poured in warm water and submerged the decal into it. I heard that warm water helps speed up the process, but even then, it does not seem to soak in completely even after an hour of so of waiting. I live in a fairly cold place, so the warm water drops to room temperature rather quickly, so I replaced the water a few times. No matter what though, it just does not seem to soak in.

        • Wow an hour? It shouldnt take that long, you are doing this inside too? At most 5 minutes it should be. Sometimes if you use the tiniest drop of dish soap this COULD help but with the climate your at that may not work properly.

          • Yeah, in my room, in the middle of summer, no air conditioning or anything. Then again, pacific northwest summer is not that hot…

    • Does this HG kit even come with water slide decals? Is it possible these were dry rub decals you were soaking?

      • I was just talking with some people who was much more experienced then I am and they were skeptical that there would be water slide decals on an HG. They showed me what the decals of an RG looked like and I must admit they do look very similar. They are definitely not dry rub decals, but I think now that they may be like those clear stickers in an RG kit.

        • That would make sense. Those stickers are not the best, but for stickers, they are pretty good. If you want to try your hand at water slide decals, I’ve had a lot of success ordering from Samueldecal before. He has a lot of decal sets available.

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