A few months ago, I built my first Master Grade model, Strike Rouge. This was my first time seeing dry transfer decals as part of a kit, since these are usually designated to Master Grade and above only. Dry transfer decals, also called rub-ons or rubdowns, are a bit different from your ordinary Gunpla sticker. As the name suggests, you don’t use water, adhesive, or any other solvent to apply them.
Applying decals takes a few more steps than applying stickers, but it’s easy to do. Here’s how, from start to finish.
Assemble your materials. Aside from the Gunpla parts and decals, you’ll need a craft knife, a smooth-edged coin (like a penny or a euro), painter’s or masking tape, and scissors. You can see two different kinds of craft knives displayed here. I used the hobby knife that came in my Tamiya tool set, but you could also use a regular X-Acto knife. You’ll need the scissors to cut the wide painter’s tape into strips (more on that later) but you can also use very thin masking tape designed for artists. And of course, any time I am using a blade, I like to put my hobby mat down underneath.
Here you can see the guide to where decals go on the Gunpla, or specifically in this case, the Strike Rouge shield. Notice that the kit suggests I use either 2 or 11 for the center of the shield, so I have options.
I decided to go with 2, which you can see more clearly here. Notice the dry transfer decals are on a clear piece of plastic with a tissue paper sheet behind it. The paper sheet prevents the decals from transferring onto just any surface. Always keep the paper sheet behind your decals until you are ready to transfer them.
Time to cut out the decal. Press the knife firmly into the plastic, being sure not to cut too closely and leave some space around the decal. It’s OK if you cut into the paper behind it—once the decal in front of it is gone, you won’t need that exact piece of it anymore.
Notice also that I don’t have to worry about not touching the clear plastic sheet. The decals are on the other side, so any fingerprints I get on the sheet now won’t transfer over.
Here’s the decal cut out. You can see I left some space above and below it, which will be helpful for the taping step.
Line up your decal where you want it on the part, making sure it is straight. Then, take two strips of tape to keep it secure. I used painter’s tape here because it was easy to remove without affecting the plastic at all.
Now it’s time to apply the decal. Rub it firmly with the coin. You will be able to see the color of the decal changing slightly as it transfers from the plastic sheet to the Gunpla piece. If you look closely, you can even see that happening in the photo above—the decal appears gray, not white, in the places I have already transferred to my Gunpla.
Remove one piece of tape, and gently peel back the plastic sheet with the tip of your craft knife to ensure the decal has fully transferred. If it has not, put the tape back on and rub it some more. You really need a firm hand with this.
All done! Here’s what it looks like after I’ve peeled off the tape and removed the now blank plastic sheet. Repeat as many times as necessary and remember, you don’t need to apply every decal. Pick the ones you like best. Just make sure you don’t apply tape over decals you’ve already added—that might mess them up.
Here’s my Strike Rouge with a freshly decal-ed shield. That tiny text gives it a degree of detail nothing but decals can add. You’re ready to apply your own Gunpla dry transfer decals now, so happy building!