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A statement of expectations for after market decals?

I am in the process of completing a Hasegawa 1/72 kit of the P2V-7 Neptune. Now, I am always for trying to build "out of the box", but this brings the problem of what to do when decals are too old. On this occasion my usual routine of placing the old decal sheet in the sun for a few weeks (e.g. https://www.marcellorosa.com/1-72-pby4-2-privateer) did not work, and the decals disintegrated. Thus, I was forced to source aftermarket decals (https://www.scalemates.com/kits/print-scale-72-106-lockheed-p-2-neptune--461642).

My subsequent experience was very frustrating, which made me wonder: is there a list of expectations from modellers, to guide companies that sell aftermarket decals? I decided to start one anyway. As you can imagine this is based on my recent experience.

If a modeller is to pay top dollar for an aftermarket decal sheet, this is what is expected:

  1. The manufacturer will do proper research to ensure that the decals will all be of correct size for the proposed scale. (Not, as in my case, having some that are clearly too large and too small).
  2. The manufacturer will ensure that the decals are in sufficient quantity to provide a full set of markings for the planes included in the sheet.
    (Not, as in my case, having "danger - jet intake" warnings only for the outward facing sides of the jet nacelles, and other omissions which required me to improvise with bits and pieces from other kits)
  3. The manufacturer will ensure that the instructions will show exactly where the decals are supposed to go.
    (Fuzzy photos of the stencils which do not indicate where the region photographed is in the fuselage or wing are not acceptable).
  4. The manufacturer will ensure that the decals are not so transparent that one can see what is painted underneath.
    (I had to mask and paint on top of the white decals wherever they overlie sea blue).

Any more suggestions for this list?


18 responses

  1. Don't buy Printscale Decals. They're c r a p.

  2. As far as a statement of expectations goes, with the aftermarket it is always Caveat Emptor.

  3. We all expect aftermarket decals to score well in terms of research, registration and performance, Marcello...
    Sadly, this is not always the case...

  4. I forgot to add one expectation: that when decals are to appear on both sides of the fuselage, that the text is suitably mirror-symmetrical. Instead of having two port side ones like I did.

  5. Sorry to hear that, Marcello. Some are better then others and some are really bad, like Printscale. I honestly try to use what comes with the kit these days unless it’s a specific subject in one of my main interest areas (SEAC, BPF,SCW). Check out Caracal Models. Excellent product and I think they make some Neptune decals.

  6. I have only used aftermarket decals once, because I was trying to build a model of a specific Hurricane lost in the defence in Malta. This time it was not my choice, as the ones in the old kit simply disintegrated in the water…

  7. Some companies are better than others to be blunt. I don't deep dive the historical research on my models for the most part. I'm ok as long as the decals fit the kit, are easy to use and they're decent resolution then I'm okay.

    Besides, I usually find out after the fact if the markings have issues.

    • Hi Dan

      I am also not too fussed, and managed to live with inaccuracies while living with my “out of the box” philosophy. What was frustrating this time, most of all, was finding that some obvious markings were missing completely. Main example being the inner warnings for the jet pods - as if someone could not be sucked in if they were standing between the jet engine and the fuselage - but also the entire wing walkways and several white stripes. This does not seem right for something you pay for. I am also having to live with upside down text in the starboard “RESCUE” arrows because the set provided 4 Portside ones instead of 2 and 2. C’mon, don’t people at least try their product once before putting into production?

  8. Aftermarket items are not necessarily better, and often extremely overpriced. Even brands with good reputation (for example Eduard) might have aftermarket products with incorrect details or misleading instructions.
    Decals are the same, some of them are really bad, just as you wrote above. Others are well researched and printed on quality film, but might be tricky to find them. There are way too many options out there, and it requires significant amount of time to find the really good ones.

  9. Price doesn't necessarily equate to value. All we can do as consumers is research before buying and then share our experiences after the purchase, which you've done here with this article. (Thank you, by the way.) I'll steer clear of Printscale decals.

  10. A side note, a number of dedicated decal companies research and design their decals, but have them printed by "big" names (like, say, Cartograf), with the net results, almost always, superb, not to mention that the prices they are offered are by no means expensive (sometimes the opposite is true!). Looks like (again, at times) a win-win situation: if the customer wants to buy a decal sheet that he examined at the net, and sees that the decals are printed by a "big" name, he will almost definitely presume that the decals will behave well.

  11. Decals can certainly be problematic. I haven’t had too many problems with the after market decals I’ve used in the past, I’ve never used Print scale.

    They can be very expensive… many sheets provide markings for several aircraft… most never get used because the modeler might only be making just one or two of any given subject.

    I was thinking of ordering some decals for a P-61 I’m working on. Your post made me think it over… I’ll try to use the old kit decals first and see how they do, they still look ok after 40+ years.

    • I have used the original decals in my PB4Y-2 Privateer, from the original Matchbox first release. They looked all yellow, but I placed them in a window where they got exposed to the sun for 2 months. They performed like new, and the yellowness disappeared. I tried the same with the Hasegawa decals. Again, they looked much better but unfortunately broke into pieces as I tried to manoeuvre them into place. Having said that, I still had to use some of them to cover things that were omitted from the aftermarket set. Even after covering them with decal film, I had to manoeuvre little piece by little piece into place, and they required huge amounts of Microsol and Microset to remove the silver outlines. Ok as an emergency measure, but not something I want to do on a regular basis…

  12. I just bought decals from the german producer Peddinghaus. They're for the 1/72 Zero, i am using it on an airfix kit. They look great and the instructions are nice too. However, there is no color system/information. Does anyone have any experience with this manufacturer?
    A decal thread would be a nice thing to do, imho.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

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