Outlines of the landing gear doors complement the wheel well decals to complete
Molders from his tour in Spain. It’s not the flashiest scheme,
but Werner’s story and the Mickey Mouse emblem popular
amongst the Condor Legion clinched my decision.
The Spanish Nationalist insignia and other markings were
quickly found online, but there was one piece missing. A key
characteristic of the Bf 109 was the half-exposed wheel and
partially open wheel well. This little Messerschmitt was built
as a belly lander, so an illusion was needed. A more skillful
modeler might paint the wheel and well directly onto the
covering, but the
same can be done
using the computer
and decal paper.
This is where
dozens of graphics
programs that can
handle a simple
project such as this
and they range in
cost from free to
This project will
be done with a
two Microsoft products: Paint and Word.
To be frank, neither of these is very capable as a graphics
program—they were selected only because many people
have them at their fingertips. A more sophisticated software
program might get the job done without jumping between
programs, but the basic steps in creating the image would be
The Insert/Shapes toolbox in Word is handy at assembling
collections of lines and basic shapes. It also provides an easy
way to resize and rotate shapes to fit them neatly onto the
Word has the added benefit of allowing the user to fill
shapes with transparent color and to arrange the order of
shapes when they are stacked on top of one another. What it
does not do well is trim or edit out unwanted portions of the
drawing that has been created.
In contrast, Paint performs the editing function well, but it
doesn’t do the transparent or stacking part at all.
Printing the Decals
Now that the file is done, you have an option: the same
Word file can be used to make decals using your color printer
at home, or you can send it out to have self-adhesive vinyl
graphics or “stickers” made. For vinyl, Callie Graphics is tough
to beat on price and service.
Waterslide decal paper is readily available. Papilio.com offers
clear and white decal papers for different types of printers. The
colored ink used in your printer is transparent, so be aware
that the color beneath the decal will show through anything
but black when using clear. This can be useful at times, such as
when putting clear decals over silver covering to get a colored
The colors from your printer will look different when
printed on plain paper versus glossy paper. It’s a good idea
to print a final test on glossy paper before risking a sheet of
decal paper. Make sure that your printer is set for high quality
and glossy paper. If the colors are off, you can return to your
graphics program and adjust
When you are happy with
the sizes and colors of the test
sheet, load a sheet of decal
paper and hit print. Be careful
because the fresh ink smears
easily—it can’t soak into the
glossy decal paper. Give it an
hour or more to dry completely.
Home printer inks will run
when they get wet. This is a
problem for waterslide decals!
Prevent this by sealing the print
with acrylic clear coat from the
hardware store. Spray a thin,
mist coat and let it dry first,
followed by a full coat. If the
coat is too wet then the colors
may bleed. Give your decal
sheet at least a couple of hours to fully cure.
You know what to do now! Just cut out your decals and
dunk them in warm water until they begin to loosen. Dampen
the area where they will be applied to make it easier to move
them into the perfect position. After they are in place, gently
smooth out any bubbles and excess water with a damp napkin.
Work from the center out.
Remember that the adhesive takes time to fully dry, so try
not to touch the decals for a day or two. I’ve had a few lift and
curl over time, but never after a coat of acrylic clear coat.
Wrapping It Up
Now that you can make decals of virtually anything, the
possibilities are endless. Duplicating the markings from your
grandad’s unit, adding scale details to your ARF, or making
your favorite NFL team the sponsor of your 3-D airplane are
all within your grasp.
34 Model Aviation DECEMBER 2015