Tuesday, 28 June 2016

How to Apply Transfers - a Tutorial

Transfers or decals, call them what you will. We hobbyists either love them or hate them. But what I've found is that the hate typically comes from a lack of understanding...

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, and I have definitely written a similar post a couple of years back, back in the days when I 'met' Dads James and Rich on Heresy Online, about how to apply transfers to miniatures. This post is also aimed at Dad Steve who has never yet used a transfer and is a bit reluctant to do so...

I'll split this in to two:
  • Why use transfers?
  • How to apply transfers

Why use transfers?

Back in 1992 I tried using a transfer. It looked rubbish. I vowed never to use another transfer again.

Fast forward to 2006 and not only have my hobby skills improved somewhat, but the tools and products available are vastly improved. Also, the internet is in much wider use and there are tutorials available. So I decided that I should give transfers another go. I did, and they looked much, much, much better. I cursed my 14 year old self for not discovering this technique 14 years previously!

It's 2016 now, the hobby technology has improved even more whilst my free-hand skills are still about as good as my toddlers, so adding transfers (and using moulded shoulder pads) is the only way I can apply legion/chapter iconography to my miniatures. And since I discovered a technique that actually makes the transfers look good, I apply as many as I can. Especially to my 30k wolves. It adds a real sense of individuality to each miniature whilst also making the style of the iconography uniform across the army.

How to Apply Transfers

The meat and bones of this post is this step by step guide on how to apply transfers. I'll share my technique, there are many others like it, but this one is mine...

All I use is some gloss varnish, GW's 'Ard Coat is perfectly fine. Some people use Microsol and Microset, but they didn't really work for me. And as we Dads have stressed before, making progress is about maximising your hobby time. For me that's about achieving a pleasing result with the minimum number of steps, so using gloss varnish rather than two other products to achieve the same result fits within that philosophy.

Tools: Gloss varnish, scalpel (for cutting out transfers), tweezers (for manipulating transfers), water (to soak transfers), kitchen roll (to dab away excess water), transfers, a miniature...

Step 1: finish painting the miniature. This is important. Once you have applied the gloss varnish things like washes will act differently on the surfaces, so I complete every step on my miniature apart from weathering, before I apply transfers.

Step 2: Apply a layer of gloss to the area you want your transfer and leave to dry

Step 3: Prepare your transfer. Try and cut as much of the clear film off so that just the image/icon is left. Removing this spare material will allow more flexibility in the transfer and allow you more freedom to position it correctly.

Step 4: Soak the transfer. Warm water is best as it softens the film and makes the transfer more pliant. But cold water works fine, it can sometimes just result in a bit of extra work later on. Soak it until the transfer comes off the backing paper. If you leave it too long in the warm water, the water goes cold (obvious I know, but it goes cold quick so you need to remember this when soaking multiple transfers), and you loose any benefit of having boiled the kettle in the first place.

Step 5: Apply the transfer to the desired area, dab away excess water, position it, then apply a layer of gloss varnish. That's a lot of things to do in a short space of time, but getting that first layer of varnish on when the transfer is still wet is quite important. It'll flow in to the spaces where there is initially water, helping to avoid air bubbles and hide creases. Leave this to dry.

Step 6: At this point, if there are any creases, take a sharp scalpel and remove them. In the case of  air bubbles, use the scalpel to cut a line in the middle. Then apply another layer of varnish, using your brush to smooth over these areas. You may also notice a visible line around the edge of the transfer, where the film sits slightly proud of the surrounding non-transfer area. Concentrate on applying the varnish on these areas. Leave to dry. This will fix your transfer in place.

Step 6a: If you want to combine several transfers, you can apply the second transfer once the gloss on the first has dried and fixed in position.

Step 7: Apply another layer of varnish. Leave to dry. Repeat until you can no longer see the edge of the decal or those bubbles and creases. You can repeat this as many times as you like. What you are essentially doing is encasing the transfer in a transparent layer, where the film becomes indistinguishable from the varnish.

Step 8: Weathering. Applying your weathering to the entire miniature at this point 'buries' the transfer and makes it seem like has always been a part of the armour. I use a couple of weathering techniques, first applying brown/black/silver to represent chips and battle damage, using a sponge. This is great for hiding any issues. Is that bubble or crease still slightly visible? Sponge some paint on that area. Then I use Forge Worlds weathering powder around the lower portion of the model to represent battle dust.

Step 9: Seal. Use a matte varnish to seal your miniature. The glossy transfer is now as matte as the rest of the model.

I hope that has been useful. Let me know if you have any tips of your own, or any questions.


fourdadsoftheapocalypse.blogspot.com – A blog about Warhammer 40k and the Horus Heresy by four Dads

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