How To Apply Decals

Tools needed:

  1. Sharp exacto knife

  2. Orange flake shellac

  3. Micro Sol and Micro Set

  4. Soft watercolor brush (2)

My method for applying decals

The decals are printed on decal paper and must be cut out before installation. The decal film covers the entire page, so where you cut out is where the edge line of the decal will be. I suggest cutting around the decal with a smooth line. A sharp exacto knife works the best. Scissors sometimes leave a curl on the edge that shows in installation, although, good scissors usually will provide an acceptable edge. Trying to trim as close as possible, however avoid having narrow, unsupported projections of the decal may cause tears and cause failure of the installation.

The cabinet should be finished. I prefer using orange flake shellac. After the surface you are applying the decal to is prepared, you are ready to apply the decals. The decal is very thin and must be handled with great care when applying or else it may tear. It is considerably thinner than the standard water slide decals you are probably used to. 

I use two products to aid in the application of the decal. They are called Micro Sol and Micro Set. You can purchase them from me by following this link. Using a soft brush, apply the micro set to the cabinet where the decal is going to be applied. Dip the decal in warm water for 10-15 seconds.

Place the entire decal (with backing) on the cabinet and gently slide the decal off of the backing b pulling the backing out from underneath to the side holding the edge of the decal with your finger to keep the it in place. Apply more of the Micro Set to the top of the decal. The Micro Set is applied to allow easier placement of the decal. It will slide around easier and then it will adhere better when dry.

Smooth with a soft brush (watercolor brush). Then, using a damp paper towel gently work out any air bubbles. More Micro set can be applied if necessary to keep the decal fluid and workable. The decal should now be smooth against the surface. Dab excess water off of the surface with the paper towel. Let this dry completely. 

Next, I apply a coat of the Micro Sol with a soft brush. This makes the decal "flow" into the finish. Allow to completely dry. I then I apply orange shellac over the decal (over the entire cabinet) to tint as preferred. I have had good luck using spray Lacquer in place of shellac as well. The decal will be dissolved by the lacquer and become part of it when dry. Apply multiple light coats instead of one heavy coat. I have had reports of incompatibility with tung oil and polyurethane varnish. I have not tested compatibility of finishes with the decals as there are too many to address. I would suggest not using a brush on solvent based finish directly over the decal without first testing compatibility. I can provide scrap decals to use for testing. It may be possible to clear coat with lacquer before coating with other finishes.  Please test these combinations before using on your finished project.

Applying lines on bed-plates and back brackets sometimes require combining more than one decal to achieve the correct length or shape.  Two line pieces can be joined by overlapping the decals slightly.  As long as the lines align exactly, one over the other, the splice will not be visible on the final product.  If the two pieces are simply butted against each other the joint will likely be visible.  Allow the first piece to dry slightly before applying the next to prevent it from moving out of alignment.  I alternate areas on the piece to accomplish this.  i.e. apply a line at the back of the bed-plate, then the side, then the front  etc. , returning to the back to put the splice to finish the line.  I also allow the lines to dry a bit before adding the corner decorations.  Use of Micro-set during placement is very useful. It allows more time to place the decal and if the decal becomes attached in the wrong alignment, a light coating will allow it to release and be re-aligned. The Micro-Sol then assures the decal adheres tightly to the surface.


After following this procedure I have had excellent results with the decals.  It is hard to see the edge line of the decal and with additional coats of finish, and some rubbing out they can’t be seen at all. They don’t look like the typical water slide decal. 

If you have any questions regarding this process, please contact me. 

How ToGregory Clinedecals