Making shield decals

I thought I’d try my hand at making shield decals, so I thought I’d share my experience. I’ve already made a few decals for plastic modelling, and apart from some issues with colour density on lighter colours they have been pretty successful.

  1. Is your journey really necessary? It’s a lot of effort making these shield decals, so it is only justified for the most complex of designs. When I stuffed up applying a couple of my decals I found I was able to hand paint perfectly respectable replacements.
  2. Choose very clear patterns. For 15mm shields subtle designs such as fancy borders are not usually visible when the figure is down on the wargames table.
  3. It’s easier to do this for shields that do not have bosses – you need to make a hole for the boss to go through, which means you will be repainting the pattern.
  4. Get the shape of the shield right. I scanned my shields – it’s obviously a lot easier if the shield comes separately. An alternative is simply to make small designs that you know will fit on the shield, and use matching paint to fill any remaining white on the shield. Or just leave the background white, like the Normans did on many of the ‘Mythical Beast’ shields on the Bayeux Tapestry.
  5. Make your design up in the drawing package of your choice. I used scans from reference books for most of my designs, but some I drew myself, and I’m quite pleased with one that I took from a photograph of a reenactor’s shield. I was able to use Photoshop to skew the pattern back to how it would look from front on. If you’re making a design for a shield with a boss, mark where the boss is going to go through.
  6. I pasted all of my shield designs into Powerpoint, so that they could all be printed at once. Put them as close to the top as you can so you don’t waste decal paper later.
  7. Print your pattern on plain paper and test fit it to your shield. This includes making a hole where the boss is supposed to go – I used revolving punch pliers to make 2mm holes.
  8. Print your shields  on decal paper – I use Experts Choice decal film.
  9. Apply more coats of Microscale liquid decal film than would seem reasonable – it goes on thick but dries thin.
  10. Make the holes for the bosses if you need to.
  11. Paint your shields gloss white so that the colours show up well, and the decal can be moved around easier.
  12. Follow the instructions on the Experts Choice website to apply the decal. By ‘slide the decal off the backing paper into position on the object’ they mean: hold the decal over the shield, and use tweezers to hold the decal in place while you pull the paper out from under it. You do not want to have the decal in your hands or loose in tweezers at any stage as it will fold over onto itself and then it’s all over.
Byzantines with home made shield decals

Byzantines with home made shield decals

Here’s some I prepared earlier. The front Light Horse are the ones where I took the design from a photo. The Command element’s chi-rho design is from a mosaic of Justinian, and the third is from Armies of the Dark Ages. The front element’s design is very attractive, but not really visible from a distance, I could have handpainted the chi-rho, and the third element’s colours are too subtle. The main part of the bandon is a decal though – and it worked nicely. I would have had trouble with the fine lines of the cross, and keeping the lines straight.

Oh well – it will definitely be worthwhile for my Normans, and maybe for some European figures.


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