I am pretty sure that my eye sight was a lot better and my hands were a lot steadier when I painted my first batch of Battletech Clan mechs about twenty years ago. I have always enjoyed putting 3025 era Battlemechs on the table & most of my effort had gone into painting Inner Sphere, but a few Clan mechs had found their way into my collection & I painted them up in a cheerful grey & emerald Ghost Bear Dominion colors – including hand painting the unit numbers & insignia. I never really got around to putting them on the table & only managed to paint a grand total of five back in the day.
Fast forward twenty years and once again Battletech has come back into favor, this time off the back of the very successful Catalyst Battletech Clan kickstarter. Once again, over the years a handful of shinny metal Clan mech miniatures had found their way into my collection & it was now time they got a coat of paint so they could join my small Clan army.
Life long gamers & miniature hobbiests would know the dilemma that I was now faced with – do I try to match the existing paint jobs of my twenty something year old mechs or start from scratch & repaint the lot.
Despite the existing paint jobs being very 1990’s in style & color – I am still reasonable proud of how they look. So I went about trying to remember / recreate the paint style so my second batch of Mechs wouldn’t look too out of place next to the old mechs. I think that I did ok.
What I didn’t want to have to recreate was all of the little hand painted unit insignia, especially now there are heaps of commercially available decal providers. Much better I thought to buy some decals than to go blind trying to paint a heap of little Ghost Bear symbols.
That’s where this story gets interesting (well – I think it is interesting anyway). I purchased a sheet of decals from eBay for around AU$15 delivered and eagerly awaited for their arrival. When the sheet arrived, I was pleased with the resolution, clarity of the print and the colours used – although each of the little Ghost Bear unit logos was – to the eye – a little large. Not that it would matter for the new plastic Clan mechs that are due for release with the KickStarter campaign – but they looked a little too large for the older style Ral Pather white metal Clan mechs that I was working on.
Not to be daunted by the decal size, I pressed on, using the smallest logos on the sheet & trying to find the best places on the mech to put them. When I soaked the first decal of the sheet, I noticed the second issue. The “white” on the decal was almost non-existant. As I was putting these decals on Emerald Green surfaces, the very translucent white of the decal did little to hide the green back ground. I had to stop & paint little white discs everywhere I wanted to put a decal so the background would not wash-out the white detail of the decals.
Having painted all the little white decal backgrounds on all of the miniatures, I set to task applying the decals. This is when I discovered the third issue – the decal film is very thick and didn’t conform or adhere well to the various surfaces the decals were applied. I nearly drowned the decals with decal softer to try to get them to conform & stick. I applied decal softer to both the miniature surface and to the top of the decal, but invariably the decals fought to remain flat & lifted off the miniature surface.
I tried to convince myself these oversize, transparent, lifting decals might be “ok” if I gave them a thick enough clear coat on top. I had a can of crystal clear in hand and was about to do the deed when I thought “Nah – I can do better than this”
The chore of removing the decals was a hell of a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. Despite nearly all of the decals that I had applied having some part of them lifting, I was certain that they would not come off easily & I would do significant damage to the paint work when I did it, Surely some of the decal softer would have melted at least part of these decals into place. WOW – was I wrong. With little more than a scratch of a finger nail all of the decals lifted off the miniatures with ease and no damage was caused to the paint work in the process.
I jumped on line & ordered a set of Ghost Bear Dominion decals from Fighting Pirana Graphics
The Decals that arrived were the right scale for my white metal miniatures, the white of the decal print was less transparent and the decal film was thin enough to conform and adhere nicely to the miniatures with the application of a minimum of decal softer. I am very happy with the result.