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How to remove decals from a finished model?

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  • Member since
    February 2004
  • From: Michigan
How to remove decals from a finished model?
Posted by gawrycht on Monday, September 17, 2018 8:07 PM

I recently finished an old Accurate Miniatures 1/48 A-36 Apache (10 years in the making!). I intended it to be a “practice“ model but it actually came out good enough that I thought I would display it.  

Much to my dismay I found that my roundels on the fuselage are noticeably misaligned!  One is closer to the cockpit than the other. 

I used Humbrol Decalfix ... and may have used a little Micro Sol in the process. I didn’t clear coat yet though.    I resigned myself to buying a new decal sheet (for one roundeSadl) but, before I do, is there a way to get one of the decals off without ruining the paint job underneath?  Looking for a magic bulket I guess.  Thanks for any tips!

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • From: Netherlands
Posted by Sailing_Dutchman on Monday, September 17, 2018 11:08 PM

I have had success using Tamiya masking tape to pull off decals before they were clear-coated.


  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 12:17 AM


I have had success using Tamiya masking tape to pull off decals before they were clear-coated.


LOL but thats probably true. A mechnical remedy would work.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.


  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: Sydney, Australia
Posted by Phil_H on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 1:29 AM

Once upon a time here in NSW Australia, we had waterslide vehicle registration decals which we had to change every year. It was illegal to leave an old one on the windscreen, so it had to be removed. You could use a razor blade to scrape it off, but that resulted in thousands of little fragments all over the place. 

I found that the old one could be removed intact by laying a tissue soaked in Windex over it and leaving it for an hour or so to soak in. Then you could lift the corner with a razor blade and it would peel right off. 

This may not be a good idea if your model was painted with acrylics, but I suspect that you'd get the same result with plain old water.

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 9:08 AM

I also use masking tape for removing decals, but it doesn't work as well if you have used a decal solvent like Micro-sol or Solvaset.  These actually melt the decal so that the ink sinks into the paint. Give tape a try, it may get most off.  There are a number of problems that can arise from using decal solvents.  I regularly use decal setting solutions- they are pretty benign.  But solvents can bring problems, so I only use solvents if I have to for a real problem decal.  The problem with using it to remove old decals is that it may disolve the decal carrier film but not the inks.


Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    June 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 9:44 AM

Personally ;

 I have done many restos of old models and I find Straight WINDEX to work best . One thing though Warm it it the Microwave first !

  • Member since
    January 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 10:45 PM

IF... the kit was sprayed with enamel clearcoat to seal in the decals, I don't know how you can remove it. Worse case, you'll have to repaint the area again.


Tanker - Builder

One thing though Warm it it the Microwave first !


Would that melt the plastic if you do that? 

  • Member since
    February 2004
  • From: Michigan
Posted by gawrycht on Thursday, September 20, 2018 6:40 AM

Thanks for the tip Phil H.  I think, after reading all the posts I am going to try the Windex first and, if that doesn't work, then the soaking/tape method.  

The paints used were enamel since I haven't been able to spray acrylics successfully yet (probably a mixing ration error on my part) ... and the saving grace is that no clear coat was applied yet.  I just used the decal setting solution, and maybe solvent once, because the decals in the kit seemed too thick to lay down over panel lines, etc.  

Will post back to share results...

  • Member since
    February 2004
  • From: Michigan
Posted by gawrycht on Thursday, September 20, 2018 6:41 AM

Any problems with the Windex discoloring the underlying paint that you've noticed with this method?  They were applied over enamels so my guess would be no, but wanted to ask before I give it a try...  Thanks!

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Thursday, September 23, 2021 3:20 PM

I had to remove a decal from the model hospital ship I'm building (to make room for a decal that I've ordered from a custom decal maker). I had read all the posts in this thread, and approached the task with trepidation since no one offered any simple solutions, and all of the solutions offered seemed to be risky. So I decided to try something that no one suggested!

I used my panel-line engraver to lightly score the edge of the decal, breaking up the semi-glossy acrylic I had sprayed it with, and then moistened the whole thing with water, laid a piece of damp paper towel over it, and waited a couple of hours.

At first the decal seemed unchanged, but a light scrape with a fingernail showed that an edge had lifted slightly. Next, I lightly scored the surface of the decal with the panel-line engraver, and soaked it for another hour. Voila! More slight scraping with a fingernail and then rubbing gently with a moist piece of paper towel almost entirely removed the decal. A few minutes with fine sandpaper should clean it up completely.

I read years ago that water is one of the most effective solvents there is — you just have to give it time to work (and help it along with a fingernail and paper towel).



On the bench: 1/72 Grumman Avenger being kitbashed as a U.S. Forest Service tanker; a diorama to illustrate the crash of a Beech T-34B Mentor which I survived in 1962 (I'm using Minicraft's 1/48 model of the Mentor), and a Pegasus model of the submarine Nautilus of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas fame. 

  • Member since
    April 2020
Posted by Eaglecash867 on Thursday, September 23, 2021 7:00 PM

You can use reverse psychology on old Murphy and his law:

Convince yourself that you really want to keep that decal fully intact, and then convince yourself that the clearcoats will protect it as you mask over the top of it with tape so you can touch up an adjacent area with your airbrush.  You can even deliberately avoid burnishing it down.  Leave the tape on there for just a few minutes, and then remove it.  As long as you trick old Murphy into thinking you want to keep the decal, it will come right off.

On a serious note though, the above masking tape method works just fine...but dabbing at it with a fresh little blob of Blue Tack will pull that decal right off the model, regardless of clearcoats, setting agents, etc.  The dabbing quickly pulls just a little bit of it up enough to get air underneath it, and with a couple more dabs, the whole thing comes right off.  I found that out in a situation where I wasn't trying to remove the decal though, so the reverse psychology thing on Murphy may actually be a necessary component.  The world may never know.  Propeller

"You can have my illegal fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...which are...over there somewhere."

  • Member since
    June 2021
Posted by rocketman2000 on Friday, September 24, 2021 7:34 AM

There is the fine sandpaper method.  Try maybe 2000 grit- labor inntensive but it works.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota


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