Thursday, May 03, 2012


Shield Transfers.  They are a must for Romans, unless your freehand skills are much better than mine.  The Warlord Legionaries come with a sheet, and very nice looking they are too.  All you need is the decals, some water and your normal hobby tools.  What could be simpler?

 I hate them with a passion I normally reserve for living things.

 I did not build models as a child.  I reserved my time for things I could play with.  When I started with miniatures they were either for D&D they were Battle Tech Mechs or 6mm armor for Twilight 2000.  None of these required decals of any type.  For the last ten years my modeling has, again, been all figures.  In that time I collected Warhammer and Lord of the Rings.  I bought an IG army, right before I realized that I hate the 40k rules (almost as much as transfers it turns out).  My tanks wallow in unpainted splendor.

Now that I have moved into historicals, I knew that I would be using transfers.  I have been dreading it, but, as I stated above, they really are pretty necessary to make the models look great.  As I made progress on painting the first box of Romans my dread slowly grew. 

I got the box of twenty two dudes painted in two days.  I sat on them for two more, dreading getting started.  Today I decided, "I need to get these done, how hard can it be?"  It can be miserably hard and frustrating, that's how hard it can be.

I trimmed them first.  I dry fitted them over the shields and they appeared to be too big, so trimmed them some more.  This, it turns out, was actually a mistake.  I should have done just one, and tested the fit.  So most of the transfers are now a little small with some missing detail.   Happily, since I butchered eight of them (almost 50%), the last few are the right size.

I found a nice tutorial this morning, purely by accident, when I finally noticed that Big Lee uses the Pages feature of Blogger (something else I've been wanting to try but dreading).  One of his pages is tutorials, one of which happens to be about putting on decals.  "Sweet Serendipity!" I exclaimed!  (Not really, but I thought it really loudly).  So, with the tutorial up on the screen, I was ready to start.

The first one, I set in the water for fifteen seconds, then set it down on the desk to soak for thirty seconds.  This, it turns out, is not necessary with Warlord's very nice decals.  I went to pick it up and ended up with a crumpled red and black blob on my finger.  Lesson one learned.  Don't manhandle them after they are wet.

The next two ripped, crinkled and tore.  Finally, I got one on.  "Wow, that totally sucked, but at least now I know what I'm doing".  Dumb ass.  I got five more on, more or less intact.  (More of them  more than less, but some less).  Then, five in a row were unusable disasters.  At this point I was throwing tiny shields across the room and swearing up a blue streak.  SWMBO chose that moment to walk in. 

Once I was speaking coherently again I explained to her my frustration.  Then, in a fit of genius, I asked her for help.  She sat down, I explained the whole thing to her and she gave it a shot.  The first one did not make the cut, but was much better than any of my first three attempts.  Her second one was just right and she banged out the rest of the ones I had prepared in a few minutes.

At this point I had happy visions of her finishing off the rest of the shields for me.  It only makes sense, right?  Not so fast.  I cut out the next set of transfers, to make up for the destruction of the forlorn hope of the first wave.  She explained her method.  I pretended incomprehension.  She agreed to do one more, to show my dumb ass what she was describing.

She placed one more decal.  Happily, for my sanity, with a little bit of muttering.  Her method was ingenious.  She slides the transfer half way off the paper before applying it to the shield.  I have very large hands which do not like this fiddly work.  SWMBO's method negates most of the drawbacks of my meat hooks.  I was able to place the rest of the transfers with no more wastage and only a moderate amount of muttering.  I huge improvement over my earlier attempts.

Now I just need to do some clean up.  I have some tears and rips to paint over.  Since I trimmed them too small I have to hit the edges.  I don't like the steel color around the edges and I'm going to bronze those.  I also need to hit the backs with wood color.  Once all of that is done I'll be ready to glue them to the figures and varnish the lot of them.  I'm going to, optimistically, say that will be tomorrow.

Will the end result be worth the pain?  Yes it will.  Am I looking forward to the transfers on the other four boxes of Romans?  Just the thought of it makes me break out in a cold sweat.


  1. A cautionary tale indeed!

    I've slapped a few decals on my 1/72nd scale tanks and wasn't happy with results but my free hand skills are pretty woeful at drawing German Crosses or Allied Stars so that I'll probably have to persevere with it

  2. I love the idea of the transfers, so I guess I'll just have to keep practicing. It sort of feels like work at that point though.

  3. They're a right pain in the butt, as you've found out, but boy do they look good when they're on and just think of all the painting you've saved!!

  4. I guess it's that whole, paying for quality. In this case, paying in frustration. You're right though, they sure do look great when they are on.


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