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Duration:   11  mins

You might want to apply decals to items on your layout, such as buildings and boxcars. Modeler Martin Tärnrot discusses and demonstrates working with model railroad decals – what you can do with them, what the challenges are, and whether you should buy them or make your own.


You can buy a decal sheet and print the decals from your home printer, but the main color of many decals is white, and there is no white color in printers. This can be solved if you can replace the black cartridge in your printer with a white one. Another problem is that on most printers, the user can’t control the order in which the colors print, and you need white to print first to give an opaque background for the decals to show when applied to surfaces.

Let’s see how Martin addresses these and other issues with model railroad decals.


Decal sheets can be purchased on Amazon and eBay or at local hobby stores. You need to create the graphic, ideally in a vector-based drawing program like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Martin creates two graphics, one a black and white logo and one a full-color graffiti. He advises test printing all graphics on plain paper before printing them on a decal sheet, to make sure everything looks and prints correctly. Martin prints them out at 600dpi.


He cuts the graffiti decal and drops it in a bowl of water for a minute or when it starts to separate from the backing. Remove the decal and backing from the water with tweezers. You’ll have to watch the video to see how Martin seamlessly separates the decal from the backing while simultaneously applying it to the desired surface. With a small paintbrush, smooth the decal out on the surface.


Martin discusses much more in the video than is summarized here. In addition, check the MRA site for other videos on model railroad decals, including Applying Model Railroad Decals to Boxcars and Applying and Weathering Decals on a Structure.

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