DIY Decals and Greek Hoplons

One of the projects I started recently is a 28mm Spartan army based up for Mortem et Gloriam. I had a stash of Black Tree Designs Spartans primed and mounted on craft sticks ready to go. As I finished each unit I turned to what to do with the shields. While plain bronze or a simple black outline lamda would have been historically accurate I could not help but try to bring a little style to what is a largely plain Spartan appearance (pun intended).

From time to time I have dabbled with printing my own decals on an inkjet printer so I decided to spruce up some lamdas to make the units more eye catching. This entry will outline my process and in particular how I deal with those pesky hoplon shields and their sexy curves.

The process of DIY decals is pretty straightforward:

  • Find or create your image
  • Paste it into a document
  • Print out on decal paper using an inkjet
  • After the ink is dry give it several light coatings of a clear gloss sealer
  • When totally dry cut, trim, soak and apply, usually using some combination of decal softener and setting solution.

My process started with image searching “Spartan shield designs”. For the record I avoid using the images of commercial decals which I find. I quickly came up with several good candidates.

In particular the black and white image is fun. Using Paint I am able to change the colors of the different parts to create different shields. If you find the Paint fill tool only changes the color of a single dot rather than an entire section you might have a grey scale rather than monochrome image. In that case it is best to save the image as a monochrome bmp image which reduces the colors to just black and white. Then save that image as a 256 bit color image. This then should allow you to change the color of an entire area at once. Note I am a complete duffer when it comes to the graphic arts. If you are experienced you will probably be using Photoshop or Gimp and vector graphics. For me Paint and bmps and pngs are good enough.

After editing and saving the shields I import them into a Word document where I can resize and duplicate the images and prepare the print. The end product is something like this:

After printing and sealing the decal sheet it was time to start applying the decals and this is where the shape of the hoplon will give you trouble. The shields are painted white and then given a coat of clear acrylic (Future floor wax) to provide a smooth surface. The curved shape of the shield makes it difficult for the decal to lie flat on the surface. Instead it crimps and sticks up in various random locations. To alleviate this I cut small snips around the edges to help them fold down. After experimenting I found 5 snips to be sufficient to achieve a relatively smooth application.

It was then I noticed a new problem. The decal solution seemed to keep making the edges flip up like the brim of a baseball rally cap. No matter what I did they edge refused to lay down. I tried painting some white glue under the edge of the decal and that seemed to mostly solve the problem but required me to keep applying pressure to the edge while the glue set.

I stepped back and rethought the process. Instead of decal solution I painted the shields with a little dilute white glue.

I then proceeded to soak and apply the decals to the shields.

At this point they are still bumpy. I then place a piece of foam over the decals and put a weight on top of the sponge.

That works to provide pressure on the edges while keeping the decal centered on the shield. After a bit the weight and foam is removed.

The edge is then painted to get rid of the white and the back is painted bronze. A couple of coats of clear acrylic help to seal the deal.

All that remains is supergluing the shields to the figures. To do this I place a drop of glue on the figure’s arm and a drop of accelerant to the inside of the shield. Then bring the two together and hold for 5-7 seconds.

These two units will be joining the army with units equipped with hand painted shields. Although my hand painting isn’t too bad, after painting almost 100 shields it is somewhat of a relief to work with the decals.

And with the next project being a 20mm Successor army with shields like these I will definitely be cranking out the decals.