Solvaset Decal Setting Solution. Just the name of this powerful chemical is enough to send some scale model builders running for cover. Why you may ask? Well, many say itís overpowered, destroys decals, damages paint; pretty much everything negative that could be said, has been said.
Many modelers, however, who have learned to handle and master the use of Solvaset will swear up and down that there is no better decal setting solution on the market. 904-470 Solvaset Decal Setting Solution is made by Walthers who specialize in Model Railroading. Their sales blurb for Solvaset goes like this: "For the most realistic models, decals should look like they're painted on. Getting professional results is easy with Solvaset. It actually softens the decal film so it snuggles down to the surface and stretches over details, such as rivets, without hiding them. Also eliminates air bubbles, white spots, draping and silvering. Just brush it on and Solvaset does the rest!"
Solvaset is a 'hot' decal solvent; it works by apparently melting the decal onto the model and surface details so that it has the covering properties of paint. Compared to Solvaset, Micro-Sol and Micro-Set are much weaker products.
Solvaset, The Tutorial
Now for this study, I've chosen one of my latest builds to demonstrate the proper use of Solvaset. We will be applying the U.S. white star marking to the hood of an M3A1 Scout Car, the decal being from a Zvezda set for the M3A1 kit. It will cover a couple of hinges along with a pair of channels in the hood where the body panels hinge, so there is plenty of heavy surface detail that it will have to cope with and conform to.
In Photo 1 you can see our working area, this example being painted in enamel paint and then airbrushed with a couple of light coats of Johnsonís Future (also known as Klear).
I strongly recommend that you use Solvaset on top of a coat of Future, or other clear coat, as this helps prevent silvering and gives your base coat of paint more protection from discoloration and other problems that may result from using Solvaset. I would strongly recommend against using Solvaset directly on to your paint as it can affect the colour.
In Photo 2 we apply the decal as directed by the instructions. Here you can clearly see the clear decal film in the center sitting on top of the surface details, most notably the hinges. After the decal has been allowed to settle for a few minutes and has dried, it is time to start snuggling it down with Solvaset. Now here is where the real secret of using Solvaset comes into play.
RULE #1 is to use it sparingly. The built-in brush that comes attached to the bottle lid will easily hold too much Solvaset to put on your model in one go. It is therefore important to run the brush against the edge of the bottle neck a few times in order to remove excess liquid, as shown in the photo (making sure of course that you donít knock the bottle over!) You want to add only a little at a time: itís a lot like dry brushing. If there is too much liquid on your brush you run a greater risk of damaging your paint finish as well as maybe floating the decal out of position. Alternatively of course you can ignore the in-built brush and use your own finer paintbrush. I prefer to use the built-in bottle brush myself as itís much handier and you always know where it is.
My Golden Rule is to use the Solvaset as if I was dry brushing, not painting. Too much and you run the risk of at best discoloring your paint, or at worst eating right through the paint, and potentially this can happen even with a clear coat. So we can appreciate the bad reputation it has with some.
In Photo 3 we apply the Solvaset directly on to the decal in small brushing motions. Try to keep the Solvaset on the decal and just barely go around the edges of the decal to minimize any problems with your paint finish. At this stage do not reload your brush with more Solvaset unless itís really necessary with a large decal.
As can be seen in Photo 4, as the Solvaset is quickly brushed on, the decal will start to pull down on to the surface details of the model. At this point you must be careful: as the decal snuggles down it softens, and becomes weaker, so if you keep brushing for too long or too vigorously, your brush can start to damage the decal, causing tears or holes.
Now set the model aside for 2 or 3 hours. Come back when the decal is completely dry and check the way that the dry decal is now sitting on the surface detail of the model. If it still looks like it is sitting on top of the detail, rather than being part of the surface, repeat the last step as necessary until the decal is well and truly snuggled down and it looks like it is painted on rather than stuck on. Remember, too much Solvaset at any one time can damage or destroy your base coats, even those protected by Future or other clear coats. I know this has been mentioned already, but this is the crux of the matter. Go slow, have patience.
As can be seen in Photo 5, the Solvaset has now pulled the decals down on top of the hinges pretty well, and also the white star on the radiator slats has drawn down over the minor details. Also visible on the right and left points of the star is some cracking that occurred due to brushing after the decal had already become too soft. The gap between the panels was just a little too wide for the decal to cover well. I used a toothpick to carefully press the dry decal into these gaps between a couple of the Solvaset applications.
In Photo 6 we can see the finish line; I've fixed the minor cracking damage to the decal, and those gaps in coverage across the body panel joins, with some careful application of white paint. At this stage there is almost no silvering, and we have yet to add our sealing top coat of Future.
In Photo 7 we can see our finished product after the coat of Future, the weathering and a final coat of Testors Dullcote. Note that this photo was taken in bright sunlight.
The last three photos show examples of some other builds on which Iíve used Solvaset. I have been using this product for about a decade and it is one of my primary tools for dealing with decals. I have heard that some aftermarket decals, such as those by Microscale, can have problems with Solvaset, but having not used any of that manufacturerís products I canít comment directly; Iíd always recommend testing on aftermarket stuff before using Solvaset on any important builds. I have certainly used Solvaset on decals from Tamiya, Dragon, Academy, Revell-Monogram, Zvezda, and PST kits without any problems.
I wrote this piece as a starting point for those who wish to know more about using Solvaset, based on my own experience over the past 10 years. Everyone should of course build on their own experiences, using othersí knowledge as a stepping stone. Thank you for reading and I hope that some have found it useful.