Your Guide to Model Car Decals – The What, Why & How

The Decals we apply to our custom Hot Wheels and Diecast Cars is called waterslide decal because of the type of paper it is printed on and the way it is applied. Waterslide Decal Paper is made of two layers, a thin top layer on which the actual images are printed and a white paper backing layer, and when placed in water for a matter of seconds these layers come apart. Simple yes but there’s a couple of things to keep in mind…

CLEAR Vs. WHITE Decal Paper

Since the decals are printed on a layer that separates from the white backing underneath we have the option of choosing whether this top layer is clear or white.
If the decal paper is a CLEAR version then anything you see in white on the decal sheet product examples will appear clear – well, not at all technically.
The obvious main advantage of using a clear backed decal over a white backed one is the fact that you don’t need to be precise when cutting around the small logos and lettering associated with racing livery and motor racing in general.  So Far So Good?

white vs clear decal paper - exciting stuff indeed

When using a WHITE version of the decal paper you get a slightly brighter and clearer image (due to the background being solid) and you also get anything printed in white actually appearing. For this reason I have made sure that decals that are best suited to a white backing are grouped with other decals of the same nature.
Obviously I have done the same for decals requiring a clear backing – which to be honest is the majority of them anyway.

TIP: If you have a decal with white in or on it and it’s printed on clear decal paper then simply apply a small amount of white paint to the section of the vehicle where you know it will show through. Decal appears white where it needs to and rest of decal covers edge of your painting. Problem solved.

How to Apply Your Water-Slide Decals:

Note that instructions on how to apply and care for your decals will come enclosed with each and every order.

how to apply waterslide decals


  1. Cut out your desired decal and place it into a small cup or bowl of water.
    Wait 10 – 30 seconds.
  2. Using Tweezers, remove the decal from the water.
    You may notice the back separating from the decal image already.
  3. With your (clean) fingers, gently pinch the decal and slide your fingers apart
    This forces the backing paper to slide off  AND leaves the decal resting gently on your fingertip
  4. Take the decal from your finger tip with your tweezers.
    make not of which way around it is so you can apply it easily – and correctly!
  5. Gently apply the decal to your custom hotwheels – roughly in the spot it needs to be.
    Once the decal is applied you have a minute or so before it doesn’t want to budge
  6. Using a Cotton bud (Q-Tip) or your finger  gently manoeuvre the decal into the desired position.
    I prefer the finger because it is more precise but as a habit try not to touch the decal too much as it can taint the decals quality
  7. Once in position gently wipe away any excess water droplets and run it over the surface of the decal.
    Some of the smaller decals will move when you try this step so consider them ready for ‘clear coat’
  8. With the decal in position (and assuming there aren’t more to come) apply Spray Lacquer or Clear Coat to the surface.
    Clear Coat is a spray lacquer that locks the decal in place and sticks it down permanently.
  9. You are done! – Reattach the interior and wheels and enjoy your new custom creation with it’s awesome decals.

Note: Clear Coat Spray Lacquer comes in Semi Gloss and Full Gloss. The Semi Gloss should be called Semi (Semi Semi Semi Semi) Gloss because if applied to a gloss coat of paint it will almost completely remove the luster and shine of your wonderfully glossy paint job. I use and always recommend sticking with Full Gloss Spray Lacquer – reserving the semi gloss for the times when I need to decal a custom with a matte finish….which hasn’t happened yet.

How to Remove Car Decals

It’s one thing to be able to apply decals to your model car but what if you made a mistake and want to remove car decals from your latest build? Or even worse, what if the original model you are working with came from the factory with horrible decals (also known as Tampos) and you want to know how to remove these decals before you apply your own quality decals from My Custom Hot Wheels

In order to be able to safely and easily remove car decals from your model you need to make sure the area is clean and that all paint and polish that you may have been using is clear from the surface and you are working with a clean model. Next thing you are going to need is some Nail Polish Remover.

Using cotton buds (Q-Tips) or a clean cloth wrapped around your fingertip dip the end in the nail polish remover and then apply to the body of the plastic or diecast model that you are working with. If you push too hard you will also start to take off the paint as well and it will also take away paint from the edges like door trim and headlight areas – so be careful! If you want to remove car decals put on by the company – a decal application that is known as Tamping or Tampos – hence the name. Removing these is the same process as removing car decals with the only difference being that tampos or factory applied decals are much more stubborn and require a bit more elbow grease.

For a full description and guide on how to remove Tampos from Hot Wheels and other diecast cars follow THIS LINK HERE

Caring For Your Model Car Decals


how to care for your custom hot wheels and decals

As the final step above mentions, it is imperative that you cover your decals with clear lacquer within a few hours of applying them to the vehicle. The natural glue within the decal paper only works for so long and if you don’t apply clear coat then you will find all your beautifully placed decals starting to peel up at the ends. A good single coat of spray lacquer is more than enough to make sure your decal stays where it is supposed to for the life of the custom.

Speaking of life – if you want your unused decals to last then make sure you store them in a drawer and away from direct sunlight and heat sources like your HDD under the table. Other than that there is not much more to know when it comes to applying and maximising the effects of 1:64 scale Hot Wheels Racing Decals. All that’s left to do now is check out the range of decals and race livery currently available…


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