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Terry Sumner

What's your opinion on clearcoating over decals?

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This was the subject of a discussion my modeling club had...the practise of clearcoating over the top of decals. On the 1:1 cars, all the decals are actually vinyl stickons so they leave a definite "edge". So to be accurate we should not spray clear over the tops because we lose that "edge." This was the basis of the discussion we had back and forth...some guys wanted the accuracy, some guys didn't care and wanted that super smooth glossy finish.

Just curious as to what's the opinion on this group of NASCAR modelers?

And my apologies if there already is a discussion on this...I couldn't find one via the search feature...

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I usually clear over decals, but in the case of a Nascar, I wouldn't. It wouldn't look real if the decals looked painted on.

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Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. When I built NASCAR models, I cleared over the decals. For better or worse, all the NASCAR models look the same as the day I finished them. Some 13+ years later, none of those decals have lifted, peeled, chipped, flaked, discolored, or otherwise gone wonky. Some self-appointed internet expert may look down his nose at me for it, but hey, that's their problem, not mine B)

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Speaking as a former signpainter, lettering that is PAINTED on (as opposed to vinyl stickers or wraps) is as glossy, if not glossier, that the car it's painted on, so for darkside racers clearcoating would actually be more realistic.....as long as it's not TOO glossy. That being said, I don't really think there's a nickles worth of difference either way....like Brian said, personal preference. I can't remember ever looking at a Nascar model and saying "dang, he ruined it by clearcoating over the decals."

Edited by roadhawg

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At 1/24 or 1/25 who's going to be able to tell? If you were building an 1/8 scale maybe, but even then that's getting pretty fussy.

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For fear of my decals flaking over time i started clearing over them as i got older. Then again i'm not building museum pieces, so its largely preference i think.

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I will add myself to the list of those that clear over the decals.

I'm with MonoPed and Scuderia on the clear adding durability to your decals. I've got cars over 20 years old that I've reccently polished again, without any incidents regarding decals, and they look good with the rest of the cars in the case.

The decals they use on the real cars are 3mm thick on average, kinda hard to replicate in scale. My other opinion is, if you want ultra realism by having the decals not cleared, you have to cut out every letter, number and logo, because there is no clear film around any of the graphics on the real cars.

Of course, there isn't a single contest judge here in the midwest that will pick a car over another because the decals aren't cleared.

Do not consider my opinion a slam on anybody's opinion by any means! I have my opinion that I'm happy with, and won't judge others on a different choice. Shoot, this question is almost as debated as "What is correct for Petty blue! :lol:

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The only reason I could see not to clear over the decals is if on the real car, the stickers are less shiny than the paint, and you were a very fussy NASCAR builder.

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I always clear over decals because I want the gloss or lack there-of, to match, but also because I want the decals to last. In forty years I want the decals to look as good as they do now.

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This has always been a gray area for my Nascar builds. Most times, I do not clear over my decals. On two of my recent builds, I had to seal splintering decals with clear coat to give them some protection. You know the two cars that I get the most compliments about finish at shows??? Yep, the clear coated decal cars! :blink:

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At 1/24 or 1/25 who's going to be able to tell? If you were building an 1/8 scale maybe, but even then that's getting pretty fussy.

Actually Bruce you can tell quite easily. We had a few models present side by side and you could easily tell which ones were clear coated and which were not. I don't really have a horse in this race as I've only built 2 modern NASCAR race cars and I still have that third one partly done. I was just curious how a group of modelers who regularly build NASCAR race cars felt about the matter....

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I don't build NASCAR either, but from what I know the typical NASCAR racer is not show-car shiny. Wouldn't a clear coat be a bit much on a NASCAR model as far as gloss goes? I mean, if you're after the most authentic look possible.

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There are sevearl factors here to consider

1- like some have said, it depends on the era, anything from the 90's and up, you can clear coat the body.

2- If you are building a superspeedway car( Daytona or Talladega car) then you can clear coat over the decals, as the teams do clear coat over the decals .

I do clear coat over decals, just to seal them, and not have to worry about anything happing to the decals.

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If the decal represents a painted graphic or motif, it gets cleared. If it represents a decal, I don't clear over it. That's how I approach it.

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Actually Bruce you can tell quite easily. We had a few models present side by side and you could easily tell which ones were clear coated and which were not. I don't really have a horse in this race as I've only built 2 modern NASCAR race cars and I still have that third one partly done. I was just curious how a group of modelers who regularly build NASCAR race cars felt about the matter....

Yes if you put them side by side it would easily show up. What I meant was if you shrunk a Cup car down to 1/25 I don't think it would be noticable. But Harry is right, unless it's a superspeedway or show car they are not that glossy.

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So I think I just learned something here. I thought ALL NASCAR race cars had stick-on vinyl graphics and NONE were ever clear coated over those stick-ons. But from what I gathered here some cars actually have painted on graphics? And some cars have stick-on graphics that they actually clear coat over?

How the heck do you know which are which? Or is it ONLY the cars that run on the big super speedways that use the clear coat? I'm presuming for aerodynamic reasons?

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Clear coat would help preserve the decals. If you're a rivet counter and want a scale downed exact replica, I wouldn't. Believe it or not, normal house lights will eventually fade the decals! I had a model with decals that faded over a year! Its up to you.

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So I think I just learned something here. I thought ALL NASCAR race cars had stick-on vinyl graphics and NONE were ever clear coated over those stick-ons. But from what I gathered here some cars actually have painted on graphics? And some cars have stick-on graphics that they actually clear coat over?

How the heck do you know which are which? Or is it ONLY the cars that run on the big super speedways that use the clear coat? I'm presuming for aerodynamic reasons?

I don't think ANY modern race cars have actual painted on lettering.....that was from the mid-80s back. And they didn't clearcoat over it then, it's just the lettering was just as glossy as the car itself, so clearcoating a model from that era would give the paint and the decals the same gloss. Around the mid-80s, they started using computer-cut vinyl stickers, that have sort of a matte finish, different from the paint. Today they use Wraps, as explained here:

..... everything except contingency decals are printed on a plastic coating that's applied with a heat gun like shrink wrap.
Edited by roadhawg

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I have always cleared my decals, or they flake off in a couple of years? If someon has a better idea, let me know.

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I have always cleared my decals, or they flake off in a couple of years? If someon has a better idea, let me know.

I'm the same way, the one time I did not clear over them, they lasted about 10 years (not bad I guess) but they did start flaking off.

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I clear them because of the durability, but I don't polish them as much as I do a Drag Car or Street car.

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I always get a kick out of this subject. There is never a cosistant opinion and both sides have valid points. Having said that, here is my opinion. Decals should all have a clear coat over them. For the most part they are just a bit to delicate to withstand the rigors of time if you don't. A fingernail accidentally hitting them can scrape them.

As to the other issues, thickness of the edge is always a discussion point. Frankly, clear coating alone does not remove that edge by it's self. To get rid of it, you have to lay on enough clear coat and then sand the edge away. If you want the edge, then you can leave it with judicious sanding. Your choice.

Second is the level of gloss. Again, this does not have to be a funtion of the gloss coat. If you want the area over the decal to have a little less gloss, then a light sanding of the area can scuff it enough to give the appearance of a sticker. A 4000 or 5000 grit sanding stick will do the job nicely.

I like to have my models last in good condition as long as possible. Clear coating over the decals promotes that result. Getting the look you want is still possible even with a clear coat.

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Well, I guess I'm on the middle... Sometimes I clear over the decals, but sometimes I just leave them without clearing. But now, when I have practised polishing paint jobs, I have to clear over decals, so I can polish. Decals stay in good condition, and they don't crackle off if they are installed nicely and they are smooth. MicroSol also helps them to stay on their place, I guess.

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Count me in as another one who clears over his decals. I personally like to because it seals them in and protects them. I have had some kits in the past that I built and did not clear over and over time they have worn a little or age tooks its toll on them.

I have a 1/16th scale Front Engine Dragster build over in the drag racing section that I have shown the decals before I have cleared and then the process where I have cleared over and have started to color sand and polish the body out.

I think it ends up being a personal preference on if you want to clear over decals or not.

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