by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Every so often an item is released which forces you to reassess what it's possible to produce. So it is for me with the latest decal set from Fantasy Printshop in their Euro Decals range. Sheet #ED32122 features the F-15C Eagle in the Oregon ANG’s 2016 special 75th anniversary scheme - arguably one of the most spectacular Eagles ever, and the decals are simply astounding.
While it's not uncommon to see decals of very intricate nose and tail art, they are almost always reproduced as a bitmaps - which are simple to print and thus keep costs down. The downside to this method is that the image is produced as a pattern of dots in a limited number of primary colours, "dithered" to give the illusion of different hues. The result is often slightly soft and "murky".
The difference here is that Ray Horwell at Fantasy Printshop has laid down every colour as a separate ink - and it's the sheer numbers involved that makes this set of decals so extraordinary. For instance, I counted 12 individual colours in the eagle's head designs, and the same again in the outer vertical tail artwork. The complex designs are printed as single items, so it's not left to the modeller to apply multiple layers and line things up by eye, and the registration is flawless as far as I can see. (Having done printmaking as part of my degree in Art and struggled to keep four colours in register, I'm awed by the expertise required to control a dozen stages this precisely!)
Ironically, the only elements of the colour scheme that you do have to apply as two layers are among the simplest - the tail “feathers”, where the medium grey is dithered at the edge to reveal white underneath.
The decals are spread across 4 sheets, and the items are thin and glossy with crystal clear carrier film. A full colour sheet of instructions is included, with FS colour matches for Humbrol, Xtracolour, Xtracrylix and Lifecolor model paints where possible.
Of course, the proverbial "elephant in the room" is that this type of expert printing inevitably comes with a price tag that reflects the man hours involved - you simply can't speed up the process while maintaining accuracy, and this sheet represents some of the most painstaking attention to achieving perfection that I've ever seen. So, the sheet retails for a shade under £60 - which in my opinion represents a very fair price for the amount of work that it takes Ray to produce each set.
ConclusionThis is a stunning set of decals, and a sure sign that modellers are prepared to pay for such excellence is that the sheet instantly attracted healthy pre-orders as soon as it was announced. That represents some serious investments, so I can imagine a number of builds are already underway as modellers get ready to reveal show-stopping Eagles finished with these decals at many model shows in the near future.
Note: Ray is also planning to produce the set in 1:72 and 1:48 - and, to be honest, if the smaller sheets involve the same number of colours, they should be even more remarkable.
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