Being rather obsessive in much of what I do, several years ago when I became involved in
WW2 air gaming, I thought that the bigger planes - US B-17s and B-24s in particular - would
look more historical if they had nose art. After several rather disastrous attempts at painting
something about one quarter inch square, I stumbled onto an idea that works fairly well - decals.
My first breakthrough came when I discovered a source for decal paper - Micro-Mark. This
company sells small tool for modeling, plus supplies for decals. They are on line at www.micromark.com.
The second breakthrough was several reference books on nose art - most particular was
Vintage Aircraft Nose Art by Gary Valant. This has a good
selection of mostly black and white pictures of nose art - mostly taken during the war.
The third was learning to use a scanner and an image manipulation program. I used the Corel
Presentations program, but most any would do. With this I could modify and color the artwork.
The final was finding a source of reasonably priced models so I could put together large
flights of bombers. This was
Spirit Games in the UK.
Reasonably priced, even including shipping, and a very nice proprietor.
After the pictures of the nose art are created, I printed them out at four times the size I
wanted. This is about two inches square on average. This retains good detail from my color
printer, but is not excessively large. I put as many as I could on one sheet of paper. I printed out
sixteen (16) sheets of pictures all together.
With these in hand, plus a pot of money and the decal paper, I went to a local print shop that
had a color printer. I took the 16 sheets and, two at a time, reduced them by 50%. I then took
these eight pages and, two at a time, reduced them by 50% again. These four pages, two at a
time, were reduced by 50% again. I ended up with two sheets - each with 8 of the original sheets
on it. I copied these again at 100% to have full sheets of decals. No reason to waste the decal
paper. After some cutting and pasting I ended up with two full sheets of pictures.
Finally, I took these two sheets and put them on the copier. With the assistance of the worker
at the print shop I inserted the decal paper into the machine and presto - with a 50% reduction I
had a sheet of decals.
Some of the more advanced copy centers will allow you to bring in a disk with the images on
it that can be reduced on the computer and printed directly to the decal paper. Check your copy
center for availability.
These MUST be fixed with some spray or they very easily chip off. Once fixed, they can be
treated like any other water slide decal - cut it out, dip it in water, and slide it into place.
Now for the hard part. Printers don't print white - white comes out clear. This leads to two
- White Decal Paper - This allows white to appear on the decal, but you need to color the
background to match your plane model. Either that or paint VERY carefully around the edge of
the picture. In either event, extra work is needed.
- Clear Decal Paper - This seemed to me like a good solution, but the color is not very dense
and it disappears on any dark background. These work well if you are using aluminum or sand
color, but otherwise the pictures disappear.
If this hasn't scared you away, there are a selection of nose art for B-17s and B-24s below
that I have done up and used on my models. Some are "X" rated, so if you are under 18 you
shouldn't look, I guess, but they are part of our military history. Whatever...
In any event, make sure you measure each picture as they are different heights and they will
fit on the models in different ways. Copy the pictures you want to a picture manipulation
program, go through the steps noted above, and create yourself some really miniature pieces of
If you are interested in this project, contact me (Tom Sparhawk) as I have
quite a few more picture that you might find of use. Conversely, contact me if you create some
nose art as I am always looking to increase my holdings.
A final note. Micro-Mark advertises decal paper that will work with a color ink-jet printer. I
have not tried this paper since my printer does not have the resolution that allow a decent picture
of this size. I will soon try this out to print out the plane ID numbers to go with the nose art. Did I
mention that I was a bit obsessive?