Medieval Armies DBA Page

Shield Transfers or Decals

By David Kuijt

Dark Ages Roundshields

Click on the image above for a larger view. Seven of the eight shields shown above are unmodified; the second shield from the right had a little red paint applied to extend the shield-transfer pattern to the edge of the shield.


Decals, or "water-slide transfers" are tiny bits of printed film on a paper backing. This is the same technology that has been in use for a generation for model tanks, planes, and the like.

To apply a decal on a shield previously painted in a constrasting colour you soak it briefly in water then slide the decal carefully onto the flat shield surface. A little bit of adjusting until it is in the right place, then you carefully blot up any extra water and let it dry. Apply a sealer coat over the whole thing to prevent damage, and you are done.

The advantage of decals is clear - you don't need to paint. You can get a very good-looking result very quickly. Even for good painters, this is a very attractive alternative.

The Experiment

I've just finished my first experiment with VVV shield transfers. I got four different sheets of their D3 Dark Ages roundshield pack (1 each of the colours: black, red, white, and yellow) for my Essex/Gladiator Roundshield Morph (armies #74, #75a, #75b, #108, and #113).

I painted the armies completely in advance, leaving the shields simple primary colours. Then I applied the shield transfers more or less at random on contrasting-coloured shields (red or black transfer on white or yellow shields; yellow or white transfer on black/red/green/blue shields).

The results are very attractive.


The transfers were quite easy to use, although a little finicky. A couple of pointers:

The shields on the right all had large bosses, making it slightly awkward to place the transfers. On the leftmost transfer I supplemented the transfer design by extending the transfer pattern to the edge of the shield and adding two curvy rows of four dots. The other two transfers shown are unmodified.

I only have a couple of negative comments to report.

The red-and-white shield on the left was painted white, then a red transfer was applied. The curvy pattern on the transfer was extended out with paint to the edge of the shield; for this particular pattern the result is much nicer than the unmodified transfer. Compare it to the same curvy pattern unmodified in yellow on a black shield at the top of the page.

It is possible to cut the decals to modify them slightly (so they will fit around a horses' mane that presses a corner of the shield, for example). Do this with a sharp exacto knife while the decal is on the backing and is entirely dry -- once wet it will be very hard to deal with.

In the image on the right the leftmost shield transfer is unmodified. On the far right shield transfer I extended the red pattern to the shield edge and added three curvy lines in red.

The decals are quite inexpensive -- $1.99 for a single-colour sheet of 24. The manufacturer has a website online (click here); their products are also sold through a number of distributors (Wargames Inc. in Tridelphia WV, for example). A fairly wide variety of designs is available, in 15mm and 25mm: Hellenistic, Imperial Roman, Late Roman, Medieval, Dark Ages, Barbarian (Gallic/Early German/Early Spanish/Goth), Japan, and even some detailed patterns for umbrella sunshades of Asian army generals.

All in all, I'm very happy with this product. I'm certainly going to be using VVV shield transfers again.

Last modified: December 29, 1998. Added the images, plus some minor editing.

December 23, 1998. Some minor editing; a few more paragraphs added.

Page created: December 22, 1998

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