German-Helmets.com  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Collector Topics:  Decal Construction

Photo:  A Luftwaffe decal on a Zimmerit covered helmet.

Decal Construction

The image above shows two German Army (Heer) decals as they would have appeared prior to application.  Decals like this were printed four to sheet of transfer paper before they were cut for single application to a helmet.  On the example shown, the name of the manufacturer was printed on the front and read "Ed Strache, Warnsdorf."  This was a firm that was a major producer of many of the Heer decals used before and during the war.

Many original helmet decals were constructed in such a way that they could only be applied to the helmet surface with the use of lacquer as the transfer medium.  Some decals were also produced that could be applied in a water-transfer format.  The most durable lacquer decal of the era was one that was printed "face down" on transfer paper.   The term "face down" refers to the fact that this kind of decal had the obverse side (the side seen after application) printed on transfer paper while the reverse (or back side) remained exposed until application.

Wartime helmet decals also included a variety sometimes referred to as "foil backs" by helmet collectors.  The term "foil back" is somewhat misleading in that it implies the decal is made of aluminum foil (which it is not).  This type of decal was printed using the "face down" method and it utilized a durable metallic aluminum backing for all silver elements of the exposed design.   So called "foil backs" or "metallic" decals can be found in a variety of types where silver is an element of the overall graphic design.

Original "face down" decals were printed on large sheets of paper which were then cut so that four decals were on a single sheet at one time.  The front side of the decal was the transfer paper to which the image of the decal was printed.  On the front of the paper was printed a light stenciled outline of the decal with cross marks which gave the person applying the decal a means to line the image up correctly on the helmet.

Technology in the 1930-40's also allowed a decal to be printed "face up" on transfer paper.  These decals were printed on a roll of transfer paper and cut individually prior to application.  After being cut from the printed roll the decals were simply soaked in water and then placed on the helmet.  A glue on the backside of the decal served as the bonding agent.  Original "face up" decals cannot be easily distinguished from the type printed "face down" once applied to a helmet.  The fact that there were two different decal printing techniques is not necessarily significant other than that it points out the differences in printing methods available to and preferred by the original manufacturers.  There were many manufactures of helmet decals in wartime Germany and the variations found in the designs are common even though standard sizes and graphics were used.

    Decal Main Topics 

Decal Main

Application

Decal Printers and Dimensions

Construction

    Service Insignia

Heer

Kriegsmarine

Luftwaffe (see below)

National Colors

NS-Party Decals

Polizei Eagle Decals

Reichswehr

SS Runic Shields

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An original National Socialist Party Decal.

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