The Quality Hobby Shop has put this page together to help you maximize your enjoyment of the wonderful hobby of scale model building. Here you will find many useful tips and tricks including; Choosing a Model, Assembling The Model, Painting The Model, Detailing The Model, Applying Decals, Using an Airbrush and Things You'll Need.
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Model Kit Tips and Tricks
Building model kits is rewarding, educational and fun! This guide is organized as follows;
Choosing a Model / About Skill Levels
Assembling The Model
Painting The Model
Detailing The Model
Using an Airbrush
Things You'll Need
- Newcomers to the hobby should choose a simple to build kit for their first two or three models. This gives you valuable experience and a finished model quite quickly.
- Don’t give up on a project if things go wrong as you build it. Get it finished as best you can even if it’s totally messed up!. Get experience painting your finished masterpiece even if its not perfect because it will help the next time.
Choosing A Model
- Look for a model at the proper skill level. Think about the person the model is intended for - his interests, his hobbies, his personal history.
- Consider what attracts the person's interest. For example, he might have a favorite race car driver, and a model of that driver's car would be an appropriate choice.
- Look around the person's house. Notice the character of the models that have been assembled and seek out one of similar style.
- Check the manufacturer's name on the person's assembled models to learn the type and quality he prefers.
Ask for recommendations from a friend or relative of the person you're buying the model for.
- Remember that model kits aren't confined to cars, ships and airplanes. Perhaps a model of the Saturn moon rocket or the starship Enterprise would appeal.
What’s My Skill?
Revell, Testors, AMT and other model kits feature a skill level on the packaging-1, 2, or 3-which will help you identify the amount of skill and/or model building experience needed to allow the builder to get the full enjoyment from the kit. Let's look at each of them a bit more closely: (Revell AG has 5 skill levels)
Skill 1-Basic-No painting, No glue necessary-Ages 8 and up
Skill Level 1 kits are molded in color, so no painting is needed to have a good looking replica when finished. They also are engineered to snap together without requiring the use of glues or cements. Skill Level 1 kits also typically feature a smaller number of parts as well as not too many very small parts. They're aimed at the younger builder as well as someone of any age that may not have too much model building experience or someone getting back into modeling after a number of years. Skill Level 1 kits also feature "peel and stick" type markings instead of the waterslide type decal found in our Skill Level 2 and 3 kits. No water, No glue, No paint, No mess!
Skill 2-Intermediate-Paint and Glue needed-Ages 10 and up
This is the largest group of kits and are by far our most popular model kits. Most are molded in a neutral color such as white to make it easier to paint, as most traditional modelers prefer to do. The molded color will appear in the information section on the boxside as well as the approximate number of parts contained in the kit. The greater the part count, the greater the number of smaller parts and thus, the greater the detail. Glue or cement will be needed to assemble the parts of your kit. Skill Level 2 kits also feature traditional waterslide type decals. Waterslide decals offer greater detail, more colors and are much thinner than peel and stick markings for more realism.
Skill 3-Advanced-Paint and Glue needed-Ages 12 and up
Skill Level 3 kits are our most advanced kits and offer an appropriate level of detail and authenticity. Frequently extra parts are also supplied for multiple building versions. We suggest the builder have some previous model building experience before tackling a Skill Level 3 kit due to the complexity of some of the assemblies and/or the multiple color painting schemes needed. Skill Level 3 kits also require glue or cement for assembly and feature waterslide decal sets, some of which are quite elaborate.
Skill 4, 5- kits are the most advanced
They offer an appropriate level of detail and authenticity, they usually require extensive work with the interior/engine details of the model kit. Frequently extra parts are also supplied for multiple building versions. We suggest the builder have some previous model building experience before tackling a Skill Level 3,4,5 kit due to the complexity of some of the assemblies and/or the multiple color painting schemes needed. Skill Level 3,4,5 kits also require glue or cement for assembly and feature waterslide decal sets, some of which are quite elaborate.
Assembling the Model
- You need a large table with adequate lighting.
- Familiarize yourself with the instructions.
- Cut, rather than break, individual parts from the plastic trunks or sprues.
- Compare the parts included, to the list of parts needed.
- Clean up the parts using sandpaper to remove nubs and excess plastic resulting from manufacturing, then wash them in a mild detergent and allow to dry.
- Collect your tools.
- Follow the parts assembly sequence exactly.
-Use the minimum amount of glue necessary to make a solid bond.
-Enhance your assembled model by filling in gaps with putty and carefully sanding the filled surface.
Painting The Model
- Do your research if you're building a replica. Every era has incorporated its own style. A replica of a Model T painted pink would not be an accurate model of the original car but then again it might also be what most reflects your vision.
- Check Internet sources for pictures and tips.
- Get active in a modeler's club and learn hands-on tips from more experienced modelers.
- Plan your paint scheme if you're crafting your own design. If you want to design your own conception of a muscle car, for example, you should sketch out the design first.
- Work on a clean surface.
- Clean your model. Use rubbing alcohol as a cleaner and then let the model dry thoroughly to remove all oil and any other contamination, including excess glue.
- Construct a simple paint stand from scrap material.
- Put the model or model part on a paint stand or on a drop cloth.
- Shake the spray can thoroughly to mix paint properly.
- Test the nozzle by spraying a piece of cardboard or other scrap.
- Plan on multiple thin coats rather than one thick coat.
- Start spraying to one side of the model, stroke over the model, and spray past the model before you stop.
-Aerosol spray paints are good, but you may want to invest in an airbrush system as you grow in the hobby.
-Bright, shiny finishes can be achieved by painting the desired color, letting the model dry, lightly sanding with 1200-grit sandpaper until the finish dulls, spraying with a clear coat, lightly sanding again and then finishing with a buffing compound.
-Complete the detail work as necessary with fine-tipped artist brushes.
-Some modelers claim better results by thinning enamels with lacquer thinner rather than mineral spirits. You must spray a lacquer-based primer. Usually any automotive sand-able primer works.
-Paint in a ventilated area and wear a painter's mask.
-Some models, have the finish painted on the inside of a clear plastic body.
-Many experienced modelers suggest using primers when painting with acrylics.
Detailing The Model
- Check your model finish to determine whether water-based acrylic or petroleum-based paints will serve better.
- Remember that you'll need sandpaper to prepare the surface to be painted.
- Use rubbing alcohol to remove skin oils and other contaminants from your model. Use alcohol as a cleanser only after testing it on a piece of scrap.
- Handle your clean, ready-to-paint model only while wearing gloves.
- Note that beginning modelers most often use aerosol paints. Choose a quality brand.
- Remember that some model-painting projects will require brushes. Find soft, flexible brushes and keep them clean.
- Invest in an airbrush painting system when you're ready to take the next step in the modeling hobby.
- Read, read, read. Check modelers magazines and the Internet to learn what works and what doesn't.
- Wait until the model's paint finish has dried a full 24 hours before applying decals.
- Start by cleaning the area on your model where the decal is to be applied. Dish detergent or rubbing alcohol should work nicely.
- Soak a water-slide decal until it can be moved with a very gentle touch.
- Plan carefully the point of application - a water-slide decal can only be moved a few millimeters.
- Rub the decal gently with a rounded pen end while it's moist to remove bubbles.
- Use a needle point to release air from bubbles produced as the decal dries and sets, and then seal with clear lacquer.
-You can customize your model by applying aftermarket decals.
-Try soaking a self-adhesive decal in soapy water before application. The solution will lubricate the surface sufficiently to allow you to position the decal, but the decal should still adhere after it dries.
-Seal dry-transfer decals with a clear-coat paint.
-Hide the edge of decals on tires by applying a coat of clear gloss paint to the tire first, letting it dry, and then applying the decal. Next, apply a second coat of clear gloss over the decal and the rest of the tire.
-Some hobbyists suggest lightly misting the area of decal application with glass cleaner, applying the decal, and then seating and positioning. Use this technique only after experimenting on your model with a piece of scrap plastic.
Using an Airbrush
- Use an airbrush when you want to paint thin lines, cover large areas with an even coat, highlight models with subtle changes of tone and mix unique colors.
- Make your first airbrush a good-quality, single-action, external-mix unit with a compressor.
Move up to a double-action airbrush, which controls paint volume and air volume with a single lever, as you become more competent.
- Learn about air compressors. Diaphragm compressors are inexpensive, but pulses of the diaphragm can sometimes be seen in the paint finish. The best choice is an automatic-reservoir compressor, which does not run constantly but maintains the constant, steady pressure required.
- Remember, many expert painters suggest that moisture traps and a gauged, pressure-regulating valve are worthwhile accessories for a beginner's airbrush unit.
- Build a simple paint booth with an exhaust fan. Keep a paint respirator handy and use it faithfully.
- Be sure the paint you are using is appropriate for the material used in the model's construction. Some plastics require special paint.
- Check to see whether a primer is necessary.
- Practice with your new airbrush. Use scrap metal and plastic as target materials.
- Remember, the key to getting an even finish is to start the airbrush to one side of the target area, spray with an even stroke across it and go past the area before releasing the trigger.
- Practice, using scrap materials, other applications such as thin lines and shading from one color to another.
Use white artist's tape, drafting tape or automotive-quality flexible masking tape rather than over-the-counter masking tape, which may leave a residue when removed.
- Avoid spraying at an angle or with excessive force along tape-masked borders to keep paint from leaking under the tape edge.
- Clean your airbrush tip by spraying water, with a bit of liquid dishwashing soap added, through it after painting with acrylic paints.
- Use common rubbing alcohol to finish the job as necessary.
-Practice. Like any skill, painting with an airbrush comes easily to those who practice most.
-Water-based acrylics have become the paint of choice for modelers who use high-quality, major brands. Hobbyists can find premixed paint in authentic colors.
-Some hobbyists prefer carbon dioxide or nitrogen gas reservoir tanks for a pressure source for airbrushes; however, inert-gas tanks must be refilled.
-Wear a paint mask when using an airbrush. Safety goggles are useful as well.
-Always use an airbrush in a well-ventilated area.
-Paint particles can overspray and damage other objects.
Things You'll Need
-Plastic Model/replica Kits
-Gripping Straight Tweezers