Are you a builder or a painter?

Don’t wimp out and say you like each equally. Everyone deep down prefers one phase over the other. Not that you’re necessarily better at one, but that you enjoy one over the other. This is a fundamental tenet of modelers and the hobby. Everyone is required to be proficient at both, yet they are two completely different skill sets that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. They actually require two different types of craftsman / artist.
So, down deep, which are you? Do you paint just to finish your build, or do you build just to have something to paint?
Myself, even though I have mastery of the airbrush and am an accomplished painter, finisher, and weathering artist, I am a builder. I enjoy the build more. I truly savor the planning, cutting, cleaning, shaping, assembly, and gluing of a kit, resulting in a good solid perfect build. I enjoy the intricacy of adding photo etch, scratchbuilt parts, wire, etc. to superdetail a kit. To me, there’s no sense moving on to painting and weathering until you can achieve a near perfect build to put it on.
So, search your soul and decide. Are you a builder or a painter? Why?


I am more of a painter. But I can use a lot more practice.
My pre shading is weak and the same with any modulation, especially with an airbrush.
And I am sick of wheels, I generally half ass it and try to hide it weathering.
Building really gets to my nerves as I usually break off a lot of small parts.
I really need to get like a clamping system to stop handling the kit as it progresses.
And my shop lighting really needs improvement.
Since I upgraded my tweezers, it has really made a difference with the fiddly bits.

I get more enjoyment out of building. I like painting, but really like adding small details during the build process which come to life once painted.

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I like painting better as to me it brings the plastic to life and really transforms the kit, however, I am much more proficient at the build currently. But slowly learning to master the airbrush

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Collector, that would truly describe my hobby involvement.

However, I prefer the building aspect more then painting. Mainly because cause I feel I am better at construction then painting and enjoy the research part to help with the building part.

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I’m a painter. I like building but it drains me when there are a bunch of intricate PE pieces that need to be completed before I can get on with the painting.

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I enjoy the build for all the reasons you stated. Kind of like creating something from nothing(well, almost anyway). But for me it’s the painting, weathering, adding stowage, etc. that really make the build come alive and give it character so to speak.

I am a builder. My builds usually bog down in the painting stage.

I don’t see that in the final creation that either one or the other is fundamentally more or less important. I don’t believe that either can be or should be prioritized over the other if the modeler’s goal is his or her best possible work.

Building is about getting the details right, and by right, I mean showing the viewer what the viewer needs and expects to see in order to suspend disbelief that he or she is not looking that the real thing… just in miniature.

Finishing is about the exact same effort to show the viewer what he or she needs or expects to see in order to, again, suspend disbelief that what they’re looking at is not the real thing… in miniature.

Construction and finishing are two sides of the same coin and, IMO, cannot be separated if the final creation, the scale model, is to be perceived by the viewer as a true and credible replica of the original. Both detail and geometry have to be combined with the finish before the model can be accepted by the viewer as something other than what it is. The viewer has to see everything together, but the viewer doesn’t divide the different elements in his own mind. it’s the combination of detail, geometry and finish that either fools the viewer or doesn’t. The viewer either sees the real thing in miniature, or he sees a cartoon-like avatar that merely represents the real thing.

What’s more, again, IMO, these two facets have to be considered and addressed together by the modeler from the moment that the project is conceived. The best models and model artists combine construction and finish at all levels of the project and in this way, these facets indeed have everything to do with each other.

Even the skill-sets used by both have to be incorporated to achieve the best results and effects. Manual dexterity in handing cutting, drilling, filing, and other shaping tools is the same fundamentally as handling a paint brush or airbrush. Sure, there are some differences, but at the basic level I think there are more similarities than differences. The mental task of envisioning the process at hand from its start to it completion is the same. There may be certain knowledge that must be developed to enable this mental task, such as how colors combine or how some adhesive behaves and performs, but the actual mental process of seeing the process unfold in sequence as the job at hand is performed is the same.

Looking at construction and finishing as separate and independent of each other is, I believe, a huge mistake and is often the difference between merely good work and really good or exceptional work. The ability to mentally envision both of these facets in mutual effect with each other is one of the things that modelers must be able to do to take their work to higher levels. Thinking about them as separate, independent facets is a self-limiting and ultimately self-defeating approach if the modeler desires to develop and grow his skills, craft and art.

Sure, some modelers might enjoy one of these facets more than the other, but both must be equally firm in the modeler’s mind and vision from start to finish. Any time a modeler prioritizes one over the other, the final result will always suffer.

I can honestly say that I’m neither a builder nor a painter, and that I find challenges and satisfaction equally in both. I do my best work when I’m totally concentrating and “in the moment” with whatever modeling task is at hand, whether that’s something to do with construction or painting.

Any time I don’t have a clear mental image or vision of what I’m trying to portray, when I lose sight of the final outcome I want, I struggle with everything, construction and finishing. However, when I can see these two processes combined and merged, I can also see the progress of the project to its completion and that final result, and smooth sailing follows.

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I don’t think is a question of which is more important but what aspect one finds more enjoyable. I think that what you describe is something most accomplished modelers do either a conscious or unconscious level. I know when I start a project I have a general idea of how I want the final product to look. As the build progresses, I find myself adjusting and fine tuning the process as I work toward the final goal. That said in terms of what I like/enjoy I prefer the painting and weathering process for reasons already stated

Before Shepard Paine’s book, I loathed painting a model and loved building. The book helped me improve. Couple of things happened to change preference from builder to painter.

  1. Seeing Franciso Verlinden’s work and it was all about that paint.

  2. Discovering FloQuil railroad colors & FloQuil Military Colors

  3. Discovering shadow painting technique and then developing some proficiency.

  4. Building to IPMS contest standard destroyed the fun of building models. Filling 400+ punch marks in a set of Tiger tracks sucked but had to be done.

Painting quickly became my true love of the hobby. While what @SdAufKla says is all true, I find my passionate with modeling lies on the paint side of the coin and view building is just a necessary evil to get to the fun stuff :slight_smile:

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Builder by default as I build at such a glacial pace the last time I put paint to plastic on one of my own projects would’ve been our group build for AMPS '11.

When I still managed to get something built I was definitely a builder.
My favourite camo scheme was the one with only one colour …


I understand and totally acknowledge the point that someone might enjoy using some particular skills more than some other skills.

However, I do believe that there is a potentially problematic aspect for this kind of discussion to lead some modelers into a sort of conceptual dead end as they look at their own scale modeling.

I don’t actually have in mind the current trend for some modelers to prioritize one aspect over the other. These folks are pretty clear in their own minds about where they find their enjoyment in the hobby. There are some in the extremes that ONLY ever build and who never paint, and there are others who build only ever enough to make a 3D canvas for their painting. It’s certainly not my place to criticize them for either approach.

However, I do think that for many basic and intermediate modelers who are looking to make a break through to take their works to a higher level, there is some risk in discussing construction and finishing as if they are two things that should be thought of as separate, independent, and that have nothing to do with each other.

My personal experience with lots and lots of neophyte modelers over the years, I’ve found that often as not they tend to concentrate and put all their effort into just the parts of the project that they enjoy the most which leaves those other areas to pull down the rest. These folks often express disappointment and aggravation that their models don’t “look” or “come out” better and that they don’t do well in contests. In sort they’re not happy but don’t quite understand what they’re not doing “right.”

The problem as I’ve seen it is that they don’t work and develop the skills for the things they either find hard or don’t particularly enjoy (usually because those things are hard for them). Often times they miss opportunities to do things that would make a large difference in the final outcome because they don’t appreciate how the facets of construction and finishing could be (should be) mutually supporting. These modelers miss creating synergy in final effects because they approach each of these aspects as individual and separate concepts and skills sets.

In the end, “Neither a builder nor a painter be…”

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Builder here. Painting and finishing is just not fun for me. I do it because it needs to be done to make the built kit look nice.

I’ve always defined the two in my mind as ‘engineer’ and ‘artist’. We all have a bit of both in us but very few modellers are truly equal masters of both disciplines.

I am very definitely an ‘engineer’. After 40 years of trying, I can put a decent paint job on a model and achieve a reasonable level of weathering, but deep down I often regret having to cover up all the work I’ve done with a coat of paint. Building is a joy but painting can sometimes be a chore.

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All he asked is which do people like better. That’s a pretty easy question and I don’t think it requires a thesis.

Painting hands down. It’s what truly brings plastic to life.

Definitely a builder. I like painting and seeing the finish… But it’s building for me. Although it doesn’t always get PE and those little details, when I do go down that road that’s what I enjoy and the little extra bits I know that I’ve done.

I see your point here about the basic and intermediate modelers, and I agree that many don’t work to develop the necessary skills but in my experience it’s not that they separate the two(they seem to have a pretty good idea of what they are trying to achieve), but that they are trying to do too much at one time. When asked, I advise them to focus on one or two aspect at a time, i.e. cleaning up seams, or carefully aligning parts, and become proficient at those then move on to the next and so and so on. When they try to do too much at once they never really achieve a high level of proficiency in any area, or if they do it takes a very long time. In either case, frustration over lack of progress increases and with it loss of interest in many.

I find this to be an interesting and fascinating topic on the Zen of modeling.