Tips I wish someone told me to make modeling easier or to improve appearance of my model

Seems like this section is a little slow starting off. So how about a thread sharing ideas or technique’s on things you have learned that improved your building of a model or its final appearance. I will start off with a few.

  1. Never assume the paint you are pouring into your airbrush is free of impurities. You might be surprised what you find if you strain the paint first.

Don’t let learning an airbrush use scare you. Try starting with acrylics and you will soon see both the appearance and the time it take to do certain things improve. They really are easy to learn.

  1. Use a rattle can primer. When you go to airbrush the paint will apply so much better. Unlike spraying on a smooth plastic surface of a model. Will help prevent runs greatly.

But, be careful, some spray paint cans dont like to play well with some plastics.

Lets try sharing things that might seem simple to us, but the new molder wouldnt know without maybe the frustration of ruining a model.

So whoever might like to add…

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One Tip I can give is spay black in all the hard to reach corners of your model first so If your base coat doesn’t get all the way in it will look like shadows as well as you wont just see unpainted plastic. Also putting a cast texture on armor builds greatly improve the appearance. You can do this either by stippling on mr. surfacer or a mix of Tamiya extra thin and Tamiya gray filler.

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That was actual going to be my next tip. Funny!

Yes pre shading is always done by me now. At least with any military vehicle.

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If you had to fill a large gap with putty…
After it’s been sanded smooth, give it a light coat of the very thin CA cement. When the cement is set lightly resand.
The putty will have a smoother surface more closely resembling the kit/figure material.


Don’t try a new technique on the current kit you are building. Practice first until you can control the technique. Use a old kit as a practice tool.

Murphy’s law was written by a model builder. Don’t toss the kit. Put it aside until you have had time to chill and think about a solution. Implement the solution.


I know what you mean, I just almost ruined and threw out a $75 kit but then I put it aside for a couple weeks and now im repairing all my mistakes and am becoming very happy with the result.

  1. Before painting the model, take the time to wash it in warm soapy water. Its amazing sometimes how much sanding dust, oils from your fingers, ordinary dust, pet hair etc accumulate and contaminate.

  2. Test fit parts first. Clean all of the mold seams and attachment points off the parts.

  3. Spend your first hobby dollars more on quality tools than a bunch of kits. A couple of quality files, sanding sticks and a good pair of tweezers go a long way.

  4. Tack parts that are prone to wiggle or move in place with a tiny bit of super glue to immobilize it before applying liquid cement. If the part wiggles after liquid cement is applied sometimes a nasty bead of squeeze appears on the surface of the model that needs to be cleaned up.

  5. Parts alignment is critical to modeling both for good looks and contest success. Often its better to use a slower setting liquid cement to allow time for correct alignment than a fast setting LC.

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  1. If your wheels are a sloppy fit on the axle stubs, glue thin strips of styrene stock lengthwise (not around) the axle stub. A minimum of 3 even spaced will improve the fit and keep the wheel central and aligned.

  2. When attaching suspension arms, to keep them all the same height prop the hull on a flat object at the height the hull needs to be. Resting the hull on Post-It note pads front and back is ideal as you can vary the height by removing leaves from the pads. Fit the first and last axle stub each side at the right position by resting them on the flat surface. When they have set, rest the model on the 4 stubs then fit the others by resting the model on the set axles and swing the others into position to rest on the flat surface they are siting on. Similarly for armoured cars and such, make a rectangle or ‘cross of Lorraine’ jig from Lego to support the chassis of the model. When ready to secure the suspension add a slow curing glue to the suspension and Blu-tac the wheels in place, then rest the model on the jig and set the wheel height by adding posit-it notes under the wheels to prop them all at the right height and let that set up. You can then remove the wheels for painting separately and all 4 (or more) will touch the flat surface later.

  3. Add Tamiya Clear gloss to their matt paints when airbrushing. Combined with Tamiya Lacquer Thinner (Buff/Yellow Cap) you will get a tough, smooth & even finish instead of the grainy effect that often occurs. It will also hold decals well. Most guys spray gloss before decals anyway, so this cuts out an extra layer of paint. Matt over that once the decals are added.

  4. Never pour thinned paint back in the original jar if there is still paint in it. Keep empty jars handy to pour the residual paint in. It will remain good long enough that if you need to touch up an issue later you can. Especially handy if you have mixed your colours.

  5. To ‘paint around corners’. Sometimes an airbrush or standard paint brush just can’t get into all the nooks and crannies, especially things like under dash boards, under seats, etc. However, these bare spots can be seen. Get a paint brush and bend the metal ferrule bit by bit along its length. You can curve or bend the ferrule up to a right angle, which will often be able to get into those otherwise hard to reach places.

  6. Avoid loading the full bristle length of a paint brush with paint. Only ever load the toe (the tip of the bristles) of a paint brush. It will be easier to clean and will last much longer than one that has had paint drawn right to the ferrule where paint will remain no matter how well cleaned. Never, Never store wet used paint brushes in a jar bristles up. Gravity will draw any residual paint down to the ferrule and shorten the life and ruin the brush.


Dont use this on Bandai plastic or Heller plastic as it has an adverse effect on these plastics I have an old bottle of white spirit that I clean my brushes in so its nice and dirty (I keep it topped up) I use this to make stuff look dirty and old, I just let it flood the part and let gravity deposit grunge and grime in the crevices, its like a free dirty wash.

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If using Vallejo paints, prime your model first and add Vallejo paint retarder to slow the drying when airbrushing. Still use primer if brush painting.

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  1. Dont assume the cover art on a box is what you will be getting in the box. Example, thinking zimmerit is included in all kits as part of the model.

  2. Research if you can all models. That “new” kit might actually be one that was released many years ago under another brand. It might not be the quality it might seem.

  3. Maybe, buy two different kits. This way you can work on the second one while the paint cures on the one that you did on the first. I have masked over a few models to soon during painting just to have the paint pull up.

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Here are my tips to save time, money, pain, and effort.

  • Don’t buy cheap brushes from the Art Store, even with a Sale coupon. Buy the actual Sable modeler brushes from hobby vendors because, YES, there IS a difference and the prices aren’t that expensive. Modeler brushes retain the pointed tip whereas art brushes don’t.

  • Use Brush Soap to clean brushes. Yup, it sure makes a difference and can save old ratty brushes.

  • For Beginners, buy more paint than kits. The Real World has a multitude of colors and Beginning Modelers make the mistake of using so few colors to paint their AFVs, figures, kits, etc.

  • Don’t buy cheap kits such as those from the drug stores or Art stores. Don’t buy low-rated or “Garbage Kits” or recasts from eBay. I think a lot of Beginning Modelers are turned off because of the poor quality of these horrible kits. Sometimes, you really get what you paid for.

  • Generally, Modelers are a smart, friendly, conversational bunch who have Professional jobs, family, lives, and other interests. They are people too. If you do email them off the forums, don’t talk about Religion, Politics, Bad Habits, Family Issues, horrible memories, war, women, or national and cultural differences. I read and heard many horror stories of friends who “crashed” on others due to disagreements, beliefs, etc. Modelers are from all over the world and what one country or culture believes in may not be the same as another. Basically, if it’s not discussed on the modeling forums, don’t talk about it online unless you really know that person. Some forums are more open that others in people’s personal lives…some aren’t.

  • Modeling has to be fun. Shep Paine posted that he quit modeling because it wasn’t fun for him anymore. Do protect yourself and be a Lurker if required because there are Haters out there who despise modelers just like they despise Cosplay, comicbook fans, Airsoft people, LEGO builders, radio control folks, or anyone with a hobby because hobbies cost money, etc. The goal of going online isn’t to make enemies, Trolls, Flamers, get SPAM, or get hacked. Remember that this hobby is about weapons of war (even Sci-Fi) and not many people agree with that, especially in difficult times such as COVID. where money is tight for many. Don’t collect a Fan Base of Haters to modeling. In the end, remember, unless you met these people in person, they literally don’t know you that well. Many modelers make Lifetime friends with this hobby and hang out together in Real Life. Many modelers place their family and wife first before their hobby.

  • Be nice and courteous to vendors because that is how you get your materials and kits. You don’t want to be blocked by them. Some of these vendors are true friends. Avoid those vendors who want just your money. Customer Service matters…this is a business just like it is a hobby, even during COVID times. Know how to budget your money too. If there is one thing this hobby has taught me, it is how to manage free hobby money…“I don’t buy it if I can’t afford it.” “I sell this kit to pay for that. newer and better one.” “I’ll pass on that new kit because I REALLY WANT this other new kit.” You’ll learn how to judge kits and how to judge your own interest…develop and grow…an eye for detail and quality…an eye for the arts. You really do have to learn this all yourself and it takes time and patience and experience. It’s rewarding. :smiley:

  • Do your Social Media research. A lot of modelers drifted away to Facebook modeling websites, so that doesn’t mean that there are fewer modelers, just that they went elsewhere besides the Forums. Modeling DOES NOT HAVE TO BE ANTI-SOCIAL.

  • This hobby is dangerous…just like woodworking shop…wear the proper PPEs. Modelers of all ages, experience, and skills need to spend the time and money to buy PPEs, just as with COVID. A respirator, gloves, safety glasses, toothpicks, cutting mat, apron, Debonder, etc. are needed.

  • Know your limits. If you’re afraid of blades, then use snippers and sandpaper. If you’re afraid of cancer, wear a mask and use acrylics. If you’re afraid of injury, don’t use a Dremel. If you’re afraid of resin dust, cut underwater. When I model, I hardly pick up an Xacto blade because I really don’t need to. The kits I buy don’t require me to cut anything because the quality is there.

  • Know your stash. As you grow older and more experienced in modeling, sell those kits that you know you won’t build or lose interest in. Keep the Grail, rare, and OOP kits. Many modelers should know what they want and like as they age. It’s a great way of recovering your money.

  • Know yourself. Modeling is a form of personal artwork with personal value. It should not be work. If you put your kits away, the skills still reside in you. No one can make the same kit builds that you do. All builds are custom by you.

  • Know some “How To” modeling books. In 2020, the modeling skills of the Pros are so great that the weathering pigments, Washes, groundwork, stencils, decals, paints, etc. are excellent in quality. These aren’t gimmicks of advertisement. These products actually DO make your models appear better and mostly gone are the days of cheats and scammers (although do beware of the recasters). There are many Pro and Expert modelers who have YouTube channels with tutorials…watch and learn :smiley:.

  • Finally, know “The End.” When you pass away, don’t have someone throw your kits and builds into the trash. Donate them to people. There are hobbyists everywhere and with the demise of Brick and Mortar hobby shops, model kits are rare and harder to get locally. With COVID, many people stay home and do crafts. Even Amazon reports that plastic model and resin kits are “Low Stock.” Yes, people DO buy model kits and yes, people Lurk and don’t post. The key is that modelers are good with their hands and eyes and can translate to skills in other areas such as mechanics, engineering, woodworking, sculpting, 3D, SFX, movies and TV, etc. because that is their Real Life job. You’d be surprised on how capable some modelers are. Also, don’t expect to make money with this hobby unless you make a product. As Modeler, the hobby is supposed to be fun for you, not a hobby to build and sell for profit. Don’t become a Modeler to make money unless you sell a modeling product online. It’s better to buy and collect new LEGO kits and sell them for profit later on that model kits (although that LEGO secret is already out many years ago).


This is a great spot to check out sprues, pics of built up kits and directions, been using this for years. Hit “List all images”

Two more for today.

  1. Tacky putty can be found at Hobby Lobby and works great for holding items onto toothpicks.

  2. Using silly putty also from Hobby Lobby can make doing airbrushing so much easier. So easy to use as masking for those multicam paint jobs.

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I’d be interested in getting “tacky putty” but Hobby lobby doesn’t have it listed on the website. Can you post a photo and tell which HL department it’s in

Coming back into the hobby a few years ago after 30 years away I was overwhelmed but all the different techniques for weathering etc. My advice is just pick a couple and try them out-for chipped paint maybe just try brush and sponge, then hairspray, get those dialed before trying the salt technique etc.
Likewise commit to one either acrylics or enamels (or whatever medium), get to know it before branching out, they act differently and take different thinning etc. Likewise even in acrylics there are different formulas (for the lack of a better term), stick two just a couple of brands and branch out from there, it saves you money.
Same goes for washes and finishing, if you want to try oils for washes and filters give them an honest go. The first results might be rough but you’ll figure it out (especially with forums like this to help answer the “what did i do wrong” questions. But my view is like paints, settle on one and learn before trying something new, save those dollars again.
As far as supplies, never hesitate to try grinding your own pigments or trying off the shelf non “modeling” oils etc. While the dedicated products certainly have advantages this hobby can add up so if you can source things from a local hobby or craft store that are fairly comperable you do two things-support a local business and you dont have to wait on the mail if you run out during a late night session at the bench.
Finally-plumb the knowledge of the locals at your LHS, most people are free with their knowledge and techniques and who doesnt enjoy a nice conversation hanging out hiding from the wife from time to time. Show your appreciate and drop a few dollars locally. Granted its not a technique and doesnt make the hobby easier but brick and mortar brought us to this point, dont sacrifice them to save a few dollars. That pool of knowledge is invaluable choosing a new type of paint, an airbrush, whats been heard about XYZ kit.


actually they love to keep it at all of the registers as a last get. But its also kept around the plasters paris and magnets isle and hot glue. I think.

thanks. I’ll look for it there

Looks like this.


Use specialist glue to fix transparent parts. First attempt: Tamiya extra thin, destroyed. Second attempt, superglue, even worse.

Third attempt… correct glue.