How to Paint Model Cars

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A common thread running through the lives of many men is the fact they spent a good deal of time painting and building model cars, airplanes and military crafts.

This pre-adolescent hobby may have continued to present day and is a great way to let the creative juices flow.

Since cars and planes are guy things, it is not considered too artsy to tell the gang that they spend time sitting with a tiny brush painting diminutive models.

Young men have been painting models for decades, and art supply products have improved and been expanded considerably since this hobby first developed. There are hundreds of kits from which to choose and many paint manufacturers produce a wide variety of paints, painting kits and painting accessories.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

You found a kit of your favorite car and now intend to paint it just like the one you saw at the car show, only better. Before ripping open the box and dumping all the parts on the kitchen table, there are a number of things you need to assemble and decide.

A well-ventilated work area is important, and since this is a project that will not be completed in one sitting, a location that can be left intact between sessions is best.

Use layers of newspaper to cover the worktable to protect the surface from overspray or drips of paint. There should be good airflow in the area, and if open windows are used for ventilation, screens to keep bugs from adorning wet painted surfaces are a must. A turntable or lazy susan is a handy accessory that allows the artist to rotate his work easily without touching the piece.

Craft knives and sandpaper help to remove sprues and excess plastic. Tweezers, pins, tape and toothpicks are useful household items that can probably be scrounged from the kitchen and bathroom.

There are a number of glues and fillers available, and research along with experimentation will help in deciding which works best for your methods.

If you really get into this hobby, or are just a tool junkie, you may consider adding a Dremel tool, cutting pliers, razor saw and hot glue gun to your toolbox.

After assembling and preparing the model pieces, it is important to have them thoroughly clean. Wash the parts in soap and water to remove any dust or oils. Oils can cause the paint not to adhere to the surface, so using disposable gloves is a good idea when handling the clean parts. Use a blow dryer to speed the drying process if necessary, and make sure there is no moisture before painting, as water stains can be visible under the paint.

Painting Your Rolling Menagerie

A craftsman can choose to paint models with a variety of mediums. Bottled paint may be used with brushes or an airbrush. Spray paints provide the ease of use and no clean up. Many times all three methods are used for different stages of the project, and very realistic results can be achieved with practice.

Three types of paints are generally used for painting models. Enamels, acrylics and lacquers are all suitable, and the craftsman should experiment with all to find which he prefers.

Enamel Paints

Enamel paints are thinned with mineral spirits and slowly cure to develop a hard, gloss finish.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are water based dry quickly. They may be thinned with either water or alcohol, and since they are easy to clean up are well suited for the young modeler.

Lacquer Paints

Lacquer paints are a two-step process, using both a color coat and a finish coat. Lacquers, because they use alcohol based thinner, can soften and degrade other paints. They should be used prior to using enamel or acrylic. They dry more quickly than enamel and have a thicker consistency.

Each method of applying paint has advantages and drawbacks, and practicing all three will be useful to learn when to use each application.

Jarring Colors

Using a paintbrush with paint from a jar is the easiest way to apply paint, and small parts are usually the pieces that are best suited for this method. A disadvantage of brushwork is the tendency to have visible brush marks remaining when the paint has dried. Resist the urge to continue to brush into the same area. Overlapping brush strokes as the paint begins to congeal will certainly form visible marks on the paint. Load the brush with paint, make single long strokes and reload the brush as required. Paint will level itself if left to its own devices, so extra strokes are not necessary.

Clean the brushes promptly when finished. For enamels, paint thinner removes stubborn residue. Acrylics can be cleaned with soap and water. Smooth the bristles to their natural shape and dry well to prevent rust forming in the ferrule. Store the brushes properly to maintain the correct bristle shape.

Shaken, Not Stirred

Spray enamels are widely used, as they leave no brush strokes, are faster than brushing and there is no cleanup. However, the spray is dispersed over a wide area and since these are small parts, there is a great deal of waste. This method is more costly and there are fewer colors available to the artist. This also makes blending custom colors impossible.

When using this method for multiple colors on a single piece, mask the part to prevent overspray. Also, make sure that the area in which you are working is covered with adequate newspaper to protect all surfaces from overspray.

Spray cans must be properly shaken to mix them. Placing the can in hot water for several minutes helps the paint disperse smoothly. However, dry the can thoroughly to prevent any water dripping on the parts.

Regardless of the added cost, painting body parts with spray cans is a practical method for those who do not wish to use an airbrush.

Start and stop the spray beyond the edges of the model piece. This minimizes the danger of paint being applied too thickly to a part, which can cause runs and globs forming on the surface.

Light And Airy Airbrush

Airbrushes use either water-based or oil-based medium, so the choice of paints is open. Since the tool attaches to an air compressor, the effect is a limitless spray can. An added benefit is that the spray and pressure can be regulated. The spray width can be controlled from a wide angle to a fine line, as well as other special effects.

Single action airbrushes are simpler to manipulate, are modestly priced and are a good choice for the beginning modeler. As the student progresses and decides that airbrushing is the preferred method, he may elect to purchase a double action unit, which allows for more control in painting.

A small compressor is a good investment, and should replace the cans of compressed air some students may use in the initial stages of learning to use an airbrush. The cost will very quickly be recouped, as cans of air will not be needed any longer.

Trial and error is the best method to learn how far the nozzle of the airbrush should be from the surface of the model. If the nozzle is too far the paint may develop an orange peel appearance. This is not something that can be sanded away properly, so practice to perfect your technique.

Always use the recommended thinning products with the airbrush to keep paint flowing at the optimum rate with the proper drying time.

Do not neglect proper cleaning of all airbrush components as soon as painting is complete. Dry paint is almost impossible to remove, and clogged heads will become a costly error.

Layering Is Not A Fashion Trend

Typically, a model will have several distinct layers of different types of paint: a primer, the color coat and a clear finish.

Use a primer to prepare the surface for the color coat. Primer is specially formulated to bond to both the plastic body and the paint. This minimizes peeling or lifting when removing tape that has been used to mask an area.

A beginning craftsman will quickly see the benefit of using a number of light color coats to build the luster of his paint job. It is always preferable to apply a number of fine coats rather than one heavy layer. Not only will the paint appear to have depth, but also this reduces the chance of drips and blobs of paint.

A clear finish coat offers a dependable surface for decals that are often used in completing the project. It also adds brilliance and heightens the intensity of the color coat. Multiple layers of finish coat may be applied to heighten the sheen of the finish.

Tips For Tip-Top Modeling

Sand the model between layers of paint, using 6000-8000 grit sandpaper. Before applying the final finish coat, wet sand the surface with 12 thousand grit sandpaper.

Protect the model from dust while it is drying. Placing it underneath a box will prevent dust or insects from marring the surface. If the model cannot be positioned on a surface for drying, it can be hung upside down to dry.

Sunlight degrades paint and so the model should never be stored or displayed in direct sunlight

Paint Selections From Testors

Testors manufactures a complete line of products for the home hobby modeler. This includes all types of paints, primers, finishes and the chemicals used with them.

Lacquer Paints

Testors has licensed with the big auto manufacturers to produce factory approved automotive colors in their lacquer line. Ford, GM, Chrysler and Dodge colors from today and yesterday are available to create historically correct colorations on their models. These 70 lacquer colors require both a color and clear coat, and they dry quickly for rapid completion of your project.

Testors has a new line of over 20 metallic aerosol colors that do not require a primer or a finish coat. This product dries in 20 minutes and is formulated to require only one coat for speed at the finish line.

Enamel Paints

There are a number of paint kits available from Testors, all of which include a thinner, brush and tray. There are camouflage, fluorescent, gloss and flat enamel sets. There are also over 100 classic colors, pearlescent, metallic and semi-transparent colors in one half ounce bottles.

Acrylic Paints

The Testors brand also boasts a full line of acrylic paints and paint sets. There are gloss, matte, military, airbrush and hobby kits available. They also have one half ounce bottles available for individual purchase in their collection.

Metalizer Enamel Paints

These unique paints from Testor replicate a metallic finish for all the metal parts on a model. They are available in 15 one half ounce bottles and six colors in three-ounce aerosol containers.

Model building is a great hobby for the entire family. It is also a skill that any age can begin learning or advance their repertoire. Children will find it exciting, Mom and Dad will find it relaxing and it is an entertaining activity in which all the family could become involved.

Researching favorite cars and attending car shows for paint ideas could be a group effort. Family activities end up having relatively low costs per person as the expenses are shared by the entire household’s entertainment budget.

This type of activity promotes family togetherness and a sense of group belonging.

Kids, whether they want to admit it or not, enjoy doing things with their parents and this can be a good opportunity to get the family together.

One thought on “How to Paint Model Cars

  1. Hi guys, can you point me in the right direction I simply want a paint chart that I can use to make plastic model cars from the revell and monogram models but I cannot find a chart that I could use for this if you can point me in the right direction or send me a paint chart that I could use for these models thank you regards Trev Scott

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