Model building is a fun and engaging hobby that lets you create miniature versions of almost anything you can imagine.
From cars and planes to ships and trains, building models is an enjoyable way to learn new skills and relax.
If you’re new to the world of model building, this beginner’s guide will teach you everything you need to get started.
Understanding Model Building Basics as a Beginners
Before you start putting together models, it helps to understand the basics of the hobby. Model building involves assembling and constructing small-scale replicas of actual vehicles, structures, or devices. Models can be built from kits containing preformed parts or by scratch building using raw materials.
There are many different types of models, including:
- Static models – Fixed models that don’t move, like aircraft, cars, ships, and buildings.
- Dynamic models – Models with moving parts, like model trains.
- Radio-controlled models – Models controlled remotely, like RC cars and planes.
No matter what type of model you build, the basic process is similar. You’ll need to carefully follow instructions, sand and trim pieces, apply adhesives, paint details, and more. Building models requires patience and attention to detail.
Gathering Essential Tools and Supplies for Building Scale Models
Before starting your first build, make sure you have the necessary tools and materials. Here are some model-building basics you’ll need:
- Model kits – Plastic model kits are available for almost every type of vehicle, structure, or craft. Choose a beginner kit to start.
- Craft knife – An essential tool for removing parts from sprues and trimming pieces. Use care when handling.
- Sandpaper – Different grits are used for smoothing rough edges on parts.
- Glue – Plastic model cement chemically melds parts. Super glue can also be used.
- Paint – Acrylic hobby paints are common. You’ll need primer, base colors, and detailing paints.
- Paintbrushes – An array of brush types and sizes are useful for detail work.
- Sprue cutters – Sturdy cutters make removing parts from sprues easier and safer.
- Building board – Provides a stable surface for assembling your model.
- Clamps – Help hold parts in place while the glue sets. Clothespins work great.
Step-by-Step Scale Model Assembly
Once you have your tools and materials ready, it’s time to start building. Follow these basic steps for assembling most models:
1. Read the instructions carefully.
Review the instruction manual thoroughly before beginning. Understand the steps, order of operations, recommended tools, paint colors, and techniques.
2. Remove parts from sprues.
Use sprue cutters or a hobby knife to detach parts from the plastic frame safely. Trim off any excess plastic.
3. Sand pieces smooth.
Gently rub sandpaper over pieces to remove rough edges and seams. Be careful not to alter part shapes.
4. Test fit parts.
Dry fit pieces together before gluing to ensure proper alignment and fit. Make any necessary adjustments.
5. Apply glue and attach parts.
Use plastic model cement to chemically fuse parts. Allow the glue to set fully before moving on.
6. Allow sections to dry before proceeding.
Let assembled sections dry thoroughly before adding more parts. Consult instructions for drying times.
7. Repeat steps to construct the entire model.
Keep following all steps until the main assembly is complete. Set aside to prepare for finishing.
Advanced Techniques for Enhanced Realism
Once you master basic model assembly, you can start learning more advanced techniques to increase realism and detail. Try out the following tips:
- Weathering – Add painted rust, dirt, grime, and wear to make models look realistically used and aged.
- Dry brushing – Lightly brush paint over raised edges to highlight details. Great for adding dimension.
- Washes – Thinned paint runs into crevices for accentuating contours and lines.
- Chipping – Use a sponge or brush to simulate paint chips and scratches.
- Rigging – Add thin strings or wires to aircraft and ship models to replicate cables and ropes.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Part of the fun is discovering new paints, materials, and techniques to employ.
Finishing Touches for Completing Your Scale Model
Once constructed and detailed, your model deserves a proper finish. Here are some finishing best practices:
- Carefully remove any visible glue residue or spots using a hobby knife.
- Give your entire model a protective clear coat with matte, satin, or gloss paint.
- Consider displaying your finished model on a suitable base or stand.
- For extra realism, you can add environmental elements like grass, rocks, foliage, and road materials.
- Make sure all paint is completely dry before handling or moving the model.
- Allow sufficient time for paint, washes, weathering, and clear coats to cure before displaying.
- Store finished models away from moisture, direct sunlight, dust, and bugs.
Proper finishing and care will let your model creation last for years to come.
Where to Find Helpful Model-Building Resources for Beginners?
As a beginner, don’t be shy about seeking out additional resources to aid your modeling journey. Helpful sources include:
- Online forums – Connect with fellow modelers to ask questions and get feedback. Popular options include ModelRailroader.com, Britmodeller.com, and Finescale.com.
- Modeling magazines – Longstanding publications like Fine Scale Modeler and Scale Auto provide tips, techniques, and inspiration.
- Modeling clubs – Local clubs allow you to meet other hobbyists, learn new skills, and often access tools.
- Books – Titles like Building and Detailing Model Aircraft and Introduction to Model Railroading offer extensive how-to information.
- YouTube channels – Watch modeling tutorial videos for visual demonstrations of techniques like weathering, rigging, and dioramas.
- Model shows – Check out models on display and interact with builders to pick up valuable knowledge.
The modeling community is welcoming and eager to share their expertise with new builders looking to learn.
Common Model Building Mistakes to Avoid for Beginners
When starting, model building may seem daunting. Fortunately, many classic mistakes can be avoided:
- Don’t rush. Take your time and follow instructions carefully. Rushing leads to glue mistakes and improper assembly.
- Avoid too much glue. Excess glue can cause an uneven finish and seep into visible areas. Use a tiny amount applied precisely.
- Don’t snap pieces off sprues. Bend slightly and trim for clean removal. Snapping leaves ugly marks.
- Don’t throw out sprues or instructions after assembly. Both provide useful painting guides and references.
- Don’t overlook sanding. Skipping sanding results in unsightly seam lines and poor fit. Completely smooth all parts.
- Don’t handle pieces with bare hands. Oils from the skin can impede paint and glue adhesion. Always wear gloves.
- Don’t underestimate drying times. Allow glues, paints, and finishes sufficient time to fully cure before moving on.
A bit of extra care goes a long way towards avoiding the most common mistakes beginners make.
How to Get Your Model on the Right Scale?
One key consideration when choosing a model kit is selecting the proper scale. Scale refers to the ratio between the model and real-life object. For example, a 1:24 scale means the model is 1/24th the size of the actual vehicle.
Some common scales for different models include:
- Cars – 1:24 or 1:25 scale
- Aircraft – 1:48 or 1:72 scale
- Military vehicles – 1:35 scale
- Ships – 1:350, 1:700, or 1:1200 scale
- Trains – HO (1:87), N (1:160), or Z (1:220) scale
Picking a beginner-friendly scale allows you to get used to techniques without tackling tiny details right away. Don’t worry about mixing scales as you build your skills.
Helpful Model Building Tips and Tricks for Beginners
Through experience, modelers have developed many useful tips and tricks for making the hobby easier:
- Tweezers help position and hold tiny decals and pieces for precise placement.
- A wet palette keeps acrylic paints workable longer before drying out.
- A painting handle or alligator clips allow you to grip models easily while painting.
- Masking tape can create sharp paint lines, mask areas from painting, and act as hinges.
- Future floor polish makes a great gloss coat for models when brushed on in thin layers.
- Pledge Floor Care (without wax) is an excellent protective clear coat for finished models.
Don’t be shy about trying innovative new materials and techniques as you gain experience. Model building encourages creativity!
Recommended First Model Kits for Beginners
Finally, here are some high-quality, beginner-friendly kits to consider for your first build:
- Revell 1:48 F4U-4 Corsair
- Tamiya 1:48 F-14A Tomcat
- Airfix 1:72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Ia
- Tamiya 1:35 M4A3 Sherman
- Trumpeter 1:35 Russian T-62 Main Battle Tank
- AFV Club 1:35 Sd.Kfz. 222 German Scout Car
- Revell 1:25 1966 Chevrolet Nova SS
- Tamiya 1:24 Mazda RX-7
- Fujimi 1:24 Nissan Skyline GT-R
- Tamiya 1:350 JMSDF Destroyer Asagiri
- Trumpeter 1:350 USS Arizona Battleship
- Revell 1:144 Flower Class Corvette
These well-engineered kits minimize frustration while maximizing fun and learning. Get started on the path to model-building mastery!
Model building is an enjoyable, relaxing hobby that lets you construct miniature versions of vehicles, figures, and scenes from virtually any subject. It’s immensely rewarding to start with a simple kit, study reference materials, and end up with a realistic scaled replica.
This beginner’s guide provides everything you need to get started in model building. Learn basic techniques, tools, and materials to set yourself up for success.
Remember to have patience, read instructions carefully, and don’t be afraid to seek advice from the helpful online modeling community. With some practice, you’ll be creating museum-quality models that look incredibly realistic.
The journey to become an expert modeler may take time, but it’s filled with fun at every step. Build what you love, be creative, and never stop improving. Model building offers a lifetime of learning and enjoyment awaits.
FAQs about Model Building for Beginners
Is building models a good hobby?
Building models is an excellent hobby that is relaxing, educational, and creative, and lets you produce tangible works to be proud of.
Why do people build models?
People build models for the challenge, creative outlet, sense of accomplishment, and pride in crafting realistic miniaturized versions of real vehicles and subjects.
How do you make a good model building for beginners?
Carefully follow kit instructions, take your time, use proper tools and materials, employ good modeling techniques, and apply realistic finishes.
Do you paint or glue a model first?
It’s best to fully assemble the model first before painting so all areas are accessible. Gluing small sub-assemblies together makes painting easier.
How can I get better at model building?
Practice fundamental skills like gluing, sanding, and painting while learning more advanced techniques like weathering, detailing, dioramas, and scratch building to hone your modeling abilities.
What is a plastic model kit?
A plastic model kit contains all the pre-molded parts on sprues, instructions, decals, and paint guides needed to assemble a scale replica model of a vehicle, figure, or structure.