Beginner’s How-To Guide To Plastic Modeling

  • By: Richard
  • Date: February 3, 2023
  • Time to read: 8 min.

As a seasoned scale modelist, I am pleased to share my expertise in the world of plastic modeling. This beginner’s guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the essentials to help make your hobby as fulfilling as possible.

From selecting the ideal scale model to assembling the kit and perfecting the finishing touches through painting, I will demonstrate how effortless the process can be. My passion for plastic modeling was reignited after I returned from Japan with my first 1/144 Zaku II and one last Gundam, and I can’t wait to delve back into the creative world of modeling.

Some Useful Tools

With years of experience in plastic modeling, I have come to realize that the tools you use can greatly impact the final outcome of your model. While I highly recommend using specific tools, it’s also important to be inventive and think outside the box. I often come up with unique solutions, such as using cotton swabs or homemade materials like wire, to create intricate details in my models. When working on a project, always consider what tool will work best and don’t be afraid to improvise in order to achieve your desired results.

Here’s a comparative table of the uses for each of the tools:

Tool Usage
Sandpaper & Emory Boards Smoothing and shaping surfaces
Dental Pick Removing small particles and details
Micro Files Filing small and intricate parts
Side Cutters Cutting small parts from sprues
Magnifying Glass Close examination of small details
Deburring Tool (Red Handle) Removing rough edges and burrs
Hobby Knife (Yellow Handle) Cutting and carving materials
Needle Nose Pliers (Orange Handle) Handling small parts
Awl Making small holes and markings
Scissors Cutting materials and paper
Parts Holder with Magnifying Glass and Model Cement Holding and examining parts during assembly
Rubber Bands/Clothespins Securing and holding parts during assembly

This list of essential tools will help you start building models with precision and accuracy.

Essential Supplies and Equipment for Plastic Modeling:

Item Description
Putty Essential for smoothing and shaping the surface of the model
Thinning Agent Helps to dilute paint for a smoother application
Decal Set Makes it easier to apply decals and prevents peeling
Glue Available in different consistencies for a variety of bonding needs
Panel Accent Fills in panel gaps for a more realistic appearance
Surface Primer A crucial step in the painting process, helps the paint adhere better
Paint Choose the required color and type based on the guide provided
Tweezers Useful for handling small parts and intricate details
Nipper Helps to cut parts from the sprue
Paint Mixers Mixes the paint to the desired consistency
Hobby Knife Essential for precise cuts and detailing work
Painting Stand Provides a stable surface for painting, especially if rigging up your own

Note: This list includes some of the most essential supplies and equipment for plastic modeling, but the exact list may vary based on individual preferences and project requirements.

What is a Plastic Model Kit?

Plastic model kits are a fun and creative way to bring your favorite objects to life. Whether it’s military aircrafts, science fiction models, vehicles, figures, or anything in between, there’s no limit to what you can create.

How do I Know Where to Start?

Determine Your Interests and Experience

It is always a good idea to start with the basics. Before beginning any project, the first thing you should do is determine what your interests are and how much experience you have in that area of interest. For example, if I wanted to build an airplane model kit from scratch but had no previous modeling experience, it would be best for me to work on something smaller like a car or truck so that I could gain some confidence-building models at this scale; while still working towards my goal!

Explore the Different Types of Kits

Every modeler has their tastes and preferences, so it’s best to explore the different sections of the hobby shop before deciding what type of kit is right for you. You can find kits in military-type models like aircraft or ships; if your taste veers more towards cars, then look at scale car replicas such as Lamborghinis or Ferraris. If sci-fi/fantasy is a bit closer to your heart, see our selection of science fiction figures with everything from Storm Troopers to Darth Vader (or even Harry Potter!)

Understanding the Scale of a Kit

The scale determines the size of a model kit. The bigger the number, like 1/72 or 3 foot long to represent an object that’s 36 inches in real life – smaller objects are more likely to be represented with small-scale kits such as 1/24 and built at about 7.8″ for example (relative to their actual sizes). Be aware of the size of a model kit you are looking at. When all else fails, Google the real-life vehicle and divide it by its scale!

Choosing Your Kit

Once you’ve determined what category is best, there are endless possibilities for model kits to enjoy. You can pick one up that looks interesting and get started on the fun!

What Level of Kit do I Want to Buy

You might think that choosing the right model kit is an easy task, but there are many factors to consider before making your purchase. For instance, you can narrow down by skill level and size as well as a type snap kits come in three varieties:

  1. Airfix’s Quick Build kits are a great way to introduce the next generation of builders and hobbyists. Creating realistic-looking models from these kits is easy enough for any aspiring builder but challenging enough that it doesn’t bore experts either! The first kit in this article was made by Airfix using brick-building technology (similar to Lego), making assembling even more fun than before. There’s something here for everyone for those who like building smooth exterior curves with typical model pieces or those who were exploring their creativity through modeling techniques such as scratch building!
  2. One of my favorite beginner model kits is the Build ‘N Play made by Revell. These 12 piece models come with instructions telling you how to build a toy after it’s completed, which I think makes this kit more fun for kids than traditional ones that can’t be played once they’re built.
  3. The final and most popular kind of beginner model kit is a classic snap-together kit. These kits are great for beginners because they don’t need glue or paint to complete the project but can be challenging at times, especially when it comes time to assemble them – these models do not come apart without bending or breaking the plastic!

What Levels Of Kits Are There

If you are new to model kits, start with snap-together ones. If your child is too old for these or if they have already mastered them, move on to glue-based models. A general rule of thumb when selecting a kit: the more parts it has and the harder it will be for kids (or adults) to put together means that this requires greater skill levels than those with few parts and simpler instructions. Make sure you’re comfortable at one level before trying another!

I’ve Picked Out My Kit – What Else Do I Need To Buy?

Depending on what kind of kit you bought, you will most likely need some tools and supplies to complete the project. A hobby knife is needed for any model, while a pair of sprue cutters or “nippers” is necessary only if one has purchased advanced kits. The nippers help remove parts from their sprues cleanly, while the knives provide our mediums with which we can shave down models that don’t fit together properly or scrap away leftover pieces after the process is completed.

You will need some glue, paint, and brushes to start with. If you’re starting in the model building hobby, don’t overspend on supplies; purchase basic glue along with paints or even a kit. Please make your first few kits into learning experiences by not worrying about making them look professional–the result may surprise you! As time goes on, there will be plenty of helpful tools available at any price point that can make working easier and more enjoyable, so have fun experimenting as this new skill develops!

You can paint the kits without prior knowledge of painting or modeling if you have a basic understanding of color theory. Model kits will list what colors to buy, and most places that sell them will let you open one from their shelves, so they know which ones to recommend buying. Start with just enough tools for assembling your first kit!

How Do I Put it Together?

Every model kit comes with instructions, usually with pictures detailing what parts to use and which order. The parts are numbered by sprue and number (e.g., A5 would be part 5 on Sprue A). Follow the instructions one step at a time, remembering not to touch it until paint or glue has dried for later steps when you need solidified models, so they do not break during handling.

Past that, how you build the kit is completely up to you – and that’s what makes this hobby so great! Feel free to be creative with your kits by trying new techniques or experimenting with different color schemes. There are no rules for model building – as long as it’s fun, then everyone wins!

This is Not a Race

Scale model making is a time-consuming and, in some cases, arduous task. It takes patience to make sure that you take the necessary steps; after all, it’s not just about getting things done quickly! Make sure to break for lunch or on different days of your project if possible it’ll help keep motivation up and provide perspective when tackling these large projects. Remember also: every piece has its place so try not to be intimidated by tasks like sanding off any rough edges before premiering with filler primer then painting over it again later using lacquer paint.


In general, the more detail a kit has, the longer it will take to build. The simpler kits usually have fewer pieces and are quicker to assemble. If you’re starting with plastic modeling or your first kit, we recommend buying one of these simple kits for starters. However, if you know what level of modeler you want to be – hobbyist, expert, professional- there are specific types of models that might suit your needs better than others based on skill level (and time required). We hope this guide helped help you find a great place to start!

Hey there! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who's been in the game for a solid decade now. I've been painting miniatures for ten years and I've got a ton of tips and tricks to share with you all. My website is a treasure trove of knowledge that I've gathered from both my own personal experiences and from reading all sorts of books.

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