What to Paint Plastic Models Kits with Best Paints, Basic Guide

  • By: Richard
  • Date: November 23, 2021
  • Time to read: 14 min.

What do you need to paint your plastic models? Paint and what kind of paint should you use on plastic model kits? These are the questions we will answer in this article. We will also provide an essential guide to what paints work well for painting plastic models. There’s no better time than now, so let’s get started!

Let’s Talk Chemistry: Paint Types

To truly understand these paints, we need to know why. All color is a combination of four properties:

  • Pigment: This is the powder that makes the color and adds more of it
  • Binder: A binder is what holds the pigment particles together and provides good adhesion
  • Solvent: The liquid that is mixed with the binder, pigment, and other things (e.g., water, oil)
  • Additive: Additives are things that modify paints. They can help with how the paint dries and how it flows.

The main difference between acrylic and enamel paints is the type of solvent they use. Acrylic paint uses water, and enamel uses oil.

Acrylic: Lacquer and Water Based

Acrylic: Lacquer and Water Based
Lacquer acrylic paints are a type of fast-drying paint usually used on plastics because they dry so quickly. They have a very glossy finish and, when applied heavily, can make models look like plastic toys or dolls instead of miniatures (think Barbie doll).

Water-based acrylics offer another option for model painters who prefer not to use solvents (although you’ll need to thin them down first) or who don’t want the high gloss sheen that comes from using lacquer-based paints.

Acrylic Lacquer Paints: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • The paint dries pretty quickly.
  • There is a wide range of colors available which means that acrylic lacquer paints are an excellent option if you want to paint many different colors on your model kit at once
  • The paint is pretty easy to remove and doesn’t leave an unpleasant smell behind.
Cons
  • The paint can be a little bit more difficult to apply if you’re not used to working with it, especially on small models where precision is critical.
  • Paintbrush marks may show up unless the model kit has been adequately prepped beforehand and primed using an acrylic primer or other similar product.

Water Based Acrylic Paints: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Water-based paints are non-flammable.
  • Water-based acrylic paints are water-soluble.
  • Water-based acrylic paints need to be varnished with a clear coat of non-water-based acrylic to ensure that the color will not wash away during handling.
Cons
  • There is less coverage with water-based acrylic paints. With time, they can’t keep their color, mainly if they’re thickly applied.

Enamel: A Long-Term Strategy: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Gives a consistent covering that holds the color well
  • Give a nice hard coat finish, with no sign of brush strokes.
  • It can be applied without a primer.
  • Easy to remove from models using spirits
Cons
  • Extended drying time – ~24 hours
  • Oil separates after extended shelf life, so it requires remixing
  • More complex to airbrush with – requires more thinning
  • Fewer colors available

The 10 Best Paint for Plastic Models Kits

Take this list as a guide – always do further research on specific plastic models before choosing paints to use – but it will give you a good idea of which paints are the best for particular projects.

# Image Product Pros
#1 Best starter set

The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit
  • Inexpensive
  • Includes detailed instructions
  • Easy to use
  • Very detailed instructions
  • Easy for beginners
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#2 Price quality

Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set, 17ml
  • The range of colors is quite wide
  • The paint is durable and will last for a long time even with regular use
  • It’s easy to mix and won’t clump or peel off easily
  • With the proper care, the paints can last for many years
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#3 Perfect for D&D models

Castle Art Supplies 48 x 22ml Acrylic Paint Set
  • Wide range of colors.
  • Easy to use and quick drying.
  • Variety of paint types available.
  • Easy access paint trays.
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#4 Best washes for models

Vallejo Game Color Washes 17ml Paint
  • Easy to use.
  • Different colors for different purposes.
  • They mix to make new colors if need be.
  • They aren’t too thick, making them a little tough to use as a wash; however, adding a little water makes that not an issue.
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#5 Great for drybrushing

Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint
  • Soft body paint is made to be clear and bright. It doesn’t change when it dries.
  • These colors are safe to use. They have been approved by the art and creativity materials Institute at Duke University.
  • This paint can have an easy-to-open lid and neck for you to put your color in. It is easy to get into because there are no corners or sharp edges.
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#6 Best matte acrylic

Testors Craft Acrylic Paint Set
  • The coverage is excellent.
  • It is straightforward to paint with.
  • Has a good drying time, so you do not have to wait for it to dry before applying another coat.
  • The paints are very matte, which I really liked.
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#7 Best variety of colors

72 Military Colors Set in Plastic Case
  • One of the best sets you can find for military model paints.
  • The color cover is fantastic.
  • The case is easy to carry with you, and it has color names on the inside of the lid.
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#8 Best for Warhammer 40k

Citadel Hobby Warhammer 40k – Paint & Tools Set
  • Contains all of the colors for painting Necrons and Ultramarines.
  • Good craft knives and excellent modeling sanding sticks.
  • Suitable paints for base coats and details.
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#9 Best product by variety and quality

Model Color – 72 Basic Colors Set in Plastic Case
  • The case is latched-able and is reusable when you want to store your paints in it.
  • It has a good variety of colors, and the colors are easy to mix with one another.
  • The colors can be mixed in both small and large quantities.
  • There’s a color chart that comes with the paints.
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#10 Best for dioramas

Shuttle Art 50 Colors Acrylic Paint Set
  • Comes in 50 colors in 60ml/2oz bottles.
  • Easy to mix and layer.
  • They have great coverage.
  • Dries quickly, stays on surfaces exceptionally well, is permanent, waterproof, and fade resistant.
  • Non-toxic and acid-free, safe for all ages.
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Buying Guide for Plastic Model Paint

To get the best paint for your plastic model, you need to know some vital information about making a decision. You do not need to remember all of the information, but it will help you buy paint.

Do Not Buy Everything

The number one mistake that beginners make when starting out in modeling is buying too much. They purchase dozens of tools, accessories, and models without considering what they really need or how often they will use them. The result is an overwhelming assortment of stuff that ends up taking up space in your home for years to come.

Don’t be this person! Discipline yourself to focus on the necessary things before diving deep into the hobby. You don’t need to buy fifty paint bottles or one dozen paint brushes (unless they are included in a set). At best, you must have primary paint colors and a meeting. A thinner solvent is also optional, but it can speed up your work and boost the quality of your paints.

Focus on the Colors That are in The Middle

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of painting everything on your model. But you don’t have to paint every nook and cranny. Focus on the colors that are in the middle, or what is called “dead-center.” This includes details like eyes, armor plating, weapons handles, etc.

Think about how these items will look when they’re highlighted by light sources while you’re painting them. It may be tempting to paint all sorts of things with different colors, but it can make for an unpleasing aesthetic later on because it becomes too busy looking.

Fine Brushes Are Used for Finer Work

There are many types of paintbrushes, and knowing which brush to use is essential for painting models.

In general, you should start with a set of essential brushes, as they will be enough for most jobs. A beginner can still do great things with them! You may also want to purchase some specialty brushes as your skills improve or as your budget allows.

Fine brushes are one type that’s especially popular among skilled hobbyists due to their precision and control over the model’s surface area. Fine brush sets include round detail rounds, bright highlights, flat lengths and widths, fan lengths and widths…you get the idea!

Focus on the Colors That are in The Middle

If you have an incredibly detailed model, you’ll probably need to get even more delicate brushes. For example, a set of X/0 paintbrushes is the most minor brush type available and suitable for actual work on miniatures or other small models.

In general, beginners should start with basic sets that include round detail rounds, flat lengths, and widths…you get the idea! If you have an exceptionally detailed model in mind, consider purchasing some specialty brushes as your skills improve or your budget allows.

Take Stock of Your Skillset

We all have skills. We are good at skills or will never be so good at them, but it doesn’t matter because the point is to find out what they are and capitalize on them. When you can take stock of your skillset, you can use it in ways that make sense for you- whether that means using your strengths or avoiding your weaknesses. You will also realize when people around you need help with their own skill sets -and maybe even offer some assistance! Here are three things to think about when taking stock of your skillset:

  1. Which skills do I enjoy doing?
  2. What am I naturally skilled at?
  3. Is this how I want to spend my time?

If the answer is yes, then you’re well on your way to taking stock of your skillset!

How To Apply Paints On Plastic Models Kits?

How To Apply Paints On Plastic Models Kits?
You can paint the model kit with a paintbrush, or you can use a spray can. Or, if you are an advanced modeler, you could use an airbrush system.

Paint Brush

Today, we still need to do some painting by hand, and you will want good quality brushes. You can also paint smaller parts while they are still attached to the sprues.

Paint each layer on top of the other. Do not let the paint dry partially because it will show brush marks.

Apply the paint with one stroke. Make sure that you do not go back over the same spot. Build up colors by applying them in lighter layers rather than one thick layer. Work from light colors to darker ones so that they don’t bleed onto other colors underneath them.

My article on how to clean paint brushes between colors will help you.

Paint Brush

Metallic colors should be applied with a different brush. The other colors need to dry for a day before they are put into the model.

Spray Cans

Spray Cans
Using spray cans will give your painting a more even finish. It will also show up without any brush marks. If you don’t want to spend money on an airbrush system, this can still work for you.

Here are four quick tips for spraying paint:

  1. You need to clean the model before painting it.
  2. Certain parts need to be sprayed.
  3. Shaking the color before you use it can make it work better.
  4. Put on your mask. It should be rated by OSHA and have two canisters.

Airbrush

Airbrushing is the best way to paint a model. It is exact and quick.
Airbrush
Airbrushes are used to draw in air and paint, then atomize it at the tip. Most people use a compressor.

The main types of airbrush are:

  1. The first and the best kind of paint sprayer for beginners is the single-action, external or internal mix. The trigger controls the flow of air and the amount of paint.
  2. The second choice is for more experienced painters. It is called the double-action, internal-mix airbrush. With the trigger, you control both the pressure of air and the volume of paint that spray.

The blog has a guide to how to prevent airbrush tip dry.

Tips for Painting Plastic Models

Tips for Painting Plastic Models

Should I Apply a Primer Before Painting Colors on Models?

There are many reasons to prime models before painting them. Primer provides a solid base to help the paint adhere better and give a smoother surface for finishing coats. It also allows you to see minor flaws in the model, which may need filling or sanding before applying your finishing coats.

Primers will give a uniform finish, even if you’re using different colors on top of one another. This not only improves the overall appearance of your model but can also cut down on how many times you have to apply each coat so long as they all share the same primer layer beneath them.

Finally, primers add an extra layer of protection against scrapes and changes in temperature, which could cause cracks in your paint job over time by sealing it from the elements.

Before you start painting, make sure that the surface is clean. Use a damp cloth to wipe it off. Do not use paper towels because they will leave fibers on the painting surface.

Simple Models or Base Coats with Spraying Pain

  • Use spray paint to make the base coat for your painting.
  • Work in a place where there is good air. It might be outside. Breathe deeply and do not work too hard!
  • Set the pieces on a large sheet of paper or cardboard.
  • You can use some tape to cover the parts that you want to keep clear.
  • Shake your can. Test the spray by spraying it in the air or on a scrap piece of paper.
  • Hold the can 10-12 inches away from the details.
  • Spray the paint quickly on your model. Do it in smooth motions.
  • You need to wait 1 hour before you put on more coats of nail polish.
  • Wait 24 hours before you paint or touch your model.
  • Use an airbrush to spray paint your model.

This is an excellent way to paint model cars or tanks. They only need 1-2 colors to make them pop.

How to Keep Your Paint for Longer

How to Keep Your Paint for Longer
You will need to store the paint if you don’t want it to harm the environment. It is best to read the label before you do anything with it. But I have some tips for how to store your paint when you are finished painting.

  • Save all of your leftover paint that is not in a container: If you keep all of your paint together, it will be easier to see what colors you have. Then when you want to paint a model car, it will be easy for you to get the color you need.
  • A good idea is to buy or make an organizer: It is good to have an organizer for your paint. It can be a box or a shelf. Color is critical, so make sure you have enough of it.
  • Take it to a hazardous waste site for proper disposal: If you want to get rid of your paint, take it to a place that will recycle it. Do not throw the color in with your regular garbage or in the drain. If you’re not sure how to get rid of the paint, ask your city government or do some research online!
A wet palette may be used to keep the paint wet while you paint the figures.

FAQ about Paint On Plastic Models Kits

How can I start painting right away?

If you want to paint the model right away, primer is an important step. Once your primer is on, and it’s dry, be sure to follow the instructions in the instruction manual for assembling your kit and refer back to this guide about paints and painting to create a beautiful finish for your model.

What kind of paints do I need to start with?

It depends on what you’re aiming to do with your paint, but artists typically start with acrylic paints. Most beginners should have only one or two colors because mixing paints is an advanced technique that can take some experience before you master it.

Can I use watercolor paints for models, miniatures, and kits?

Yes, you can, so long as they are the artist’s watercolor.

The general rule of thumb is that acrylic paint is used for models and primer coats of color because it gives a smooth finish to the plastic model. But when watercolors are used on top of regular acrylic, it creates a light effect that really makes the colors pop. This is great when you want to use different colors in your project but don’t want them to clash too much or to cover up certain areas altogether.

For best results, mix several colors to create your desired hue before spraying it onto your model in its final design location. And considering how porous, regular vinyl polymers are against color absorption or variations in shade due throughout time, you can’t go wrong with watercolors when your final design calls for layering various colors!

What are the best brands of paint for beginners in the market today?

There are many different brands today, but one of the best beginner paint choices is Citadel. Citadel has a wide range of colors perfect for beginners because they offer varieties in opacity levels, so you can work your way up to more advanced techniques as your skills grow!

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you with your paint selection and application. If not, just remember that it’s all about trial and error. You may find one type of paint perfect for a specific model kit, while another might work better on others.

Richard

Hi! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who has been painting for about ten years. My website is packed with great advice that I've learned from both books and personal experience on building and painting miniatures.

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