Scale Model Painting Tips

Written by anne hirsh
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Scale Model Painting Tips
Paint your model building with precise, detailed strokes that suit its size. (model house image by timur1970 from

Painting scale models can be a fun hobby, or it can be an essential business practice. Hobbyists may paint scale models of famous machines such as aeroplanes or cars. Architects and designers frequently paint scale models of homes, commercial buildings, theatrical designs and occasionally interior designs. Having the right equipment and preparing your workspace properly can help you paint your scale models so they turn out the way you want them.

Paint Application

Painting scale models requires a lot of detail, and the smaller the brush, the finer the line. This is especially important in scale models, because a detail you want to be 3 inches wide on a 1/2-inch scale model may end up 6 inches wide if your brush is too thick. Extra fine brushes with a tip known as "rigger" type will get you the finest lines, but they are difficult to control. Toothpicks and other hard elements will allow you to achieve the finest lines for extreme detail work. Pieces of cellulose sponge, cut about 1 inch square, can help you apply textured paint to your model for brickwork or stone areas.


Hobby model painters can easily find the appropriate enamel paints in small batches, but if you are painting an architectural or design scale model, you will want to match the final colours as closely as possible. Enamel model paints won't look the same as the acrylic-based paints for residential and commercial use. Instead, contact paint manufacturers and see if they have sample kits of their most popular colours. Some paint companies will provide an array of small sample containers for design and test purposes for a small fee. Theatrical paint companies also generally have sampler kits that are available to scenic artists and designers for a reasonable fee.

Work Area

Keep a 6-inch flat metal ruler and an architectural scale stick on hand in your work area. The scale stick will help you easily ensure your painted details are the right size, but it may not fit into all areas of your model. The 6-inch thin metal ruler may help you in the harder-to reach areas you are painting. Light your desk with two adjustable lamps, one from either side. This will reduce shadows, whether from your scale stick or paintbrush, allowing you to see the detail better as you paint it on.

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