How to Paint Plastic Model Figures

Miniature figures enhance hobbies of all kinds from model railroads to war gaming to fantasy role playing. Painting tiny model figures has become a hobby in its own right, hobbyists and gamers taking pride in the carefully painted people, vehicles and monsters. All it takes is a steady hand, patience and a little bit of know-how to achieve realistic affects. Good brushes, good paint, lighting and a positionable magnifying glass help when creating an army or adventurer band that looks impressive.

Purchase your miniatures by the box. For some sets, you many need to combine more than one box, but in the long run you will get a better deal for your money.

Remove the figures from the box gently; check to make sure you have the full set. Many plastic models come attached to a plastic framework. Use clippers or a pair of scissors to snip them free. Check them over for burrs, bits of leftover flashing or other imperfections. Use a craft knife and sandpaper to carefully clean up the figures. Be careful not to break or scrape away details.

Place the figures on a backdrop or cardboard. Spray them lightly with a neutral coloured base. If you can get a flesh tone suitable for the nationality of your figures, that can be helpful. Be sure to use a flat paint for this coat. The base coat helps subsequent layers of paint adhere to the figure, and painting it in a human skin tone makes one less step as you add details to it.

Paint the eyes first. Paint the entire eyeball space white. Let it dry. Then paint in the colour for the iris, and then the slightest touch with a single hair brush for the pupil. A good magnifying glass helps a great deal with this process, letting your see clearly where you are placing your brush.

Next paint the face, hands and any other area of exposed skin. Add some shading to help the features stand out and not look faded at a distance. Use a bit of the paint used for the basic skin tone darkened just slightly for shading and for lips and cheeks.

Paint the main part of the clothing. If this is a period army, you may want to do some research to make sure you have the right colours. When the clothing is dry, add details such as bandoliers, buttons and other decorations.

Affix the miniature to its base, if one was provided, or glue it to a small square of card stock so that it will stand up.


Thin your paint. It doesn't take much to fill up details and obscure them with a thick coat of paint.


Wash your hands after handling paint or paint products, even if they say they are non-toxic.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint thinning medium
  • Dish soap
  • Spray primer
  • Hobby paints
  • Fine hair brushes
  • Magnifying glass on a stand or mechanical arm
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About the Author

Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild has been writing for over 50 years. Her first online publication was a poem entitled "Safe," published in 2008. Her articles specialize in animals, handcrafts and sustainable living. Fernchild has a Bachelor of Science in education and a Master of Arts in library science.