Introduction: Beginners Guide to Making a Scale Model Tank

So for this Instructable I will not actually be going through the kit instructions with you. Model instructions are simply for telling you where parts go, they don't tell you how to make the model look nice and the techniques involved. I will fill in those gaps so that you can take your model to a higher level without confusion. I am building a tank because tanks are super easy to build and it's hard to make look bad. Tanks are dirty and worn and that is super easy to replicate.

About me- I have been a modeler since 2010. I build and sell my models regularly and have repeated happy customers.

Step 1: Warnings

I'd first like to say that this is a dangerous hobby. Anything that is a liquid, dust, or has an odor should be considered dangerous in this hobby. You must wear proper protective equipment when building models. Respirators should be worn at all times when painting. Wash your hands immediately after you are done working on your model.

Step 2: Items Needed

1. Glue - The best glue for plastic on plastic adhesion is an acetone-based glue made for models. I use primarily "Tamiya Extra Thin Cement". You will also want to have some super glue close by. Gel and liquid types of super glue are good for different purposes.

2. Xacto Knife - This is going to help clean up your parts from excess plastic and also for cutting and scrapping.

3. Sprue Cutters/Side Cutters (or nail clippers) - Sprue cutters are worth every penny. I use Xuron sprue cutters and they are made for cutting plastic model sprues. They use a shearing action and will stay useful for many years without replacement. You can also use nail clippers if you are just starting out, but they do not work as well.

4. Putty - I recommend that you get a putty to use as filler. You will have gaps and seams in your models and you will want to fill them for a better look. I use Tamiya fine white putty and also an epoxy called Milliput.

5. Paint - Use paint specifically for model making. Paint includes a good primer for model making.

6. Masking tape - You will need masking tape. You can elect to use regular blue painters tape but I recommend Tamiya masking tape as it comes in smaller widths.

7. Sand paper - You will need all kinds of sand paper grit, form 150 all the way to 10,000 depending on the type of model. For this tank I am using 150 grit and 1,000 grit.

8. Oil paint - For weathering

9. Paint brush, airbrush, or spray can

10. Rag - one you don't mind being covered in oil paint

Step 3: Getting Started

Sprues are what your moIdel parts come in. I first advise you to clean your sprue and parts in water with soft soap. This will remove the grease left from the model mold. This grease can potentially not allow paint to stick to the model.

Your sprue will usually be labeled a letter and each part a number. This will correspond to your instructions provided with the model.

Step 4: Removing Parts

Do not twist parts from the sprue. This will leave holes in your parts and will look bad. You should use sprue cutters or nail clippers to cut the parts out.

Step 5: Remove Extra Plastic

After removing your part from the sprue you will want to remove excess plastic. I first scrape the plastic off with an Xacto knife. I then sand it down with some rough grit sandpaper. Many modellers are in a rush to finish and skip this step. It can lead to part fit problems and an overall poor look to the model if it is skipped.

Step 6: Gluing Parts Together

Here I am using the Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. You should apply the cement to both parts where they will come in contact with each other. This cement is acetone based and melts the top layer of plastic. This melted plastic will quickly harden back up if you do not stick the parts together right away. You only need a very small amount of glue. It is not the glue that holds the parts together but the melted plastic bonding together. It will make for a very strong joint.

Step 7: Filling Gaps

After you've glued your parts together you may have some gaps in them. I use Tamiya fine white putty for small gaps as seen in the picture. I use a 2 part epoxy filler called Milliput to fill in large gaps. Apply the putty of the seam and make sure to press it into the gap. Once dried, you can sand it down flush to the model and it will make it look a lot better.

Step 8: Mounting Small Parts for Painting

On most builds you will want to keep a certain part held down for painting. It is often hard to paint a small part by holding it with your fingers so I mount the part on an unused sprue stick. You should first make sure that the plastic used is safe to burn. Typically a leaflet will be included in the model box indicating if it is safe to burn the plastic or not. Once you are ready just hold the sprue stick over a lighter or candle until the stick catches fire. Quickly blow out the flame and stick your part onto the end of the stick. Be careful with extremely small parts because this will warp and melt those parts when you stick them on the melted sprue stick. Plan ahead where you are going to mount the part because paint will not cover that area. Here I mounted the figure by the bottom of his foot because it will not be visible.

Step 9: Getting Ready for Paint

For the actual build, use the steps I've mentioned above and follow along with the model instructions. When you are done building you should have a model that looks like this. An unpainted plastic representation of your subject.

This is where painting begins. You should paint in a well ventilated area. Wear a respirator, this paint is dangerous.

Step 10: Priming

A good primer for model making should be used. Model primer is usually much finer particles than regular paint primer. I use Tamiya primer because it dries very quickly and gases out fast. Gassing out is when the propellant used to shoot the paint out of a can is still fused in the wet paint. The gas slowly rises to the surface of the paint as it dries and leaves the paint. You do not want to paint on anything that is still gassing out. If the primer does not have a completely flat dull finish then it is not ready to be painted on.

To properly apply primer you want to swirl the cam, not shake it. This will prevent bubbles in your primer. The key to spraying paint and primer is to hover your can pointing away from the model, start shooting paint out, pass over the model as it is shooting paint out, and then cease shooting paint once the spray is no longer over the model. Spray only small layers at a time and let each layer dry. Do not spray the model until it is soaking wet. This goes back to the gassing out and it will cause gas to get trapped under the paint surface. This is what causes the bubbles.

Step 11: Base Coat Paint.

If you are brush painting, skip this step.

For spray can and airbrush users, you will want to spray a basecoat. This basecoat should be darker than the color you want to actually paint your model. Make sure to hit all the small nooks and crannies because this will be your shadow. A scale model is too small to produce a realistic shadow so you will use this base coat to help. Again, spray in small layers and let each dry. Slowly build up your paint.

Step 12: Paint

Now you can paint the actual color of the model. Use the same technique of layering as above. You should let the base coat uncovered in small spaces to represent a shadow. Allow this to dry completely for the next step.

Step 13: Decals

On tank models I don't find a need for clear coat so I have skipped it. You can add one if you want.

Its time for decals. Using scissors cut out the called for decal. Try and cut close to the edge of the graphics. You don't want to stick the whole decal sheet in the water, I've seen new modelers do this and you'll end up with a bunch of decals all over the place. Go one decal at a time. Use tweezers to hold the decal, dip it once into the water and then let it sit for 30-60 seconds (sit on a dry surface, not in the water). This will activate the decal glue. If you let it soak in water then the glue will disintegrate and your decal will not stick. Make sure the area you are applying it to is smooth and wet the paint a little with a cue tip soaked in water. Then simply take your decal and slide it off onto the place you want it to go. I use a dry cue tip to help slide it off the decal paper. Do not rub your decal down but rather roll over it with a cue tip. Decals are easy to tear and rolling is less likely to rip it. Let the decals dry for a day.

Step 14: Weathering

My favorite part.

Weathering is where you scale model becomes real. Weathering is super easy and fun and will make your model realistic.

To imitate shadows and dirt, I use an oil paint that is dark brown. Oil paint takes a long time to dry and is very easy to rub off with a rag. Just liberally apply it like in the second picture. Take your rag and wipe it off. You'll get a darker and dirtier appearance.

Dry brushing is also a fun part of weathering. Dip a dry brush into your paint and then wipe as much paint off as you can. Then you scrape raised edges such as the take tracks show and you'll get micro scratches and dust as an effect.

Step 15: Finished

Once you follow these steps you should come out with a nice looking model done very easy. Thanks!