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Newbie looking for recommendations

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I started building model airplanes and cars when I was a kid and then gave up the hobby. I remember lacking the necessary patience to build at a top notch level, which resulted in poorly detailed, hastily painted and improper decal applications. 


Anyway, I decided to take it up again and I am looking for recommendations on the following questions:


For reference, I am planning on building primarily military aircraft 1/48 scale or larger.


1. Airbrush, spray paint or paint by hand? I imagine that all 3 methods have their place and pros and cons and I'm interested to learn what experienced members of this community think.


2. Enamel or Acrylic paint? Can both be used on the same project?


3. What other products or supplies are helpful in building? Just browsing Amazon, there are so many tool kits and sandpaper/polishing options that it's kind of hard to figure out what is necessary and helpful and what is fluff. As a kid, I remember using an exacto knife, masking tape, enamel paint and tubes of cement. Mostly Testors was the brand I used. 


Appreciate your time and thoughts!

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Welcome Mark!


You're going to get all kinds of different opinions, partly because over time everyone comes up with a unique system that works best for them and partly there are a lot of different ways to accomplish a given modeling task. 


1. Eventually, you might want to look into an airbrush, but you can get by without one when you're just starting out. There are still a lot of people who brush paint everything on the model. If you are camouflaging an airplane, you can cut out masks to get the pattern you want and then use rattle cans. Quite a few of my first models were done this way. The downsides to rattle cans are the expense, the smaller range of colors available, and the lack of control you have when spraying. My first airbrush was a Badger single action, which was sort of like one or two steps up from rattle cans. You get a lot more control with these, but they're still basically on/off. A double action airbrush is a little more difficult to master, but it gives you lots of control with how much paint is sprayed. One of the harder parts of using an airbrush is learning how much thinner to mix with your paint and how much pressure to spray with to get the results you want. Different paint brands require different mix ratios. This kind of knowledge just comes with experimenting and experience. Keep notes, so you can consistently go back to whatever mix ratio/pressure works for you. 


2. Enamel or acrylic is up to you. Acrylics won't asphyxiate you with the fumes, but you still don't want to breath the stuff. Be sure you work in a well-ventilated area and eventually, you'll probably want to invest in a paint booth. Enamels are getting harder to find. The old go-to, Model Master, is no more, but there are still Humbrol, and in Europe, Revell and Xtracolour. There are quite a few acrylics available. Tamiya is pretty common and is good for basic colors (they also have a line of lacquer in rattle cans and bottles). They don't really have many colors specific to a given subject. I use a lot of Tamiya and Gunze acrylics because they're easy to work with. There are others, like Mission Models, Vallejo, and MiG. I've used Vallejo, and it's okay for brush painting, but I never was able to get decent results airbrushing it, and it peeled off the model if you just looked at it wrong. I mainly use Mr Color lacquer paints on anything that needs to be airbrushed. You definitely want a paint booth if you use this paint. I use acrylics and lacquers on the same model. You can't mix them, but I'll often use a lacquer for a base color and the top color will be acrylic. That way, if I screw up, I can remove the acrylic with Windex and it won't damage the underlying lacquer paint. One of the many things you pick up over time, after screwing up multiple models. 😄


3. You'll definitely want an Xacto knife. a good tape to use is Tamiya. Regular masking tape can leave glue on the model. I haven't used tube glue in decades. I mainly use Tamiya Extra Thin Cement that you apply with the brush in the cap. You'll also want to have a tube of gel super glue handy for small parts. Apply it with a toothpick. 


If you Google "how to build plastic model airplanes," you'll get all kinds of good web sites and videos: LINK  These might help you decide what kinds of supplies will work best for you. 


Once you've chosen a subject you like, you can ask on this forum or Hyperscale's or Britmodeller about which kit would be best for your experience level. You'll get lots of help. One of the many great things about these forums is there are lots of people who are happy to help.


Also, you can check the IPMS web site to see if there is a chapter near you. Then you can see models and techniques first hand and talk to people about how they build their models.





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41 minutes ago, Mark Rosewater said:

Thank you Ben, I will check that out. I did order the Tamiya tape and extra thin cement. The cement was widely referenced in the reviews of the kits I browsed. I kind of figured that tape is tape but I saw that Tamiya has all sorts of sizes and applications so I got a couple different tapes from them to try. 

You really only need the 3/4 inch wide tape -- you can use an Xacto knife and a steel straightedge to cut whatever widths of tape you want.


The type of paint you choose will at least partially depend on whether you're going to be hair- or air-brushing. Some of the recent acrylic lacquer lines like MRP are pretty much airbrush only. I use a lot of Gunze's Mr. Color, which is an acrylic lacquer that has to be thinned for airbrushing. It's not the greatest for hair brushing, but if thinned somewhat with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner (their proprietary thinner with an added retarder), you can get pretty good results. Leveling Thinner is a great product if/when you start airbrushing.

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Here's my take.

1. Start with an airbrush just about as fast as you can. It's so much better for doing larger surfaces than a brush. Stick with a brush for the little stuff until you get comfortable with the airbrush. But DON"T buy propellant, it's ridiculously expensive over time. A cheap Harbor Freight compressor and an Iwata Neo can get you started relatively cheaply, then upgrade once you hit the limits of what you have. You'll keep the brush around, but the nice hobby compressors are more consistent and quieter than the cheap garage unit. I started with the Badger 350 kit, which is useful for large surface covering only, but even then it gets you started.

2. I'd skip enamels today. I'd also skip true Acrylics to start. Go for an Acrylic Lacquer as the best of both worlds. Tamiya and AK Real Color are where I'd start. They brush and spray well and are compatible with a wide variety of thinners too (including that great Mr Color Leveling Thinner). Right now for Aircraft, AK Real Color is probably the easiest starting point, they have a better selection of aircraft-specific colours than Tamiya.

3. X-Acto knife, a set of nippers for sprue removal, a bunch of sanding sticks in various grits, get extras of the rough and medium grit. Tamiya tape, Tamiya Extra-Thin Cement, Mr Dissolved Putty (my preferred easy to apply putty), Q-tips and a bottle of acetone nail polish remover (strips paint and can be used with q-tips to remove excess putty). Microsol for decal setting.

Edited by mawz
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11 hours ago, Mark Rosewater said:

I did order the Tamiya tape and extra thin cement.


You can build and finish a kit in entirely with Tamiya products. Their quality is top shelf and prices I think are reasonable considering the value for dollar. Any Hobby Shops near you? Tamiya's entire line are rarely carried by many shops. I've struggled with some of the different types of paints and now going back to Mr Color as it is getting easier to find again for me.


Good Luck, Happy Modelling.

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Here’s my quick and dirty advice

1. As a general rule, enamel paint sprays and brushes the best.

2. If your not ready to spring for an (Iwata) airbrush, hand paint affordable Tamiya or new release Airfix 1/72 stuff.

3. Keep it simple: start out with a no.11 Xacto knife, tweezers, some Tamiya yellow “kabuki” tape, Tamiya liquid cement, super glue and an assortment of brushes both flat and pointed.

4. decal setting solution

5. a small assortment of wet or dry sand paper.

6. an optivisor.

All the advice above is really good. Drink it in and go forward.

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