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Car Modeling Share your passion for car modeling here! Includes sub-forum for "in progress" and "completed" vehicles.
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Old 05-10-2002, 09:13 PM   #1
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AF Car Modeling FAQ - * Look here first! *

To access an indexed, hyperlinked version of this FAQ (easier to find specific topics), please go to:

AF Car Modeling FAQ ver2.0


About this forum:

Hi, I'm new here!
Welcome! Feel free to start a new thread and tell us about yourself, or you can take the easy way out and just post in this thread: Real name and age!!!

How big is this place?
Automotive Forums .com is HUGE. See for yourself:

There are currently over 1000 forums and sub-forums. The AF Car Modeling forum is just one subcategory among many.

Please feel free to use any of the forums of AF, but also please remember that you must follow the AF Guidelines in all forums. Sorry to say it, but if you get banned from AF, even if it's for something you've done outside the model forum, you'll be banned from ALL of AF, including the model forum.

So behave!

How do I post images here?
Check out this tutorial with pictures to guide you: How to post pictures

Is it okay to post in old threads?
The reason we use a thread format is so that posts about a similar topic are all in the same place. It is preferable to post anything about model X in the thread about model X, regardless of how old the thread is, so that when people go looking for information about model X, it will be easy to find. That's why we don't delete or lock old threads. If you have something to add to an old thread, then by all means, bring it back up.

Why do threads get closed or moved?
This is a public message board. Threads that are addressed to only one member are out of place and are closed. It is not our policy to delete them at this time because we know then that the intended recipient will see them, and respond in some way. If these types of threads ever become a problem, then they would be deleted.

Just FYI, there are plenty of threads that started out as 'ATTN:' threads, and all I've done is change the title to something meaningful for everyone.

It is our intent to provide a forum where information regarding the hobby can be freely discussed. To that end, we try to ensure that the information be well-organized and easy to find. This is one of the reasons for the FAQ threads as well as the threads that get posted to the top of the forum as "important." This is also the reason that some threads that are off the topic of Car Modeling in particluar will get moved to other forums.

About Car Modeling in General:

What kind of supplies do I need to get started?
Look here: Getting started in the hobby Inside that thread is a link to an article that will detail everything you need to buy. You need to have acrobat reader installed, then you can zoom in on the text...

Where can I see some models that are already built?
Well, of course we have our own AF Car Modeling Gallery, but you can also look in this thread: Links to great model galleries...

What kind of common mistakes should I try to avoid?
Well, we all make mistakes, and hopefully, we all learn from them and keep from repeating them. The good thing about a modeling community like this is that we can share our experiences, so that once I make a mistake, you'll know better than to try the same thing. Here is a list of Little tips you have learnt the hard way!

About Buying Model Kits:

Where can I buy model cars online?
One of the favorite places to buy is Hobby Link Japan, available at They have a superb live database site which has pictures and a clear and concise ‘in stock’ display. The kits are incredibly cheap, but once postage is added you will pay close to local prices! You will get a good selection and it is a fantastic place for accessories. Worldwide postage is slow, and it often takes a week just for the parts to leave Japan, so think ahead when ordering! I usually receive items within a 5 weeks, 6 if you go for the cheaper surface mail option.

A new and up coming company is Media Mix Hobby, who have a fantastic Race Car accessory list and carry many items in stock. Postage is as fast as they get and once again you can view a live database. Available at tell Wong that you are from Automotive Forums and he will treat you extra nice!!!

Local to the United Kingdom is Grand Prix models, available at It also has a live database but without the pictures. Very fast postage service if the items are in stock, but order out of stock items at your risk!

Another site is They tend to be slightly cheaper than HLJ and their site has more info on kits, including scans of the instuction sheets and pictures of the box contents.

Others include:

And, of course, the infamous Ebay! Look in the Toys & Hobbies > Hobbies & Crafts > Models > Automotive category, but don't forget to search all of Ebay for items that may be mis-filed.

Originally posted by erix7
Japanese shop Rainbow 10
because they usually have the latest kits first

and Australian shop Hobby HQ
because they have low prices (and shipping is cheap too) and often can get you kits that are long OOP.

Where can I find more websites about models and online model retailers?
MODELCARLIST Plastic Model Resource Page is a great place to start. Then, go to the International List of Scale Model Related Web Sites. Last, try

Where can I find model stores near me?
Please make sure you look in your phone book first! Look under Hobby Shops or Hobby Retailers .

Which model kit manufacturer is good for beginners?
A question with many answers, especially as the choices in model cars is so large! If you like NASCAR then only Revell will do, as no one else makes them. If you like Japanese Touring cars then only Tamiya will do and so on and so forth!
But if you are flexible and are looking for a kit just to break you into the hobby, then us guys will say go for a Tamiya! If you have never used decals before DON’T go and buy the brightest, multi-coloured, ultra winged Race beast you see as it will dishearten you! Go for a single colour road car, preferably without an engine! (Fiddly!)
We say Tamiya as the part fit is perfect, the instructions very clear (Though I have noticed omissions!) and the subjects are inspiring! The two Skylines, the WRX STi, the S2000 and the WRC Subaru in my gallery are all good starting kits.

Which model kit manufacturer is the best?
Another tough question to answer, because all the manufacturers have their pros and cons.

Right now, Revell-Monogram and Tamiya are at the forefront of the plastic car kit market (and they were the only two companies to release all-new kits in the U.S. in 2001). For some insight into the pros and cons of those two manufacturers in particular, please read: Tamiya vs. Revell - Let's get it on!!

Sometimes, though, it doesn't matter because only one manufacturer makes a kit of the car you want, so you don't really get a choice! In the end, it's the subject that matters, and any extra work you put into it will reward you ten-fold!

Why are resin kits so expensive?
You can find three versions of the same explanation in this thread:
Why is Studio 27 (or other resin and mixed-media kits) so expensive?

About Painting:

What order do I do all the painting and polishing steps?
Originally posted by ales in Help about the cars body
What paint did you use? (meaning metallic or not)

Basically, here's a concise rundown of the procedure:


1. Solid colour (non-metallic):
a) primer
b) sanding the primer if necessary
c) paint (several coats)
d) sanding (if rough orange peel)
e) cutting/rubbing/polishing - whatever you call it - compound. By the end of this step the paint should be smooth as a baby's butt!)
f) decals
g) wax

2. Metallic paint:
a) primer
b) sanding the primer if necessary
c) paint (several coats)
d) leave the paint alone!!!
e) clear coat (several layers)
f) sanding (if necessary)
g) cutting/rubbing/polishing compound
h) decals (as personaly preference, you might want to put the decals before clearcoating, I prefer not to clearcoat decals on race cars)
i) wax

How do you make the car's body paint so smooth and life-like?
Lucky you! Guiddy wrote a whole thread with step-by-step instructions.
Painting model car bodies! Full instructions! (Yes, you have to use primer!)

What is primer? Do I have to use it?

Primer is a filler and a barrier coat, preparing the plastic to grip the paint, filling scratches and imperfections, as well as neutralizing any incompatibility between the paint and plastic. Automotive plastic primer is the best choice, as it is suitable for any top coat and comes in white or gray. Also available in clear though that has no filling properties. ‘Key’ the plastic by rubbing the whole body with 800 grade wet & Dry paper, then apply up to three coats of primer. Then leave for 24 hours, smooth with 1200 grade paper, then add the top coats.

Also, the primer coat will help you find any small imperfections in the plastic or mold before you continue. As you sand it after the first light coat, the sandpaper will naturally take primer off the high points. These high points must be sanded flush with their surroundings, or else you will polish right through your paint job in these spots!

How can I tint model car windows?
It can be done using car window tint film.

When putting it on you need to clean the window so there are no marks etc.
Lightly spray the window with soapy water then apply the tint on to the window.
Use a really soft cloth or stiff cardboard to rub over the window tint to smooth it down. This helps to get rid of any tiny air bubbles that occur.
Allow to dry.

DONT do it will never get the bubbles out.

DON’T use Tamiya X19 Smoke. It does not give acceptable results!

How do I paint the black trim around the outside of the windows?
Warren wrote a great tutorial with pictures:
HOW TO....Paint window frames and rubbers

How do I paint the black on the inside of the windows?
The best result will be achieved by spraying semi-gloss black paint over Tamiya masking tape or the masking set included with many models. Apply the mask to the clean clear plastic, rubbing the edges will with the back of a fingernail or something similar. Then apply a very light dust of spray over the area, and leave to touch dry which is about 5 minutes. This seals the tape edges against paint ingress. Then apply another slightly heavier coat, allow to dry, and then another, until the surface opacity has gone. Remove the masking tape within 30 minutes to prevent the paint lifting with the tape.

What is the purpose of lacquer or clear coat?
Vital for metallics and optional for solid colours, lacquer, or clear coat will add a clear film to the paint which can then be mirror polished. A superb way to seal race car decals and protect them, though it often attacks the decal and so must be used carefully.

It gives a hard shine similar to enamel and so may be undesirable for some finishes, but is a good way of polishing a model for the inexperienced, as the lacquer can be cut back to a shine and still give warning before you polish too much off! i.e. As soon as you see colour on the cloth, STOP!!!

It should be left for at least a week to ‘gas off’ before polishing otherwise your new shiny surface will dull again as the lacquer continues to shrink!

What is the difference between the various paint types?
Each paint type has a plus and a down side. Each type also has its place, though the following is through my experience and you may feel differently!


Is a very reactive paint, and will not allow automotive paint to be applied over it. It is happy over every other paint type however.

The gloss colours have a very deep, harsh shine which is a bit too plastic-y looking for car bodies.

It is perfect for fine detail however as the oil base is very easy to work with and it will happily sit where you place it. Have a small amount of enamel thinners near by in a small pot, and dip the tip of the brush in the thinners, then the paint pot, dab on paper and then paint on the detail.

Enamel is also good for large surfaces which require brush painting, as it is slow to dry. Allow 6 hours before adding another coat if required. Very difficult to remove as chemicals that remove the paint also attack the plastic. A strong degreaser like Castrol Super Clean is the only way known to safely remove it at this time.

USES: Fine detail painting. Large surfaces which require brush painting.

DO NOT USE: On car bodies. The shine is too harsh and unrealistic and it doesn’t polish well. Do not use on any surface which requires another paint type on top.


Because it is water based it is very friendly to use, but the water tends to ‘hold’ the paint off the part you are painting, making detail painting difficult. Again, thinned with a little soapy water, the results can be improved but expect to require a few coats to achieve complete coverage.

This type of paint is easy to remove, just spray the part with oven cleaner, leave to work and then rinse under a tap. The paint dries quickly, which makes painting large surfaces undesirable.

Great for matt colours, as it is easy to hide the brush strokes and dries to a very smooth, velvety finish. The gloss colours dry to a soft shine. Then just four days is required before polishing to a shine.

USES: Car interiors and light lenses.

DO NOT USE: On large surfaces. The paint dries very quickly and each new brush stroke tends to pull at the drying surface.


Also very reactive, and requires a plastic primer for modeling. Enormous colour range and it’s possible to use the exact colour of the car being modeled. Some metallic can be out of scale but true mica paints can be used, where the round metal particles reflect the light and give different shades.

Drying time is fast, touch dry in 10 minutes, but required hardening or ‘gassing out’ for a week before polishing.

Not suitable for detail painting, but possible to spray each part a single colour, and then add other colours with enamel or acrylic paints, or mask and spray other shades over the others.

USES: Perfect for car bodies, or model parts sprayed in a single colour.

DO NOT USE: With a brush as it leaves brush marks. Not suitable for detail painting.

How do I polish the body?
When you spray a model car body, the paint is usually a bit rough, what is called orange peel, especially if automotive paint is used.

To achieve a scale shine, the paint is polished to a glass like finish, using cutting compound and car polish.

There are many grades of compound, and experience will teach you which is best. Aim for something around 5-6 for a start.

If you are new to this try it on a lacquered paint job as you can watch the cloth you are using. As soon as you see the body colour on the cloth you know you have rubbed through the lacquer and that it is time to stop. Doing so on a solid colour will reveal the primer underneath and you will have to add more paint, which is very frustrating!!!

Once the paint is smooth, you can polish out the swirl marks using a car wax, which is also a mild abrasive, or milky swirl remover around compound 9. Finish the model using a high gloss polish such as Tamiya Polish or Autoglym Gold High Gloss Shine when completed.

What do I do the really small lettering with?
Gundam Markers! These are really fine marker pens used for detailing robots. Try an Animation enthusiasts shop or art shop for various fine markers.

You can paint marks on tyres like most race teams use using a 00 brush and slightly thinned white, I prefer matt enamel for this. Teams will usually indicate which side the tyre is for, front or rear and which driver or car it belongs too, as well as information such as cut slick or intermediate use.

How do I strip paint off a plastic model? What is "CSC"?
CSC is shorthand for Castrol Super Clean, a cleaner/degreaser available in North America.

If you want to go ahead and strip all the paint from the car body, here's what you do:

Go to your local auto supply store and buy a bottle of Castrol Super Clean, a pair of rubber gloves and a cheap brush with medium bristles. You also need a plastic Tupperware-like box that's bigger than the car body.
  1. Wear gloves.
  2. Pour all the CSC into the plastic box.
  3. Put the car body in the plastic box, in the CSC. Don't worry if the car isn't completely covered, you can let it sit, then flip it over to get the other side later.
  4. Let it soak in there for at least four hours.
  5. Use your gloved finger to rub some of the treated paint. If it smears off, it's almost ready. When it wipes off, it is ready.
  6. Use the brush to scrub all the paint off.
  7. Wash the body with water.

You can re-use the CSC if you filter it back into the bottle. And it's biodegradable, so if you spill, just wash with water.

If you don't have access to CSC where you live, alternatives are nail polish remover, foaming oven cleaner (Mr. Muscle is recommended) or brake fluid (note: NOT brake cleaner!).

Also, see if you have access to a product called "[url=]Modelstrip[/ur]l."

Here is a link to a great comparison of some common paint strippers: BONEDIGGER'S Styrene Archaeology E-ZINE

How do I hold a model car body for painting?
You best bet is to make a rig out of a wire coat hanger. See pictures here: Painting Jigs

How do you keep dust off the fresh paint? What can I do if it got on the car anyway?
Cardboard box
Tupperware/plastic box
Food Dehydrator

How can I chrome plate plastic parts? What paints come close?
How to Chrome plate?

What kind of airbrush should I buy?

Do I have to buy an airbrush?
No, in fact you don't if you have access to spray paints (some countries have restrictions on spray cans). The range of colors available in spray cans is fantastic. For proof that you don't need an airbrush for this hobby, just look at primera man's models...

Just don't hand-paint car bodies with a brush, please!

Why is an airbrush better than a spray can?
Well, it's not necessarily better, just different...

Spray Cans:
>Pros: Easy, easy, easy and easy.
>Cons: Can't mix your own colors, can't adjust spray pattern.

>Pros: Can use any color you can find, can adjust air and paint flow,
>Cons: Must clean well after each use, dependent on a propellant*, may have to re-fill for big jobs

*Propellants: Compressor or compressed air can.
Compressors are expensive: $100+, but you don't run out. It's a one-time investment.
Propellant cans are cheap ($7-10), but only last for about 3-6 models worth of spraying.

I most often use a spray can for the car's body color, and airbrush all the other details. Since I use Tamiya paints, an advantage to this is the two won't mix. Tamiya sprays are synthetic lacquers, and I use the acrylics through the airbrush. That means that once the base lacquer coat is down, if I mess up on detail work with the acrylics, I can get them back off without hurting the lacquer. I use either the acrylic thinner or window cleaner (with ammonia).

What can I use as an air supply for my airbrush?
Affordable compressor questions

About Assembly and Detailing:

What kind of glue should I use?
There are actually several types, and each serves a different purpose:


Do not use the tube type of glue, as it is too messy, but the bottle based glue is superb. It comes with a small brush, and can only be used for basic assembly as it won’t work in the presence of paint, the glued surfaces must be bare plastic. It works by melting the two surfaces together. For initial building purposes, i.e. joining two engine halves together before painting.


The best choice for suspension parts, especially joining the brake discs onto the hubs. Apply using a toothpick, and squeeze a drop onto the toothpick, never try to apply super glue straight from a tube onto the model!

Do not use on or near clear parts, as ‘fogging’ will ruin clear parts turning them white. It can also melt thin plastic, so use sparingly when mounting doors or other panels onto hinges.


The ONLY choice for clear parts, and also non stressed parts, such as rear view mirrors, door mirrors, etc. Very weak until set, the parts often require tacking until the glue takes hold. Also water soluble, and a great way to glue light lenses is to use a few drops to place the part, and when dry, run a thin bead of clear glue round the lens. Then immediately wipe off the access with a wet cloth, leaving a thin bead which fills the gap and dries completely clear.

You will be best served by picking up all three types, and you will soon have a little collection of adhesives...

How do you apply decals?
Decals vary according to manufacturer, and most will sit on flat panels very easily. For curved or angular panels however, they will benefit greatly from a softening solution such as Microsol.

This will make any decal conform to a surface, but must only be applied after the decal is in the right position, as it will break if moved after application. The decal may wrinkle a little while it is wet, but will dry tightly and neatly.
Cut the decal from the sheet staying close to the design so you remove the clear carrier film also. Dip in warm water which has a drop of dish washing liquid in it, then set the decal on a piece of paper to release. Once it will slide off with no effort, offer it up to the model with a pair of tweezers, and slide the decal into position, with either a thin layer of water or Microsol in the position the decal needs to go.
Then, with a wet cloth, and holding one side of the decal with another cloth, carefully push down and across the decal, removing water and bubbles from underneath the surface. Then hold the other end and repeat.
It goes without saying you can rip the decal using this method so be careful, but when the decal is dry it is the best result you can get. You don't need to rub small decals.

A decal will on an uneven surface will fit better if pressed with a hot cloth, or with heat from a hairdryer. Care must be taken with both methods though, to avoid drying out or moving the decal.

A few nips with a sharp scalpel will also help a decal to conform to an awkward shape.

What is model putty for?
Fillers are used to hide gaps and to blend parts of your kit together. Apply it with a piece of card and make sure it is fully dry before sanding. Some fillers will only bond to bare plastic, others to only paint, so make sure you know what you are using.

If you are using putty which is Toluene based, apply some masking tape 1/16" - 1/8" on either side of the length of the gap, apply a small amount of the putty to the gap to fill it, remove the tape, then use a q-tip (or cotton ball) dipped in normal strength nail polish remover to remove excess putty just after it sets-up and starts to harden. Clean up any residue with a soft cloth. This will leave the joint perfectly smooth and you probably won't even have to sand it afterward!!

You can also use putty to build upon the plastic car body to form body kits and ground effects, etc. Epoxy putty is typically better for this use. Read more here: Tamiya Epoxy Putty help!

What are photoetched parts?
"Photo-etch" refers to a set of detail parts for a plastic model. They usually appear as a very thin sheet of brass, tin or aluminum with the parts all attached to a "tree," much like plastic parts. The level of detail available in these sets is amazing. Some kit manufacturers include photo etched parts in their kits, but the majority is available from smaller aftermarket companies as add-on parts.

More specifically, "photo-etch" refers to the method by which they are made. The sets are not cast in a mold like plastic, and they are not stamped out in a die cutter. The manufacturer draws a black and white template for the set and overlays the template on a blank, whole sheet of metal. The metal sheet with the template is set into a light-sensitive chemical bath, and exposed to a light source through the template. All of the white areas of the template allow light to pass through to the metal surface and "activates" the chemical bath so that it eats away the metal in those areas. By the time the metal is removed from the bath, the negative areas have been etched away by their exposure to the light.

How do I attach photo etched parts?
Cut the metal parts off the sprues using very sharp scissors, or preferably tin snips. Any remaining sprue that needs removing can be done with needle files.

The best way to glue something like a badge or script is to use ‘photo mount’, a spray adhesive used to mount photographs. It is a dry adhesive that can be sprayed on the back of the photo etch and then the part placed onto the model. It won’t be the strongest grip, so it could be sealed using Krystal Klear as if mounting headlight lenses. Brush some over the script, then wipe away the excess with a wet cloth.

Most photo etch is glued using super glue, and the best results will be achieved if the parts are primered.

How do I remove the rib running through the middle of tyres?
Use a very coarse wet paper, around 180 grit, and work away at the line using plenty of water.

Then finish using a finer paper, before sealing with Tamiya Polish or other clear polish.

How do I apply the sidewall decals?
The sidewall of the tyre must be very clean, and very dry. I usually add them when the wheel is complete so as not to damage the delicate decals.

The decals are reversed and it is hard to see where you are placing them, so they must be cut to shape, as close to the writing as possible.

Remove the tissue protection film and place the decal dry onto the dry tyre. Then apply lots of water onto the film using a small brush, and leave for a few minutes. Repeat the process once more and then press on the whole decal with a finger in a sure, positive action. As you remove your finger the paper usually moves with it, leaving the decal nicely stuck on the tyre. With a wet brush make sure all the decal film is sitting on the tyre and not raised by the rim. Leave to dry before touching.

I heard you can get good results by airbrushing Tamiya matt lacquer over the tyre sidewall, but I have yet to try this.

How can I make my models more detailed?
There are many aftermarket add-on detail parts available. If you're looking for homemade ways to super-detail, look at this page of tips: Alex Kung's Automotive Modelling Tips, Tools and Techniques.

Can I add working lights to my models?
Yes, and there are many different methods. Here is a step-by-step guide using grain-of-wheat filament bulbs: Lighting Tutorial

About Photographing Your Models:

How can I take pictures of my models?
Step 1: Please Help: Photographing My Models
Step 2: Taking Better Model Pictures: Location, Location, Location...
Step 3: Taking Better Model Pictures: Fun with f-stop!

How do I get my model pics in the AF Car Modeling Gallery?
Easy! Get a few pics together, write up a little summary of the kit and your impressions of it, and email them to me at If you need any translation help, let me know. If you have trouble with email, send me a Private Message, and we can try and find an alternative.


Why does my head hurt?
Maybe this is why we are all so addicted to modeling...
How long will it take me to get brain damage from modeling?

But seriously, get a resprator and work safely!


NOTE: Items in dark blue are compiled by Guiddy (many thanks!), and can also be found at, which you should bookmark anyways!

Also, this FAQ was created and will be maintained to suit our particular model forum. If there's something we haven't covered, let us know below, but also take a look at the rec.model.scale newsgroup's FAQ at Their document covers scale modeling in general, and contains many more subjects than just car modeling.

To post feedback about this document, please use this thread: - Feedback

Last edited by Jay!; 11-12-2002 at 07:57 PM.
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