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How to Brush Paint Scale Models

How to Brush Paint Scale Models


Hey Owen here and this is my guide to
brush painting scale models. Brushes are available in a range of natural and
synthetic hairs. I’m going to generalize things to keep it simple. Natural hairs
are generally used for oil paint and watercolor paint, and a more expensive
depending on the quality of the hair used in the brush. They can be prone to
damage and do not work well with acrylic paint because the pH of acrylic paint is
the opposite to that of the natural hairs.
Synthetic brushes – which I prefer to use – are cheaper and more durable than natural hairs and can be used with oil, watercolor and acrylic paint. Like
natural hair, there are different qualities of the synthetic hair.
I prefer artists synthetic brushes from manufacturers such as ‘Royal and
Langnickel’, ‘Winsor Newton’ and ‘Pro Arte’. It’s important to have a range of sizes
of brushes from very fine to quite wide. For painting models I find that stiffer
bristles are better. You can test your brushes by leaving them in water for a
minute, and then if you bend the bristles like so, you can see which bounce back.
The left brush and middle brush would be appropriate for watercolor, but only the
one on the right would be useful for painting models. Before using your paint,
make sure you stir it well for at least 30 seconds. I use a matchstick to do this.
This makes sure that the paint pigment, binder and liquid is fully mixed. Once it has
been stirred you can check the consistency of the paint. Straight out of
the pot the paint will be too thick and your brush will leave stroke marks when
you try and paint with it. You want the paint to be roughly the consistency of
milk, as they say. I find that a ratio of one part thinner to
six or seven parts paint is usually good, although the amount of paint could
be reduced if you want it to be thinner, or if the paint out of the pot is
really thick. Sometimes, for example, I use a one part thinner to four parts paint
ratio. Here I have a one part thinner to one part paint ratio and this is very
thin and basically a wash. Acrylic paint should be thinned with water or acrylic
thinners, and enamel paint should be thinned with enamel thinners or white
spirit. Turpentine could also be used but it is not as refined as white spirit.
Enamel paints will get you a better finish than acrylic, as enamels will take
longer to dry so the paint has more time to spread on the surface. This
reduces visible brushstrokes. I usually leave enamel paint to dry overnight so
I’m sure that it is dried and cured properly. Before you start I recommend
washing the sprue in warm soapy water with a splash of vinegar, as this removes
any residue from the mould that might stop the paint from sticking. I find I
never need to use primer, however, if you want to use primer then this step can be
avoided. Small parts are more easily painted on the sprue, but sometimes I
find it’s better to cut them off and make little Blu-tack handles for them so
they’re easier to hold while I paint them. Always thin your paint to roughly
one part thinners to seven parts paint. This makes the paint easier to apply and
again reduces visible brushstrokes. However, it will increase the drying and
curing time of the paint. Apply at least three to four thin coats of paint, never
one or two thicker coats as the thicker paint will leave brushstrokes and
possibly cover up detail in the moulding. Use the largest brush you can on a
surface as this will reduce visible brushstrokes. I use a two centimeter wide brush on
large areas of my 1/72 scale models but you may want one even wider
for larger scales. Try and brush in all the same direction for each coat, so from
the nose of the plane to the tail, or from the top of the tank or ship to the
bottom. You can alternate the direction of the brush strokes with each coat
to get a more even coverage. When using masking tape, paint away from the masking tape to stop the paint building up against it and leaving a ridge when you
remove the tape. I recommend Tamia masking tape for use
on scale models. Painting very small details can be difficult. To make it
easier I secure the model or part in place on the table, then, because I’m
right-handed, I rest my left hand palm up on the table. I then rest my right hand
in my left hand so now when I paint I can steady my right hand.
This makes painting a lot more accurate and easier. It’s very important to look
after your brushes. After painting with acrylics I’ll rinse the brush in water
to remove as much paint as possible, then gently rub some soap into the bristles
and then rinse the brush again. I’ll then form the bristles back into a point by
either rolling the brush or using my fingers and leave it to dry upright in a
jar. For enamel paints I’ll rinse them in white spirit first and then repeat all
the steps I’ve already mentioned. So I hope you found this video useful and
informative, feel free to check out my other videos on ‘paint types for scale
modellers’ and also ’25 tips scale for modellers’ to which there are links in the
description and in the cards. Thank you for watching this video and I’ll see you
next time.


Reader Comments

  1. Tnx this was usefull, i build gunpla kits and dont habe an air brush and want ro start painting soon so this thought me lots, tnx mate

  2. I want to own an airbrush since i was 16, now im 30 but still dont own any. I got a chance to use my friend's airbrush and was terrible at it. I always believe i can do models by brush. When i see your videos, got me inspired & more confident to do it by brush. So Thank you Owen.

  3. Do i need to dilute if i buy store air paint can and use the paint in it ?
    Nice video ..still cant decide if its worth to buy airbrush and 2 paints or bushes and 5-6 paints if im making only 7-10 kits total per year.
    Edit: eh ill thin it proly 1:8
    As 4/4 will be two paints mixed together and then adding the thinner to get more accurate blending of colours .

  4. I will start with my primair lair of paiting from my Millennium Falcon Revell Kit lvl 5 tomorrow. Thanks for this video! I will definitly keep the tips in mind!

  5. Thanks for the tutorial, im a beginner and i was looking to make the perfect mix of paint, the use or not of primer and what kind of brush its better… greetings from Mexico…

  6. Painting a model with a brush vs a spray can or air brush can look almost as good if done correctly, and you have done a nice job of explaining it on this video.

  7. This is a spectacular tutorial; I feel much more confident in going into this project I've decided to take on. Thank you 🙂

  8. Thanks! I used to airbrush quite a bit and I still do occasionally but for some reason (actually I hate cleaning up the airbrush afterwards!) brush painting models is attractive to me these days. My biggest obstacle to overcome is to not hurry and try to cover in one coat. Must force myself to slow down and do three thinned coats!

  9. I haven’t been doing this hobby for too long and I only use acrylic hobby paint, but in my experience the thing about the brushes is wrong. From the little experience that I have I’d tell you that stiffer brushes (the ones recommended in the video) are definitely better for applying fine details, but to cover large surfaces it’s way better to use the more loose brushes. I realized this because when I started I used only the looser brushes, but then I got a pair of stiffer ones as part of a gift. After using both types both ways I’m confident enough in making this statement.

  10. Why does the old layers of paint get removed when I paint a new coat. Using enamel hombrel and tamiya

  11. Thanks a lot!
    I just managed to ruin my first large surface painting and now I know what I did wrong and what to avoid in the future!

  12. Wow Owen thank you so much for this tutorial! I have 3 fully-built models sitting waiting to be painted, I didn't dare to use an airbrush on them. The good thing is I already have a collection of paints and brushes! Will proceed to paint them stat

  13. I have been tempted to use bottle paint for quite some time since I don't have an airbrush and cans don't have every color that bottle and airbrush paints have. I learned a lot and will be liking and saving this video for reference.

  14. VERY INFORMATIVE…I am going back to brush painting my scale model aircraft because air brushing is too much dam maintenance. Forever cleaning the air brush…chances of clogging and spattering paint which happened to me and I had to strip the paint off the entire right wing. The cost of my two airbrushes and the Iawata tubular compressor was roughly 1500.00…lol. I seem to be cleaning the airbrush more than painting which pisses me off. The paint and air pressure has to be just right or you will end up with a disaster. Air brushing not for me!!! And you can get just as nice a finish with brush painting as you can with an airbrush…like you said in your video…the right brush and paint for the job and sanding and polishing mats too!

  15. Owen,
    Your video is excellent and very informative.

    I am planning to use Vallejo Model Color acrylic paint to paint the uniform on a 1/6 scale figure, James Arness from the movie THE THING. So I have two questions.

    (1) What size brush would you recommend?

    (2) Would you dilute the Vallejo Model Color paint?
    Thanks for your information.

  16. Thanks for the good painting tutorial. I'm about to build and paint a Spitfire mk1. What's the purple tool called to get a drop of water/paint? Thanks a lot.

  17. Owen, my paint pod of acrilylic is all squishy. Should I mix it? It has been closed for 4 months now. Please respond ASAP

  18. well… bought an airbrush to get rid of the brush marks on the model.. to late now i guess 😛

  19. Such great tips wish I knew this back on the day. I have made 40+ models with big slabs of brush stroke ridden acrylic paint 🙂

  20. Hello!
    How do you manage to paint very big parts with brush?(Italeri Fiat Mefistofele,engine bonnet)

  21. I don't have the space or money for an airbrush set at the moment, and this has been EXTREMELY helpful. Thank you so much for making this video as my painting techniques and skill will drastically improve!

  22. Thank you very much for the post. Was getting frustrated by the brush marks. I usually spray the wide areas before assembly then like on the ME109 it’s light blue then comes the Camo and it’s texture looks like shit compared to the spray texture.

  23. Question: how do you stop the natural colour of the plastic from showing through the paint? I tried to paint a grey-plastic 1:72 Spiteful white on the underside a long time ago, and found it almost impossible to stop the underlying grey from showing through.

  24. Thanks for sharing, it truly helps me to get the max out of brush paint jobs. While I already have an airbrush, there are situations when the brush is still the best tool. Tips like stabilizing your favorite hand by using the palm of your free hand are really improving my skills. Great video!

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