Before you begin painting, the first thing you need to do is clean the model. Inevitably, during the build, the model will have accumulated fingerprints. I'm not necessarily talking about glue fingerprints, but wether we like it or not, our fingers have a small amount of grease on them, and this gets transferred to the model we are building. The best and indeed only way I recommend to clean your model, is to gently wash it in warm soapy water. Now it goes without saying that you need to wait until all the glue has thoroughly dried first! After washing the model, carefully dab it dry with some soft tissue paper.
Now that the model is clean and dry, we can begin painting! Some modellers tend to paint an undercoat to start with, but I honestly don't think this is necessary; as long as you have thoroughly cleaned your model, the paint should coat the model evenly. First of all you need to follow the model's instructions, there is usually some sort of list with all the paints you will need for the model, and throughout the instructions colour codes are used to indentify which paint is needed for which part. Most manufacturers also include diagrams which show the completed model's overall colour/camouflage scheme. Once again Tamiya are particularly good at showing which paints are needed, and their colour scheme diagrams are always nice and clear.
When using a paint brush, don't overload the brush with paint as this can cause runs which show up when the paint has dried. Use nice, even brush strokes on smooth, flat areas whilst using a gentle dabbing/stippling motion when painting surface textures/details. For example if a model tank has engine grills or some other similar surface detail, using brush strokes can cause a build up of paint in the corners of the slots or mesh and that's why I use a gentle dabbing motion for these areas. Also as a general rule of thumb, the smaller the area or part to be painted, the smaller the brush you need to use. On the flip side, the bigger the area or part to be painted, the bigger the brush you use! Again I know this sounds obvious, but it took me a while to learn this!
(Addendum, 21/02/2011) After speaking with some fellow model makers on YouTube, I really must emphasise the use of a large brush on a large area. Many years ago, I built a 1:72 scale F86 Sabre jet fighter. It needed to be painted with Humbrol 11 Silver. This particular silver, is, in my opinion, the best silver enamel paint available. However, it does need some care in order to get a good, even finish. At that time, I used a smaller brush, and the model was spoilt by an uneven paint finish. So, although the model was a fairly small model, with that particular colour of paint, it really did need a larger paint brush!
When painting very small parts, a technique I have learnt is to hold the wrist of the hand doing the painting, with my free hand to keep it steady. I also use the magnifying glass attachment on my 'Helping Hands' gadget so that I can see the part I'm painting better.
(Addendum, 21/02/2011) Another usefull tip for painting really fine details, is to use the tip of a cocktail stick! On my Dragon Wagon model, for instance, I used a cocktail stick to pick out the white numerals on the dashboard dials!
A selection of paints, brushes and accessories that I use to paint
my models with.
A quick word about some of the accessories I use when painting my models. I use a small pot and an old jam jar lid to mix paints in. As good as Tamiya's Acrylic paints are, they don't yet manufacture every single colour I'm ever going to need. So on those few occasions when Tamiya don't make the colour I want or need, I mix my own, using photographs of the real thing as reference.
The following are a few little tips I've learnt about weathering my models. First of all, I use a mixture of reds, browns and bronze to make a rust colour for vehicle exhausts. Sometimes to depict the rust that you get between panels on a model, I thin down the rust mixture and let it run down the line between the panels. I use different shades of brown for wet or dry mud. For liquid mud, I use gloss brown. I also mix in a small amount of plaster powder for thick mud! I use either silver paint or a graphite pencil to depict areas where the paint has worn down to bare metal (this technique is known as 'chipping'). If you do choose to weather your model, another important technique to learn is dry brushing. To dry brush, you load the paint on the brush as normal, letting the surplus paint drip back into the jar/pot, then you wipe off most of the remaining paint with a tissue. You then use light brush strokes to apply the minimum amount of paint to the surface being weathered.
(Addendum, 15/04/2011) I've recently been reading about the use of Pigments to depict weathering on AFVs. I've never used these myself, as my model making budget won't stretch that far! However, I use very thinned down 'washes' of paint to get a similar result.
Just remember, it's very rare to see an A.F.V. still in its factory new condition. No two vehicles will look exactly alike in real life, so don't just use the tips I've shared. The most important thing is to study photographs, or even better, the real thing 'in the flesh'. There are plenty of museums where you can see the real vehicles, some also let you take photographs as well. Experiment with different mixes and finishes. Try to imagine what a real vehicle looks like. What surfaces will have mud splashes on them? Which parts will show rust? Where will the paint wear down with use?
I also really enjoy painting the figures that you get with many model A.F.V.s. I like painting all the tiny details like uniform buttons, belt buckles etc. One thing I don't tend to do however, is to shade and highlight them. I've seen so many models where the model maker has done a really nice job on the vehicle, only to spoil the overall look by going overboard with the shading on the figures. Maybe its just my own personal preference, but I really can't stand seeing thick black lines of shading on a 1:35 scale figure's facial features. In my opinion the only facial features that need to be picked out are the pupils in the eyes, the eyebrows and the lips, the rest can just be painted with a standard flesh colour (I use Tamiya's Acrylic XF15 Flesh for this). One last thing about figures, always use a fine scalpel blade to gently scrape away any mould part lines that might be on the figure's arm, legs or head/helmet, before you start with the painting. I used to be quite bad for this, until I realised that the unsightly mould part lines really spoilt the look of the figures, no matter how good a paint job I had done.
If you take your time to get a nice paint finish on your model, it will go a long way towards achieving a high quality finish. Taking your time with the painting to get a good finish, is in my opinion the highlight of any model build. The difference between a good and bad paint finish, is the difference between a good and bad model. In fact I would even go as far as to say that a good paint finish can often hide small mistakes made during the build e.g. it can hide small glue blemishes. Having said that, I certainly don't recommend putting on a thick layer of paint to try and cover up every single mistake. It's often better to use a sharp scalpel blade to gently scrape away any larger glue blemishes, being carefull not to scrape away any surface texture or detail in the process.
A quick word about applying decals to models. What I tend to do to get a decal to adhere to a complex surface shape, is to put the decal in hot water to loosen its backing paper, then using an old paint brush, apply diluted to PVA glue to the surface the decal is being affixed to. Place the decal in position, then brush some more of the diluted PVA glue on top of the decal so that it seeps underneath the edges, then dab it dry with either some tissue paper, or a cotton bud. If your budget will stretch that far, there are a number of products on the markets that will 'fix' your decals for you.
I'd like to sum up by saying that I have had many hours of pleasure from building and painting my model collection. I hope that by sharing some of the tips and tricks that I have learnt over the years, that I have helped you enjoy model building as well!