Blog A Beginner’s Guide to Painting Your First Model Aircraft

A Beginner’s Guide to Painting Your First Model Aircraft


Every modeller has a different method of painting his kits. However, no matter how much the technology has improved and different tools appeared making things easy, hand-painted models are still popular. Here you have a beginner’s guide to painting your first model aircraft that will help you choose the right paint, the right tools and the right method to easily get your model aircraft done.

Type of Paint

There are different types of paint on the market, but for model aircraft, most people prefer acrylic paint. Also, every paint contains three major elements, including the color pigment, the pigmented gum, and the solvent that holds everything collectively in the liquid form. Also, there are two main categories of paint, including lacquers and enamels. Enamel goes through a chemical reaction when the solvent evaporates. The lacquers do not have any curing when the solvent evaporates.  Enamels are oil-based, whereas acrylic lacquers are water-based or aqueous.  To thin hobby enamels like Model Masters, Testors, and Humbrol you can use mineral spirits and get a glossy finish. To thin hobby acrylics like PollyScale, Tamiya, Vallejo, and Floquil you can use alcohol or water, and it is easy to clean up. You can try both classes and check which one looks good and choose accordingly.

Applying Paint

Before you start painting your model aircraft, you should know that there are three basic methods that are commonly used by the modelers to apply the paint on their model airplanes. The methods include brush painting, airbrush, and spray cans.  Each method has their own set of disadvantages and advantages.


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The paintbrush is one the best and easiest method of painting the airplane model. You can find different types of bushes and they are available in different shapes, including round and flat, which are the most common shapes. You can also find the brushes in different materials and sizes.  To paint your airplane model, you need a broad-flat brush that helps you cover a large area, a medium-width round brush for common use, and also you will need a fine-tip brush for the smallest specifications.

You can also find different model paintbrushes for different aircraft models. However, for most popular aircraft models, the individual usually uses three brushes, including medium round, wide flat, and fine-tip brushes.

To get a nice and smooth finishing, the best tip is, reduce overlap of stokes with a paintbrush. Avoid going back and forth on the part that you have just painted. Allow the paint spread and level by itself.  Also, use the brush that contains soft bristles, and the choose sable. If you are going to paint the rough surface, like a tire or wall, then get a synthetic or a camel hair brush for fine strokes.  

When you are painting the large/wide area, use a large brush to reduce the strokes, also, make sure to keep the brush clean before using it.  Keep debris and dried pint elements away from the paint bottle. If you want to pour the paint from the bottle to different container or palette, then use a disposable dropper can be very helpful. After you finish painting your aircraft model, let the paint dry completely, then put the second coat of paint on your model aircraft.  It is suggestible, not to apply a completely thick layer of painting in one go.

Enamel paint is easy to paint with a paintbrush than acrylics paint as it dries slowly.  If you find hard painting with acrylic paint, then try adding a little bit of thinner or retarder for easy brushing.  Also, you can dip your brush in water while brushing acrylics for smooth brushing and quick painting experience. 

Also, it is better to paint some old plastic before you actually start painting your first aircraft model. Make sure to clean the brush with thinner after you paint the model. For acrylic paints, use water or soap. Use your fingers to shape the bristles so that they don’t deform.  While storing the brushes, put them in a cup with the bristle side up.

Spray Can:

Many individuals also use spray paint for their model airplanes. That is because spray paint offers several advantages than brush painting, including smooth paint task and you don’t get brush stroke marks.  Also, you can paint quickly and the best part is no need of cleaning up brushes after painting.

But, the disadvantage of spray can is that it paints a wide area, and you may waste some paint while spraying on smaller parts. Also, the spray paint is very expensive, not just that, you will also find a very restricted range of colors, and you don’t have any option of custom assimilation of paint colors.  If you want to use multi colors on your model aircraft, then covering can be done to restraint overspray.  The spray can paint can cool down quickly that can reduce the flow of the paint, and whenever the paint can cool down, you must put them in a warm water for some time to use it again.  Even with some disadvantages, spray cans are very useful and handy, especially when you want to color your model with a single color.  Spray cans are popular among model car bodies.  The popular options are Tamiya spray lacquers and Testors spray enamels.


Airbrush is the best choice and the best tool for painting model airplanes.  When you use an air compressor, it becomes the best-unbounded spray can and offers several benefits, including control of pressure, and the amount of paint to use for painting.  These extra benefits allow you to produce fine paint lines and other general effects.

 The Passche Model H offers a single action and you can use this airbrush to paint the Corsair and Spitfire models. It usually works using the principle of Bernoulli, when air moves at a higher velocity then it reduces pressure. You can find various brands of airbrushes, but the most popular types are double action and single action.

The single action airbrush continues a steady air pressure when you press the trigger and it adjusts the air pressure at the compressor nozzle. If you choose a double action airbrush, then you may feel little odd initially as it allows you to use the same trigger to control paint flow and airflow.


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