Tutorial - How to prepare a plastic model

by Roman aka jar

posted by roman, jarhead, kong


This article's content is for sure again nothing new to most of our readers, but to have the article section helping in its full body this article was still missing. There is also an article about how you can prepare a white metal model for painting and at plastic it isn't much different, it is just simpler :)

I will have a go at this on a normal plastic model by Games Workshop, a Space Wolf out of the Wolfpack sprue. First, when your model is delivered in a sprue make sure you don't ripp the parts out of it with your pure muscle strength as this will do damage to the parts and will only bring up some more work to repair this afterwars. Simply using a calliper here will help you avoid these damages, the fine cleaning work will do the rest.

What you need now follows here:

- a clipper
- Sandpaper (rough and fine, not too rough!)
- a scalpell or sharp blade
- Superglue or plastic glue
- time and patience
- i also use Activator, but i will tell you more about it in the following text
- a drill
- 2 Bananas

Here you can see the material i use and the already empty sprue from where i have taken the parts i did choose for my model. I have done this with my clipper as told you above - and always remember that painting up a model starts with a good cleaning session:

It isn't really a difference in preparing a model made out of resin or plastic. You have to work carefully as the material is much softer than metal (where you also have to work concentrated). During your work with plastic you can cut away details if you don't work concentrated. Being steady and concentrated is also needed to avoid damage to yourself by using too much force and cutting into your finger. So beware, take your time and stay alerted.

After the pieces are removed from the sprue I go on them one by one and finish to clean them off individually. I start with using my scalpell to remove mouldlines which come from the process of casting. Don't argue with them, they appear on mostly every model you can find out there in this world. Just cut them away carefully. On plastic or resin it is a gentle touch with your scalpell to remove it. Don't you dig to deep with your scalpell as this can mean the loss of detail i did explain some moments ago. You can also remove material you don't like at all, like i did with a Space Wolf icon on the left leg of the Marine. You even can add fine battle damage to the model with skillful meditation.

Next I use rough sanding paper (not too rough, 400+ is a good start) and go gently over the places where i have removed the mouldlines or other material before to do the first step of cleaning the area. It still will look rough but you can make the area plain as you wish and prepare for the next step. Also make sure while sanding that you try to keep an eye out for the shape of the place you are sanding. Sanding powerful only in one angle will make this area plain and this will look kind of stupid on sculpted models. Try to move the sandpaper along the shape, along the form - you don't want to destroy it you just want to redifine and clean it. On the next photo you can see the progress of rough sanding. For sure you can leave it that way if you want a rough and used looking surface, but you still can go forth. That is the big plus of plastic, it all goes easy and you can change it much more the way you like it.

 Next i used ultrafine sandpaper (~ 1000+) by the company Tamyia. This sandpaper is meant to be used with water, so i made the areas wet with a small drop of water before i start "wet-sanding". For sure you can also make the sandpaper wet, it's totally up to you. Foolish as i am i again did forget to shot a photo here, but i hope everyone can imagine this step, sorry. For ultrafine cleaning i would recommand using a soft toothbrush and some warm (not too hot!) water to clean off the plastic parts from remains of the sanding process.

Slowly i am cleaning every single part of the model this way. Meanwhile after the main parts are cleaned i start to build them together in the pose that i like, using superglue here. I completly stopped using plastic glue as i don't like the way it melts togehter with the plastic and mostly seems unremovable afterwards. I went to Superglue and this also works well with plastic or Resin and in case you still want to change something you can remove the parts more easily with a soft grip of your muscle powers. You can also pin your pieces togehter in fear of having them falling down of the gaming table, but normally i would not pin parts of plastic models that i've glued with superglue (only model to base pin). If you are tired of waiting until your super glue is dry there is one product that fastens this process. It is called Activator and smells horrible when it comes out of the spray can. I am still not sure if this product is very healthy but a friend of us who is a doctor in chemistry told us that it is fine after having a look on it. Just glue your part and spray a small amount of Activator on the area. Some seconds later it will be hard as a rock, no waiting time :)

If you got a firearm at your model, in this case a plasma pistol, take a small hobby drill and open the muzzle as this small amount of time spent here will upgrade the look of your model in the end big time. Painted holes most time look confusing. For sure this is also an option for white metal models.

During this process i start to fill gaps with Vallejo Putty 401 or Milliput.

After everything is build up you will still see the places where you have sanded the areas. If you have done ultrafine work you won't see it maybe, but in this case of the Space Wolf the surface must not be completly plain as this minor difference in the areas give the armour a realistic look while painting. You won't even recognize the places i have worked while cleaning inthe next photo series where i already have started the happy painting, but before you do so, bring your model up to something that helps you to handle it better while swinging the brush. Oh and this model is not perfectly cleaned, i saw some minor things while looking of the following photos i have done, but it is meant to be a gaming model so i suppose my mind wasn't up to a full perfect cleaning procedure... i will hide some things with colour, this should not be your motto at all, but really rare if it is mine and those of others for sure too. I am just so honest to tell and show you, also my latest sculpt i have done with some Milliput rest :)

So far - i hope i did not forget something. If so, please feel free to comment as this basic article is something which shall help the starters among us - it would not be good if there is wrong information in it. For sure you can also tell via comment that you like it. Whatever you comment, I will be happy...

Keep on happy painting!
Best Regards


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