Review: Master Scale Modelling, by José Brito

by David

Disclaimer: I received the book as a free review copy by the publisher. This will not predetermine my review, which will be a fair summary and assessment of the book's strengths and weaknesses as I perceive them.

Hey all,

this is David, back again with another review of a recent book.

This time, I'll dive into Master Scale Modelling, published by Acrílicos Vallejo. The book is written by José Brito who is one of the best-known modellers out there, and an extremely productive author of excellent how-to-guides and tutorials. I am sure that you have seen some of those tutorials, be it in print, pdf or video format somewhere on the web, where the artist is wearing those distinctive blue gloves. That's José.


This book is a collection of articles by José - some already published as pdfs, some updated versions of published works, and some original pieces produced specifically for this volume - covering almost the whole spectrum of modelling. The book is a 552-page mammoth, weighing in with 2.3 kilograms, which takes the reader from the most basic topics such as the core tools for modelling to advanced issues such as diorama-planning, ultra-detailing, or weathering. Next to scale-modelling of planes, vehicles and ships, the book also covers miniatures and all-things-diorama.
The book is organized in two main sections. The first, titled "The World of Scale Modelling" is an introduction into the basic considerations and materials necessary for building, painting and weathering models, figures and dioramas. In these 70 pages, José talks in depth about the basic implements and necessities of our hobby, including the relevant tools, types of glues and paints, as well as the different materials models are made of and the stuff we can use to build dioramans and improve/detail existing model-kits. He also briefly touches upon some general ideas on planning a model project and how a bit of research can greatly improve the modelling experience. All of this is mainly written from the perspective of scale modelers and diorama-builders, but will also be perfectly applicable to the needs of the display or tabletop-army miniature painter!

The second part comprises the "meat" of the book, in which José presents on over 400 pages almost 50 step-by-step tutorials on a diverse range of topics, touching on every aspect of scale modeling, diorama building and miniature painting. Many of the tutorials focus on and are titled by a specific aspect of the modeling endeavor, including the process of (super-)detailing a model kit, working with different materials such as balsa and isolation foam, model water, or decals, or implementing special effects and working with metallic paints. Other tutorials are more focused on a specific model or "theme" or scene, such e.g., capturing the design and "mood" of World War I trenches, how to build a Sherman tank, or replicating the 1944 Allied Normandy landing. All of these individual tutorials are self-contained, spanning between a few to over 30 pages, and take the reader through the full range of steps - from presenting the material and products to the final result.

A gallery of some of José's best known works, expertly photographed and nicely arranged, rounds up the volume, giving an excellent overall perspective on the finished models/dioramas and providing a nice capstone for the many how-to guides in the book.
The book is printed in full-color, on thick, sturdy paper. It is shock-full of nicely laid-out pictures that show the indivual steps in a clear and easy-to-follow way. These step-by-step pictures are the undisputed stars of the book, as they show in detail what José is doing. Every picture is annotated with a short descriptive text - each relatively brief, but still instructive. The texts include explanations of the techniques and materials as well as codes of the Vallejo products used in the individual steps. The range of topics covered leaves nothing to wish for, and every modeller is sure to find something of interest and relevance in those pages. This includes small tips and tricks, such as submerging sandpaper in water when sanding resin parts to catch the hazardous dust, but also insights into the complete process how José approaches the planning, composition and actual building of his projects. Whether it's super-detailing plastic kits with photo-etched parts, the building of complex, multi-storey buildings from scratch, or replicating earth, sand or water effects, José covers it all.
In terms of substance, then, I really found nothing missing. The book covers pretty much everything a modeler and/or diorama-builder needs to know to build models and present them in dioramas. It is a bit brief on the planning and design aspects of diorama-building, but covers these issues as well across a few parts of the book. Of course, some of what is presented in the volume has been available elsewhere already, but I am sure some modellers will find it useful and worthwhile to have all of these tutorials collected in a single, high-quality print version. The main issue likely to come up with this book is that the specific structure makes it somewhat hard for readers to find a specific technique or piece of advice in the vast amount of information and the many pictures and descriptions in the volume. The presentation - mostly structured along projects instead of specific techniques or topics - makes it less useful as a reference work for those looking for a specific piece of information. This can be solved by going through the whole volume once with a pen and some post-it notes, marking pages where specific topics/techniques of interest are presented. Nonetheless, an index would have been very welcome! The book's project-focused structure also leads to some degree of redundancy, as similar topics and steps are presented multiple times across the chapters. Of course, being published by Vallejo, the book features mainly those company's products (but not exclusively). But there's nothing that prevents modellers from using the exact same principles, techniques and tips José describes in this volume with other manufacturers' acrylic products.

In sum, I think that this might be the go-to-book for modellers looking for a one-size-fits-all manual. As such, I would say that especially beginners will profit from the book, as this volume covers much of the whole range of modelling-related topics, from very basic issues to many advanced tips and techniques. As such, novice modelers can profit from the book's content over a long period of their growth up to advanced level without much of a need of looking elsewhere. More advanced modellers and those looking for advice on specific issues might be better served with more specialized, and slimmer, books that take a less comprehensive approach.

The book should be available through all retailers selling Vallejo products with a listed price of around 50 Euros.
Let me know if you have questions or comments. All the best,



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