The Small Details

Did you ever find yourself fascinated by how a model plane has a cockpit and little human figure sitting in it? Well, at least I did. Unlike toys which prioritize playability and functionality, the core of model building lies with detailing. No matter what kit you build, methods or tools you use, what makes your finished product stand out the most is your attention to the little stuff.

There may be hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of people that purchased the same kit that you did, but it is up to you if you want to make yours a bit more unique. Since models are scaled representation of the ideal subject, clean details shows accuracy and technical ability. However, it is easy to get carried away and over do it. Even I have a hard time getting myself to stop before I cross the line where it’s just distasteful. When there’s simply too much going on, it distracts the viewer and diverts attention.

The more details you can add to the smaller scale, the more impressive the feat but beware of over-detailing.

There are many forms (and sub-forms) of details, but there is generally three:

Shape – The basic form of the subject model and modifications applied. Includes sculpting, panel lining, pla-plate layering, kit-bashing, scratch-building, after-market option parts, and any surface changes. Basically everything you do before the painting begins.

This stage always takes me the longest to complete because I want to keep adding more and more. I debate before making major changes like sketching a panel line before actually scribing the line and avoid irreversible mistakes. Ideally, one should stop before the project starts looking like something completely different from what I intended to build.

It is easier to add details by kit-bashing (using parts from other kits) while scratch building and sculpting give you more control over the design but requires a lot more technical skill and handiwork.

Paint – All painting and color usage, including stripes, camouflage, gradients, shading, weathering and other tricks.

A small splash of color used wisely can bring a lot of life into the model. The kit may be just plastic, but a good paint job can make it look so much more real. There are tons of tips out there to learn and just as many types of paints to try and mix. Techniques like weathering, color wash, and pastels are just some of the ways to add definition to your work.

Decals – Easily available as waterslides, dry transfers, and (very rarely if ever) stickers.

Decals are like a god-sent gift to modelers because it would be next to impossible to get tiny printed words and logos onto kits. There are some read-made designs out there, but you can also design your own markings and have them printed. Waterslides are most convenient. Dry transfers are like rub-on tattoos, but mistakes are not easily forgiven. Stickers aren’t recommended because the clear edges show up in the end, but there are a few exceptions. Over-use of decals is sometimes a problem when we get carried away with the using them for the sake of filling up empty space. Do you really need warning signs every few millimeters?

So now you know that details is everything within reasonable limits. What those limits are depends on your interpretation and taste. If you want, you can just GO CRAZY!

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