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To improve the accuracy of a piece.
acrylic paint
Paint where the pigment is suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. Can be thinned with water; often referred to as “water-based.”

Items sold separately to replace or augment what’s included in a standard kit. These can include decals, detail parts, weapons, etc.


Armored fighting vehicle

A miniature spray gun used to apply paint.
Alclad II
Applied with an airbrush, this lacquer simulates natural metal.
The Armor Modeling and Preservation Society.

Armored Personnel Carrier.

applique armor

Additional armor plates bolted onto an AFV to improve protection.

artist's oil

Fine-art paint. Slow drying and easily blended, it’s often used for figure painting and washes.

Converting a model to represent an earlier version of the subject.

Weight hidden inside the nose of aircraft models with tricycle landing gear to keep them from tipping backward onto their tails. Also called nose weight.


Fine-grain, easy-to-carve wood often used for scratchbuilding or patternmaking.


Boyevaya Mashina Pyekhota; Russian for Infantry Combat Vehicle.

box scale

A model in a nonstandard scale. Early kits were scaled to fit existing boxes.

braille scale

A nickname given to small-scale vehicle kits (1/72 and smaller), but doesn't cover pre-assembled models.


A rotary instrument made of steel or tungsten carbide held and revolved in a hand piece and powered by a dental electric motor or air. In modeling, it is attached to a pin vise to drill holes.

burn out
A dry-brushing technique used to make a model appear scorched by fire.
busy up
Adding detail to an area of model lacking it

Sculptable papier-maché mix used for diorama and vignette groundwork.

color modulation

A fool-the-eye technique that simulates natural lighting effects by painting highlights and shadows to bring out details on a model and give it a realistic look. Because this is permanent color correction, it locks the lighting and shade orientation regardless of the actual ambient light.

Compresses air to power an airbrush
constant scale

Models produced in the standard, consistent scales (1/35, 1/72, etc).

A model that has been modified to represent a different subject or variant
A model where the exterior skin has been “cut away” so interior details can be viewed.

Generic name for super glues. Sometimes referred to as “CA” or “CyA.”

Liquid or gel used to dissolve super glue. Especially useful for freeing stuck fingers.

Thin, printed transfers used for lettering, markings, and national insignia. Their adhesive is activated by water, so they’re sometimes referred to as “water-slide” decals.

A miniature scene, often including vehicles and figures, in a natural setting.

Applying a small amount of paint using an almost dry paintbrush. A method used to accent raised details or simulate wear and weathering.

dry fit
Test-fitting parts for alignment before cementing them together.
dry transfers
Printed transfers (similar to decals) that are applied without the use of water or other solvents. Dry transfers often have pressure-sensitive adhesive and are “rubbed down” into place.
ejector-pin mark
A circular depression in injection-molded plastic parts. Caused by the molding process, these flaws often must be filled and removed.
filler putty
Used to fill gaps between kit parts.

Extra material left on a model's parts from the molding or casting process.

FS / Federal Standard

The Federal Standard color system. Adopted in the mid-1950s to standardize equipment and camouflage colors, this U.S. system uses five-digit numbers to identify paint colors.


Officially “Pledge Future Floor Shine” in the U.S., this household floor-care product is used by modelers to enhance clear parts, as a high-gloss base for decals, or for high-gloss finishes.


Using or creating detail parts for models or small models themselves from unlikely sources, such as other model kits, toys, household items, and scrap.


Inaccurate, odd parts used to fill in areas where accurate detail is not provided, making empty space look busy; common in science fiction subjects.


Self-locking plier used in the medical field to clamp a bleeding artery or vein; in modeling, it's used to hold small objects

hobby knife
Thin, pointed razor held in a stylus handle for precise cutting, shaving, etc. The interchangeable, disposable razors come in various shapes and sizes; a "No. 11" is most common.
individual-link tracks

Treads for tanks and other tracked vehicles in which track runs are made up of individual links and are glued or pinned together as on the real vehicles. Usually an aftermarket purchase; recently, more kits include this type of track.

Parts produced when molten plastic is injected into molds for cooling and setting.

The International Plastic Modelers Society


Combining parts from different kits to produce a unique model.

lead foil
Thin, easily shaped metal foil used to model a variety of subjects, from rifle slings to damaged fenders. Often found atop wine bottles.

Light-emitting diodes; electronic diodes that light up when current is applied.

liner brush

A paintbrush with long bristles and a fine point used for detail painting.

link-and-length tracks

Tracks for tanks and other tracked vehicles that are made of both individual track links and sections of of prejoined links. Usually, joined sections are longer for the top and bottom sections and the individual links are wrapped around the drive sprockets and idler wheels, joining the lengths together.

liquid masking agent

Applied with a brush, this liquid solidifies when it dries and masks parts for painting. Especially helpful for oddly shaped parts, the masks are peeled off after painting.

liquid sprue
Sprue from a model kit cut into small pieces and dissolved in liquid model cement. Used as a filler.
metal foil

Thin, self-adhesive foil used to simulate metal finishes, including chrome, aluminum, and brass. Can also be used to mask parts, particularly canopies and other clear parts.

Microscale Micro Set

Decal-setting solution that helps decals conform to a model’s surface. Applied before the decal is added.

Microscale Micro Sol

Decal-setting solution that helps decals conform to a model’s surface. Applied after the decal is added.


Two-part epoxy resin putty; can be sculpted or used to fill large gaps.

motor tool

A high-speed, low-torque, hand-held electric motor that drives a screw-chuck or collet that holds a variety of small saw or cutting blades, grinding wheels, and drill bits. It generally runs from 1,000 to 20,000 rpm.

A model (or kit) with parts made from different materials (plastic, resin, metal, etc.)
natural-metal finish

Unpainted metal, often the highly polished skin of aluminum aircraft. Specialized paints (such as Testors Metallizer, Alclad II, and SnJ) can be used.

nose weight
Weight hidden inside the nose of aircraft models with tricycle landing gear to keep them from tipping backward onto their tails. Also called ballast.

"Out of the box," meaning the kit is built with the parts supplied in the box with no aftermarket or scratchbuilt add-ons or changes.

A magnifier worn on the head to improve close-up vision.
Paint (from an airbrush or a spray can) that accidentally lands beyond (or over) its intended location.
parts box

A modeler’s collection of unused, leftover, or recycled kit parts.

Ground coloring matter compressed into chalklike sticks. Ground-up pastels are used to simulate weathering.
photoetched-metal tool

While this refers mostly to small folding tools, a photoetched-metal tool can be anything in a modeler's arsenal dedicated to cutting, filing, annealing, folding, rolling, or doing something else unique to photoetched-metal parts.

Colored powder normally mixed with oil or water to produce paint. Can also be used singly as a weathering medium.
pin marks
Impressions left in plastic by the pins that eject parts from a mold.
pin vise
A handle with a tiny chuck designed to hold pin-size drill bits or scribing tools.
pin wash
Targeted wash applied to specific areas of a model.

Panzerkampfwagen, German term for tank or armored fighting vehicle.

razor saw
A fine-tooth miniature saw for delicate work.
An older, often unavailable kit that is put back into regular production. Also referred to as a re-release.
reverse wash

A technique to create a wash effect on raised panel lines by painting the lines the desired color, usually black or dark gray, then painting a protective clear coat. Once the final color coat is applied, the panel lines are lightly sanded, revealing the darker color underneath.

rivet counter

Humorous (usually) term for detail-obsessed modelers

rubber-band tracks
Full-length, one-piece vinyl tracks. Ends are joined by applying heat, glue, or both. They are more common on older kits. Also known as loop tracks.
rubber-cement masking

Using rubber cement to mask entire areas, or to mask irregularly-shaped areas to simulate chipped, worn, or scuffed finishes. First, a base-material color (such as aluminum or steel) is applied in the desired area. Then rubber cement is applied over that area in a stippling or stabbing motion. After the rubber cement dries, the top color is applied and allowed to dry. Then the cement is rubbed off, exposing the color underneath.

The proportion a model bears relative to the full-size object it represents.

A model (or component) constructed “from scratch,” not from a kit.


Generally, using a pointed tool to carve a line (such as a panel line) into the model’s surface.


Sonderkraftfahrzeug, “special purpose vehicle”; SdKfz numbers were assigned to all purpose-built German military vehicles, but other terms took precedence for tanks, self-propelled guns, and other heavier vehicles, with SdKfz more likely to describe armored cars, halftracks, and other vehicles.

sink hole/mark

Molded styrene parts that cool incorrectly can be marred by sink marks, depressions in the surface.

slide mold

Injection molds that use more than the traditional two-part top and bottom steel molds. In a slide mold, additional mold pieces can be placed into the sides of the main mold halves, allowing for undercuts and even hollow parts impossible with two-part molds.


“Silvery” areas that appear around or under incorrectly applied or defective decals.

spares box
See "parts box."

Self-propelled gun

spray booth

A booth with an exhaust fan to remove harmful vapors emitted by paint, adhesives, and other noxious materials and supplies.


A technique in which a tank or other type of tracked vehicle is mounted to a rough-terrain diorama base with a screw, washer, and nut through the hull's bottom, pulling the vehicle down tightly against the rough objects under the tracks like rocks, boulders, and debris. This causes the suspension arms to bend upwards and impart a realistic sprung-suspension look to the vehicle.


The  plastic “tree” that parts are attached to inside a kit. These were formed by channels that fed molten plastic into the mold and the part cavities.

straight from the box
A model constructed using only the kit-supplied parts without aftermarket additions or modifications. Also a model-contest competition category. Also called "out of the box."
stretched sprue
Heating a piece of sprue by slowly turning it over a candle flame, then stretching it to create flexible plastic wire for details.
Compound used in the manufacturing of plastics and synthetic rubber. Generally, plastic kit parts are made of styrene.
Assembled parts (such as an engine) that will be added to a larger assembly (such as an aircraft fuselage).
A model that has been detailed (often with many additional parts) to the highest standards of detail and accuracy.
Testors Metalizers
A range of metallic paints used to simulate a variety of metal finishes.

A part (usually aftermarket) that looked good on another modeler's work but unfortunately is no longer available for your model.

vaccuum-formed kits
Kits molded by pulling a heated plastic sheet down over a positive (male) mold with negative air-pressure caused by a vacuum machine. The kit's individual parts need to be cut from the sheet.
Model display, often smaller than a diorama, in which the setting and subject form a narrative.

Weathering process in which a solution of highly diluted paint is applied to small details, such as recessed or raised panel lines, rivets. etc., to color them or simulate accumulated grime or dirt. A wash should use a paint base that is different from the one on the model; for example, oil-based paints are used for washes on a model painted with acrylics, and vice versa.

Glue, paint, or other material that can be thinned with water.
Simulating the appearance of wear and tear (battle damage, exposure to the elements, age) on a model with paints, washes, pigments, etc.
wet-or-dry sandpaper
Sandpaper with water-resistant backing. Can be used dry or in water without dissolving.

Sanding a surface using wet-or-dry sandpaper with water. The water carries away the removed material, preventing scratches and producing a smoother finish.

white metal
A light metal alloy (which may contain tin, lead, or pewter) used for part casting.
X-Acto knife

Brand name of a hobby knife. See "hobby knife."


Nonmetallic paste applied to German armor during World War II to thwart placement of magnetic mines.



Essential finishing techniques for scale modelers.
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