Automotive paint in your car model, how to use it

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If you have ever entered an auto- parts store, you have probably seen touch-up paints in a dedicated section to make retouches in spray cans, but you may wonder if this type of paint can also be useful for those who build car models.

The answer is, yes and no. This kind of paint can be used in plastic models, but it requires some preparation.


Firstly, the spray paints for model cars are specially made for plastic car models, this means that the chemical composition is “cool” and will not affect the pieces of this material.

Hence those spray paints that are obtained in the hardware stores or auto- parts stores cannot always help since it contains solvents that allow a fast- drying and, therefore can damage the plastic.

To be able to use this type of “hot paints” you will require a primer or barrier between the material and the paint.

The obvious question is, where do we find it? These protective primers can only be obtained by looking in the same rack, where the paints are located. Usually the paint brand include two primers, however we recommend reading the instructions very well and checking if they can be used in plastic.

First, take some precautions

When using a protective primer layer we can immediately apply the colour layer we choose for the car model. However, there are some precautions that we must take into account.

If in case of not being sure of the combination of the primer and paint, we recommend you first try it on a model of test or using a sheet of styrene.

Another problem is the difficulty to hold the model car while spray- painting and obviously we do not want to remain in the paint our fingerprints. For this reason, we recommend using a wire coat hanger and give it a shape that fits inside the model.  

It is also important that you work with plenty of ventilation and use a respirator mask for your protection.

How to use the model car airbrush paints

When using model car airbrush paints, these spray paints usually have a nozzle that produces a full-size spray. This means that it covers a ratio larger than normal spray paints.  If it is your first time using this type of paint, we recommend you practice with a test model to avoid failing in your first attempt.

After you have applied a layer of primer coat, this must be done in light layers. Once the layer is dry, remove the car from the wire coat hanger and apply primer in those areas that you covered with the adhesive tape.

When you are finished, use fine-grit sandpaper and sand it. You can also wash the model with water and soap but make sure that the base paint is completely dry.

Afterwards as a second stage, apply a mist coat in the car and allows this first layer to be cured, waiting for 10 minutes. Then, start applying heavier layers and for a brighter look (remember the paint in the car model should look uniform).

Finally choose a brand with high reputation in the market, like Gravity Colors primers and read the label of properties. If you want long lasting results, read the properties and look for keys words, such as viscosity and permanency.

Different types of colours

These are some types of colours and is important a brief look of their classification.

Water colours as the name implies, are water- based, so that if it is dirty, it is possible to wash it. Because of the water, these colours are of low viscosity.

The acrylic colours are very common in the airbrushing, these can be thinned and washed easily with water and have the advantage that they are permanent or long-lasting colours, as opposed to water colours.

Oil colours are high viscosity. Oil colours are made from a solvent, they can be thinned and clean with alcohols. These colours have a longer drying time.

The gouache colours are water based, but they add a white pigment to make them look more opaque. To use this colour, certain skills are required since it is very difficult to use with light airbrushes.

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