Tips for Painting Your Model Train

Model train enthusiasts are always in search of new models and spend a considerable amount of time painting to make them stand out. Back in the day, there was just one way of painting model trains and that was by using a brush, which was both time-consuming and hectic. 

Today, you have airbrushes that make the process relatively easier but beginners hesitate to use them. Even though the brush painting technique is tough but most professionals prefer it to spray or airbrush painting as it allows them to work in extreme detail. 

Tips For Using Airbrush

Choosing the Best Airbrush

Choosing the Best Airbrush

When it comes to using an airbrush for painting your model train, you need to ensure that you opt for the best one available. Using an airbrush will surely make it easier to produce good results. Apart from the tool itself, the results depend on the hand that is controlling it as well. 

In simple words, an inexpensive brush will perform better in the hands of an experienced artist than the best brush in the hands of a novice. If you are a beginner, you should opt for inexpensive tools. This will allow you to experiment and play around with different angles. However, keep in mind that maintenance is key. 

Painting a model train is not just about picking the airbrush and painting whatever you like. You need to properly mix your paint and learn how to be consistent before you can move on to better tools. 

Single vs. Double Action

There are two types of airbrushes used for painting a model train set. One is the single action and the other is dual-action. A single-action airbrush controls the flow of paint and air by depressing the thumbwheel. Whereas, on a double-action airbrush, the flow of air is controlled by pressing the trigger and pulling it back to control the paint flow rate. 

Both types have their advantages and disadvantages but double-action brushes generally offer better controls and results. In addition to that, single-action airbrushes are generally used for simple paint jobs, while double-action brushes are preferred for projects that require detail. 

Apart from using the single or double-action brush, you need to choose between internal mix brushes or external mix brushes too. Internal mix brushes blend the paint and air inside the brush before exiting the nozzle. 

On an external mix brush, the air exits through the nozzle and then blows through the paint. Although both types produce excellent results but more important is their cleaning. You have to keep them clean at all times to achieve consistent results.

Compressors, Spray Booths, and More

Airbrush is only a part of airbrush painting model trains. You are going to need a source for the air. Canned air is a cheaper option compared to using a compressor but you have no control over the pressure. Furthermore, it will not take long for you to spend a compressor’s worth of money on air cans. 

This is why it is better that you opt for a compressor. You do not have to buy an expensive one. Simply choose an air compressor that operates between 15 and 30 psi. Additionally, it should feature a moisture trap along with a regulator to adjust the pressure. Make sure that the compressor is not noisy especially if you are working in an apartment.

Once you have decided on the compressor, you need to consider a well-ventilated spray booth as well. A spray booth prevents the paint from spreading in the entire room. Without it, you are most likely to damage your furniture and produce a strong odor in the room. A spray booth in that respect will limit the effects. 

Mixing Paint

Mixing Paint

Be it brush painting model trains or using an airbrush, preparation is the most important to achieve the best results. If you are using an airbrush, you will have to most probably use a thinner. If the paint happens to be too thick, it will clog the lumps. 

Depending on the type of paint you use, the thinning process and intensity will vary too. Most paint brands also offer thinners designed specifically for their paints and as a general rule, the combination provides a better result when used as directed.

You might also come across a variety of paints at the paint section in your local hardware store but that does not mean it will work on your model trains. Just as you wouldn’t use house paint for your car, model paints are designed to work with specific materials. 

Tips For Brush Painting

Start with Primer

If you prefer brush painting your model train, it is advised that you first apply a primer. Applying the paint directly to the model train will cause it to easily chip or scraped away using a fingernail afterward. With that said, you should apply a primer that is according to the material of the model train. Use thin coats and brush with soft bristles to work up and down on the train.

Use the Same Paint

Use the Same Paint

Paints feature chemical structures that can react with each other. As a rule of thumb, you should always use the same type of paint from the same brand. And since you are going to need a thinner too, your first preference should be the same brand. Test the paint after dilution on a piece of paper to see the results. This way, you are not going to end up destroying the paintwork on your model train.

Give the Paint Time to Dry

Depending on the type of paint you use, the curing time varies. Allowing sufficient time for the paint to dry is amongst the most important model train painting tips. If you overlook this factor, the final result will hardly be satisfactory. 

Remember, the primer should be cured before applying topcoats. If you are using solvent paints, it might take a few days for the primer to dry before you can coat it. 

Final Word

The above-mentioned tips for painting your model train are easy to follow. However, do not expect to achieve better results overnight. Developing airbrush and brush painting skills requires time and patience. 

You should also focus on prep work that perhaps plays the biggest role in achieving the best results. There is no point in buying and using the most expensive brushes out there if you are not aware of the basics that lead to the actual job.