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The Modeler's Dictionary

This page is written with the "newbie" in mind, but of course it is for anyone who comes across a casually used term in CreatureScape (or anywhere else for that matter)  It will gradually grow, so let us know if we are missing anything or my information is inaccurate or incomplete at [email protected]

Accelerator--Also known as "kicker" (because of the brand name "Zip Kicker"), an accelerator is a liquid chemical spray that makes C/A glue (super glue) almost instantaneous.  It is very useful, but it  creates heat as it works and can melt parts as well as weaken the bond between the glue and parts.

Acrylics--acrylics are water soluble paints including "craft paints" and many airbrush paints.  Acrylics tend to offer smooth, flat (as opposed to glossy) applications and are thus good for natural appearance.  Acrylics are almost totally non-toxic (don't drink it of course!) and have little or no odor.  Other options are enamels, oils and transparents.

Air bubble--air bubbles are caused by trapped air in the resin.  This can leave large holes or thin skins on kits that must be repaired with putty.

Bashing--Also called "kit bashing," refers to the process of modifying kits in general, but it often means taking parts of various kits and putting them together in new ways, normally to fabricate diorama elements.

Chalks--see Pastels.

Cold cast--refers to a process of casting resin that requires no heat and is often done my mixing small amounts of porcelain into the resin to hold it together and give a smooth appearance.  Cold casting is sometimes preferred for casting large one piece kits.

Diorama--technically, a diorama is a scene that depicts a specific event or interaction between two or more subjects with a detailed setting or backdrop.  More loosely, it is used to refer to model displayed with an environment to surrounding the subject to enhance the appeal, though the term vignette is probably more accurate in this case.  Who cares?  Well, mostly IPMS contest officials who draw two separate categories for contests.

Dry Brushing-- Dry brushing refers to a technique designed to create highlights and enhance raised detail on a kit like fur and scales.  To dry brush, choose a color (typically a few shades lighter than the underlying base) and lightly dip a brush into the paint.  Then, pull the paint off with a paper towel or rag until you cannot see much at all on the rag.  Now gently pull the brush over the details and this will bring out the highlights.

Enamels--enamel paints are solvent based and must be thinned with paint thinner.  They dry very hard and protect surfaces well, but they are rarely used by figure modelers and look best on auto models.  Some manufacturers make attractive flat enamels (like Testors Model Master), but they must be cleaned out of an airbrush immediately with thinner.  (If you have seen the tiny one ounce bottles of Testors paint in department stores, that is an enamel.  You know . . . the stuff we used to gob on to Auroras.)

Epoxy--a two part adhesive mixed in equal amounts that sets up in 5 to 10 minutes.  It is most often used for pinning and holding large heavy models to a base.

Flash--excess styrene, resin or vinyl left over from the molding process.

Flat finish--refers to the quality of the sheen . . . or more accurately in this case, lack of sheen, carried by the paint.  In other words, flats will absorb rather than reflect light.  See gloss finish.

Future Floor Wax--yep.  It is just Future Floor Wax, but it makes a very convincing layer of saliva or eye wash.  I have tried other brands, but really, Future works best.

Garage Kit (or GK)--a garage kit now means any model kit produced in small numbers by independent producers.  The term goes back to the early days when the first kits were literally produced in a person's garage from concept to casting.  Actually, many garage kits are still produced in people's home studios.

Gloss finish--gloss refers to a highly light reflective sheen.  Glosses are useful sometimes on teeth, eyes, mouths and other parts that might be wet or shiny. 

Hand cast--to cast a kit, a mold is created and the material (like resin) is mixed and poured in the mold.  At that point the resin must be distributed evenly to fill the mold.  If a kit is cast by hand, the kit maker physically shakes and swirls the mold by hand to settle the resin and reduce the number of air bubbles and pin holes.  It is tiring process and various turning devices have been fashioned to do this. 

Hollow cast--just as it sounds, a hollow cast kit is hollow on the inside, making it lighter and using less resin.  Very few kits are actually hollow cast as it requires (at least to my knowledge) an involved process of spinning a mold at every possible angle and at a relatively rapid pace.

Inks--inks are becoming more commonly used in figure kits.  They are thin and spray well through an airbrush and come in rich colors.  They do stain a kit deeply and are difficult to remove if you make a mistake so it requires some experimentation and practice.

IPMS--International Plastic Modelers Society.  IPMS is a world-wide organization with clubs, events and contests at the international, national, regional and local levels.  In recent years, figure kit categories have generally expanded at IPMS shows, though the vast majority of IPMS modelers are devoted to military and automobile subjects.

"Kicker/Kicking"--Zip Kicker is a brand name of a popular type of CA glue accelerator.  Thus, kicking a kit is to apply accelerator of any type to glue and not to kick it across the room, though I would imagine that has been done from time to time.

Mold--a mold is essentially a "negative" latex image of the kit with a front and back which are put together to create a hollow form.  Resin or vinyl is then poured into the mold and allowed to cure, or harden, into the parts that make up your kits.

Pastels--recently, modelers have been experimenting with pastel chalks which are ground into fine powders with a file or mortar and pestle and then applied lightly with a round brush (like applying make up to a person's face).  The result can be subtle, especially with skin tones.

Pinning (Posting)--this refers to the process of reinforcing kit parts, particularly with large and/or heavy kits, by securing a post like a nail, screw or piece of coat hanger as structural support between the two kit parts.  This often has to be done to animal tails or leg connections.  For a how to on pinning, see CreatureScape #2.

Primer (Prime/Priming)--priming is the process of applying a universal undercoat to the model before the main painting begins.  Generally speaking, spray cans of sandable auto primer will do just fine, though some people will insist on primers applied through an airbrush.  Priming does three things:  (a) it gives the paint a surface to adhere to; (b) it makes the model all one color to receive the paint evenly; (c) reveals gaps, cracks, ridges, pinholes and other places that need sanding or putty before continuing.

Putty--a putty is simply a patching material that can come premixed such as the Testors tube putty or as two part putties.

Oils--oil paints are designed for canvas applications but many modelers use them because they provide a smooth finish and rich color.  They are naturally thick and dry slowly and should be thinned with mineral spirits or paint thinner to be used effectively.  Oils are commonly sold in tubes and will last a long time.

Oil Wash--a solution combining a small amount of oil paint and mineral spirits or paint thinner.  Oil washes are used to seep into cracks and crevices and leave a typically darker stain in the recesses to create convincing shadows while at the same time unifying the overall colors and "toning things down."  A heavy oil wash may be 10 parts thinner to 1 part paint, though more commonly a wash is much thinner than that.

Overspray--overspray is when your airbrush line is wider than your target or when you accidentally hit a part of your kit you do not intend to while working on it.

Patching--simply refers the process of filling holes or damaged sections of a kit with putty.

Pin holes--a pin hole is a tiny hole in the kit caused by an air bubble in the casting process.  This is most likely to occur in a kit that has been hand cast as opposed to pressure cast.

Pressure cast--pressure casting is the process of casting kits with a compression chamber--a device which creates high pressure against the mold and shapes the resin more reliably.  It is preferred by modelers because it leaves fewer defects and creates less trimming and filling work.

Primer--most people have in mind cans of "Sandable Auto Primer" when using this term,  but you can buy airbrush primers as well.  The point of a primer is to (a) give an undifferentiated surface color for the paint to go on so it looks natural; (b) allow paints to adhere better (and not peel off); to reveal areas of the kit that need additional seaming, patching, trimming and sanding.

PSI (psi)--Literally, "per square inch."  The term refers to air pressure in pounds per square inch as it comes from a compressed air source like a CO2 tank or a standard air compressor.  It is the same psi that you see listed on the side of your tires, though typically much lower numbers are what you want for your airbrush.  Most modelers run between 8 and 20 psi for most applications, but lower psi is good for detailed application.

Putty--putty is material that dries hard and is applied between cracks in seaming a kit or other areas like pin holes that need to be filled to make the kit look correct.

Resin--a hard polymer based plastic commonly used in garage kits.  Most GK kits are now done in resin.

Sealing--to protect a paint job, you should seal your kit with a clear acrylic coat.  This is often done between stages (like after base coating, detailing, and oil washes) so that paint does not change color or re-liquefy.  Testors Dulcote is the most commonly used brand as it leaves a nice flat finish, is readily available in cans, and protects the kit admirably.

Seaming--Seaming is the process of hiding seams of the kit to look more natural.  Most of the time this is done with a two part putty and a texture stamp

Seamlines---a gap or ridge left where the two halves of a mold come together or where two parts do not match evenly in the case of a styrene kit.

Styrene--this is essentially a rigid plastic used in larger companies like AMT, Revell and the old Aurora kits to create models.  Styrene leaves sharp seamlines and often the fit is not that great.  It is only cost effective if it can be produced and sold in large numbers.  Few figure kits (especially quality ones) are made in styrene, though Polar Lights, Tamiya and Bandai have produced very nice kits that are exceptions to the rule.

Texture Stamp--a texture stamp is a latex imprint of texture details on a kit (like scales, fur, skin textures) and is typically used in repairs and seaming.  Texture stamps can be created with various products such as Alchemy Work's Repliscale, but basically the process requires mixing a two part latex and applying it directly to a section of the kit you wish to replicate.  After a few minutes, the latex can be peeled away revealing a mirror image of the details.  By pressing this down on soft putty between joining parts, you can disguise the seams.

Transparents--a "transparent" paint allows light to shine through the tint and therefore reveals the colors painted underneath.  Light applications of transparents can blend and unify a paint job while heaver applications can transform colors.  This is often used on fleshy areas to provide depth in the kit's appearance.

Two Part Putty--two part putties like Magic Sculpt and Wonder Putty are mixed together in equal parts by kneading the base material with the hardener, producing a strip of pliable putty for seaming and other processes.  They remain soft for an hour or more which allows for molding.

Vinyl--vinyl is a soft plastic that some modelers prefer because it allows for easy repositioning and modification.  Vinyl is no longer common for American or European kit makers, but is still in wide use in Japan where companies are larger and vinyl is more cost-effective. For an article on building vinyl kits, look here.

Wash--most of the time a modeler uses this term to mean an oil wash or perhaps an acrylic wash.  This is a thin paint solution designed to create shadows and blend paint schemes by seeping into the crevices and unifying the paint.



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