Adding Punch To Your Ufo / Space Ship Model Tips for adding lighting & other accents to UFO and space ship models.

There are many kits for building spacecraft, UFOs, flying saucers. Most of them build into great models right out of the box, with just a good paint job to finish them off. However, there are a few things you can do to add a little extra life to you spacecraft model.

PAINT - Study the kit's box art to get a good idea of what the finished model should look like. You can follow the kit's painting directions, OR exercise a little artistic license and add color detailing. A few patches of crisp color applied in the right spots can make your model uniquely your own and give it added eye-appeal. Don't be afraid to spend time detailing areas not easily seen, like landing gear bays or inside engine ports.

ADDED DETAILING - Before beginning work on your model, check to see if there are any "after market" detailing items available. Such kits provide additional or more accurate detail for specific models and can give your kit a real boost.

BACKDROP - Instead of simply putting your finished model on a shelf, create a display base that adds a story element. For example, putting a UFO on a simple landscape (or, as in this article, putting it on a base that simulates a recharging / refueling station) will put your model into a setting that adds visual appeal.

ELECTRONIC LIGHTING - Even very simple static (non-blinking / non-moving) lighting can add real punch to a finished spacecraft model. Lighting a space-ship's interior / windows can do a lot to bring it to life. Adding flashing or chasing lighting to the 'engines' will really liven up your model. Just look at the realism added to the models used in TV shows because of the lighting effects (e.g. Any version of Star Trek's Enterprise).

COMBINED DETAILING - Combining any of the techniques mentioned above will produce a really distinct model truly worthy of display. As an example, here are some photos of a Pegasus Area-51 UFO model that has been given a simple paint job, but enhanced with animated internal lighting AND placed on a detailed display base which features its own animated lighting.




SciFi Dragon Models


SciFi Dragon Models


SciFi Dragon Models

How You Mount Lights Inside A Model Is Determined By The Shape Of The Model & The Space Available Inside The Kit's Parts. This Kit Has Lots Of Interior Space. Rather Than Build Individual Mounts For Each Of The Six Window Lights & The Center Dome, I Installed A Single Plastic Disk Inside The Upper Hull & Spaced Out The Leds On The Disk So They Lined Up With The Windows & The Center Dome.


SciFi Dragon Models

For This Model I Scratch-built A Display Base To Look Like A Landing Pad In A Refueling Station. The 'power Lines' That Recharge The Ufo Are Actually The Wires That Connect The 9-volt Battery In The Base To The Chaser Board Driving The Lights Inside The Ufo. No Need To Hide The Wires - They're Part Of The Scene!


SciFi Dragon Models

Added Extra Detail - Using A Landing Gear Cover As A Pattern, I Cut Out An Extra Opening In The Underside Of The Ufo & Detailed It To Serve As The Craft's 'power Intake Port'.
The New Detail Makes This Model Unique & Adds To Its 'eye Appeal'.
The Battery Wires From The Base Fit Thru Holes In The 'power Intake Port' Making The New Feature Functional, Too.


SciFi Dragon Models

Simple Detailing - Black Wash Is A Great Way To Accentuate Any Recessed Area, Such As In The Landing Gear Legs Or The Ufo's Panel Lines. Painting Edges Of 'moving Parts' With A Bright Silver Or Other Metallic Shade Gives The Look Of Normal Wear.


SciFi Dragon Models

Just Mounting The Finished Ufo Model On A 'landscaped' Display Base Puts It Into A Scene Adds Greatly To Its Appearance. The Model Looks Fine On The New Display Base, But Adding Lighting To The Ship The Base Brings The Scene To Life.

Other Examples Of Enhancing Ufo Models


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Rotating Led Lighting In Ufo 'drive' Section.


SciFi Dragon Models

Invaders Ufo - Enhanced With Simple Blinking Engine Pod Lights.


SciFi Dragon Models

Lighting The Engines Adds Zip To This Cylon Raider.


SciFi Dragon Models

A Desert Landscape & Figures Complete The Story Of This Crashed Roswell Ufo.



Here are a couple of simple tips for making the most of your diorama or vignette layouts:
1. NO GLUE: Don't glue your tank or vehicle to the display base (i.e. diorama or vignette scene you created). This makes it easier to do several things:

- Allows you to easily change the position of your model for a different look.
- Makes the landscape reusable. If you tire of the model(s) you've set into your diorama, not gluing them down makes it easy to replace them with other models, thereby saving you from having to create a new landscape from scratch.
- Instant photo set. If you like photographing your completed models, being able to remove models from a diorama makes that scene available to use as a photo backdrop for new models you might want to photograph in that scene.

SciFi Dragon Models
SIMPLE VIGNETTE: This small scene was designed to fit inside a 1:18 scale display case. As you can see, the scene has an M4A2 Sherman & an M8 Howitzer passing through a bombed out / shelled town somewhere in Western Europe.

The tanks are not glued to the base. This lets me rearrange the models any time I want to, or replace them with another model that I want to photograph using this scene as a backdrop


SciFi Dragon Models
Here's a simple example of how you can change the look and feel or a scene, by rearranging the models / vehicles appearing in it. This is the same scene as above, but with the vehicles going in the opposite direction. In this scene, the M8 Howitzer is in the lead position with the Sherman following.


SciFi Dragon Models
SciFi Dragon Models
The scene above is on display in my collection inside a clear display case. However, because the two tanks in the scene aren't glued to the base, I can easily replace them with different vehicles or, as shown at the right, I can use the vignette's scenery as a backdrop for photographing other models (then put the Sherman and howitzer back in place and put them back on display)


I used to put my model tanks and other W.W.II vehicles side by side on my display shelves. This is OK and is probably how most people display their collections of model cars or military vehicles. However, it has a big drawback - open shelves gather dust and cleaning intricately detailed models can be time consuming work. Without a display case, each model takes up less room, but it can be difficult to keep them clean, especially ones with small delicate detail parts. The simple solution to this issue is to store your models in display cases with clear covers. This keeps the models clean, and it is far easier to dust off the flat surface of a display case than to try cleaning a model.

Keeping your models in a display case also helps save space by letting you combine models inside the case. This is particularly useful for smaller models. The "Passing Through" vignette (above) combined a 1:35 scale M4A2 Sherman and an M8 Howitzer into a single scene, letting me display both inside one case. If you have high / widely spaced display shelves, stacking display cases can double or triple your available space. Of course, all of the space saving features of using display cases depends on how and where you display your models and how much space you have overall. In general, I do recommend using clear display cases just for the time they save in keeping your models clean.

SciFi Dragon Models
ABOVE A display case for 1:18 scale cars gave me plenty of room to create this vignette and display a Styre RSO tractor along with a Pz.II Bison. With all the interior detail in these 1:35 vehicles, keeping them clean would be quite a chore. Now all I have to do is dust off the display case's clear cover.

BELOW: A Tamiya 'Type C' display case (5"w x 9.75"l x 4"h) provided ample room for this scene combining a 1:35 Pz.II Ausf.C and a Kubbelwagen having engine troubles. This display case is stacked on top of another containing a PzII Ausf.F set in a North African dessert scene - this arrangement allowed me to display three models using only 5" of shelf space.

SciFi Dragon Models


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