ARTICLES on this page:

♦ PREPPING MODELS FOR ASSEMBLY – Tips for things to do before you start building a plastic model kit.

♦ ADDING PUNCH TO UFOs & SPACESHIPS – Things you can do to add realism to your model space vehicles (scroll down).




This article contains simple, common sense, procedures. Most experienced model builders already know these things, but they do bear repeating (for the novices, anyway).

Careful preparation of a model kit is as important as careful assembly. The first step in preparing to assembly any model is – READ THE INSTRUCTIONS and get familiar with all the parts, steps, and details involved. The second step is to clean the model parts to remove any lingering traces of molding release agent. Most modern plastic model kits need little cleaning, but it’s a good idea to clean them anyway. This ensures the best possible bond between the plastic surfaces and any paint you need to apply. Many kits will recommend soaking the parts-trees (sprues) in warm water with a few drops of grease cutting dish washing detergent – pat dry with a paper towel and let sit until completely dry. This is fine but doesn’t account for all the handling the sprues will get while you’re building the kit (skin oils are just as bad for hobby paint as release agent). I prefer to use a Q-Tip to swab each part with a drop of rubbing alcohol just before cutting it from the sprue (yes, you do have to be careful when swabbing very small / delicate parts). Alcohol evaporates fast and the part is usually dry by the time I’m ready to put it in place. Also, rule # 1 for building plastic model kits – Never remove parts from the sprue until you’re ready to paint or install the part. Cutting parts free in bunches is a good way to lose parts or end up misidentifying them when it comes time to assemble them.

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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.

C57D: Two tone painting adds detail & realism

UFO: Paint adds detail










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 will put your model into a setting that adds visual appeal.

BACKDROPS & LANDSCAPES / Set a time & place & situation for your model.    <LEFT> Rocketship XM sits on a lunar landscape display base, a simple but effective way to add interest to the model.     <RIGHT> Uncle Martin (TV’s My Favorite Martian) looks over his spaceship, sitting in the driveway in front of the garage where he stores the ship. This vignette tells a whole little story & sets a location for the ‘UFO’.  The garage doubles as a battery storage shed, to power the LED lighting in the UFO.

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 can do a lot to bring it to life. Adding flashing or chasing lighting to the ‘engines’ will really liven up your model.

LIGHTING brings model space vehicles to life.     <LEFT> Star cruiser C57D (Forbidden Planet) has internal lighting (chasing red LEDs in the engine pod) & external lighting (the blue ‘landing force field) provided by LEDs under the display base.     <RIGHT> Enterprise NCC1701 looks more like the studio model seen on TV when it has full interior lighting.

COMBINED DETAILING – Combining any of the techniques mentioned above will produce a really distinct model truly worthy of display.

PHOTOGRAPHY – Occasionally, models fall victim to accidents. Falling off a display shelf can reduce a plastic or cast resin model to a worthless pile of scrap. A great way to preserve your models is to photograph them. Take a set of simple shots, showing your model from different angles (front, sides, back, high view – looking down, etc.). Since UFOs and spaceships look best in space, try using a green screen backdrop, then adding an outer space scene with Photoshop or Paintshop Pro.

GREEN SCREEN PHOTOGRAPHY / Outer space scenes add realism to the models.   >PAN AM Clipper (2001 A Space Odyssey) seen leaving Earth for a trip to the moon.     >TV’s INVADERS UFO is traveling in the opposite direction, flying passed the moon & heading for Earth.


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