Modeling Glossary

Like Any Hobby, Scale Modeling Has Its Own Vocabulary

Acrylic - often thought of as as its own type of paint, acrylic really just refers to the binder or vehicle used in the paint. Typical "acrylic" hobby paints can be thinned with water, and are thus called aqueous hobby paints.


Airbrush - A miniature spray painting gun, often used in model work for general and detail painting.

Enamel - a type of paint where a chemical reaction occurs as the paint dries. This process is called curing, and makes the paint harder. Enamel hobby paints are typically thinned with a petroleum based thinner.

Frame - See the entry for Sprue below.

Future - refers to the indispensable "wonder" liquid that can be used for a myriad of purposes in scale model building. Yes, it truly exists and it's just a simple floor polish. Really.

Hairy Stick - a paintbrush.

Lacquer - a type of paint where the solvent evaporates as the paint dries. Lacquer hobby paints are typically thinned with cellulose based thinners. 

Paint -  a colored liquid which is applied to a surface and dries to leave a thin decorative or protective coating. Paint consists of a pigment (which gives it color), a binder or vehicle (that bonds to the pigment and holds it onto the surface), and a solvent (which keeps the pigment and binder liquid in the bottle). Paint brings your model to life!

Photoetch - Parts made by exposing a photo sensitive emulsion on a metal plate through a negative, and etching away the unwanted portions with a caustic solution, leaving behind sharply detailed flat or low relief parts. Incredibly small and highly detailed model parts are made this way.

Primer - Base coat of paint which helps smooth surface flaws and improves adhesion of successive color coats. 

Resin - a 2-part, cold setting plastic often used for manufacturing aftermarket and do-it-yourself parts. Bonds to itself and other materials with cyanoacrylate and epoxy glues. Incredibly sharp detail can be produced with resin parts. 

RTV - stands for Room Temperature Vulcanizing. It's a type of rubber often used to make molds for Do-It-Yourself projects in modeling, such as resin parts. 

Sprue - The framework on which the plastic parts are molded and held until they are needed for assembly. Sometimes called the runner or frame.

Stretched Sprue - Thin strands of plastic made by heating and pulling leftover pieces of sprue, usually over a candle flame.

Styrene - The type of thermoplastic from which most commercially available model kits are molded. 

Super Glue - Cyanoacrylate  bonding agent, available in regular (thin) and gel types. In modeling, it is usually used to bond dissimilar materials such as photoetch and resin onto styrene. Tends to fog clear styrene, unless it's coated with Future.

Tack Cloth - A  clean, lint free cloth or paper towel, damp with alcohol or other solvent or otherwise chemically treated, wiped over a model immediately prior to painting, to remove any residue of sanding dust or fingerprints. 

Tree - See the entry for Sprue above.

White Glue - Water soluble bonding agent, such as PVA or Elmers, often used for attaching clear plastic parts, because it does not mar or fog clear styrene. However, the bond is not as strong and is water soluble.