Just a random collection of Tips and Tricks and other things I've found in my few years of modeling and miniature painting.
Every modeler needs a knife, but for cleaning mould lines, snags and flash off figures a file is better. A file seems to remove less underlying detail. It also puts less stress on a part, so you are less likely to break off a piece you spent five minutes trying to glue in place. Files can be used on metal, plastic and resin figures.
Get a set of needle files about 4-6" long. You'll find you use the round file for about 95% of jobs so paint the handle a distinctive colour so you can pick it out easily.
When you do use a knife, use the right one. I've had scalpels snap on me when just applying medium pressure. Scalpel blades are designed to snap so they can be broken off the handle, but I have also had plastic handles snap on me. When it comes to scalpels and craft knives bear in mind plastic handles will snap, metal ones probably won't, which makes them safer.
It later occured to me I had a household full of thin strong blades such as butcher's knives and chinese cleavers that I could have used instead.
Sometimes superglue will stick metal parts together immediately, sometimes it just won't. Always sticks to fingers, however. If you can't get it to stick try tearing a little piece of tissue paper/ paper towel, placing it between the join and applying glue. Metal and glue will stick to tissue paper and this can be used to fill in gaps too.
I've yet to try this personally yet, but a tip I came across is to have something like cornflower in a "puffer bottle" -a squeezie plastic bottle with a dropper nozzle. A well placed puff of flour is meant to make superglue set faster. Recomendation here is to use Baking Soda aka Sodium bicarbonate, Bicarb or sodium hydrogen carbonate. Claimed that it works as both a catalyst and a filler. I tried it gluing a metal jump pack onto a metal marine. Placed a little bicarb in the sockett and glue on the marine. Stuck firm first go!
Always have tissues readily to hand when modeling. Great to have handy when you apply too much glue, need to remove a little moisture from your brush, need to drybrush and so on.
Enamel paint is much stronger than acrylic. If you have a part that you suspect is weak or too flexible try giving it an undercoat or two of enamel paint. Thick enamel paint can sometimes be used to fill in small gaps.
When joining plastic parts to metal parts, always pin, don't rely on the glue alone. Paperclips are an idea source of material for pinning. Fusewire can also provide useful finer wire for some parts.
Tip I came across on Painting Clinic attributed to Brandi Weed:-"Hold the joint together as you wish it to stay. Then, using a fine marker, draw four lines (evenly spaced) across the joint. Then, on each piece, connect the four marks and drill where "X" marks the spot. Works every time."
When painting a small part such as a head individually it is sometimes prudent to drill a small hole in a place where it will not show. A paperclip can be bent into a stand with one end inserted into the hole you drilled. Secure with a little blutac if necessary.
Sprue cutters are a much better way to remove pieces from a sprue than a knife, and safer too. While Sprue cutters will cut the metal used for figures, don't use them to cut paperclips. They will cut them but it damages the cutter's edge. Use pliers or side cutters to cut paperclips. Only cut them part way through and flex so the wire breaks by shearing. This prevents the piece having a flattened tip wider than the shaft.
Buy a tub of ready-made filler/putty from the hardware store. A pound or so of the stuff will cost you under a fiver and last for ages. This is great for jobs such as filling in the gaps on bases. It is more fluid than more expensive modeling putties and this makes it more suitable for some other modeling jobs too. Mix enough water in and you can apply it with a brush, useful for filling in hard to reach gaps.
If you bend the tag of a metal figure with your pliers or cutters it will usually stay in the slot without needing to use glue. It can then be secured by filling the gaps with ready made putty. If a base does not have a slot consider cutting the tag so it forms two small tags the width of the model's feet. Holes for these can easily be drilled and filed in the base. Get the drill bit size right and they may friction fit.
A piece of wise advice from Steve Buddle, multiple Golden Daemon winner:- "thin your paints". To take this further, use the right consistency for the job. Sometimes a job needs a thick paint, but if it doesn't, mix a little water into it until it is right. For enamels, add thinner.
Often the less paint you have on the brush, the better. When painting fine there should be just a little on the tip, and wipe off any excess before you touch the brush to the model.
White and Black Primer from MP Paints is well worth having. If you have a large number of figures to do set up to undercoat with an aerosol. If you have just one or two figures, or need to cover a place where the aerosol missed, brush on primer is really useful to have around. Sometimes you may need to undercoat some parts of a figure white while the majority is black. This is another job for brush-on primer. These are nice fluid paints so you will find yourself using them for other jobs too. I often paint figure's eyes with White Primer.
For undercoating, spray cans brought from the local autoshop work out much more economical than those sold by many modeling companies. Make sure you get acrylic rather than cellulose. Cellulose might work fine, just I've never risked it. When spraying limit your bursts to about a second duration. I find if I say the word "Burst" it times it right.
Kevin Dallimore's method for painting horses with oils in the Foundry Miniatures Painting Guide uses a cellulose basecoat so it may be OK, just not something I have tried personally.
For stripping paint I usually drop metal models in a bottle of acetone I nicked from work. Nail varnish remover should work if you can't get the lab stuff.
Dettol will strip acrylic paint and can be used for both metal and plastic figures. Note that it also works on some glues, so if you put a painted figure into Dettol you will end up with a collection of paint stripped parts.
Acetone is also good for removing a build up of paint from the bristles of brushes, although I'm not sure you should try that with a nylon brush. Enamel paint brush cleaner seems to work well at removing dried acrylic from all brushes. Also seems to work on dried PVA glue.
Many modelers use very caustic stuff to strip paint. Stuff that can strip skin or hurt your lungs. Try something mild like acetone or dettol before you resort to stuff that may harm you.
There are some colours that can only be found in enamel paints. Enamel paints are slow to dry so I try to paint enamel parts late at night just before I pack in painting. If I don't do this I invariably touch an enamel part when trying to paint something else with an acrylic. Enamel needs to dry a couple of hours before it can be overcoated with more enamel. Enamel paint seems more tolerant of being overpainted with most acrylics and you may get away with painting over it after about half an hour if it looks dry.
Store tins of enamel paint lid down. If air gets into the tin and forms a skin it will form on the bottom of the tin, not the top and you can still use your paint.
Some manufacturers give their paints colourful and sometimes somewhat silly names. Don't let the name blind you to the potential of a colour. MP Pale Flesh is a good colour for painting teeth or highlighting Bleached Bone. GW Dwarf Flesh can be used for dried mud, and GW Dark Flesh is good for Adeptus Mechanicus robes.
Use the right brush for the job. Don't be afraid to use your fine brushes, that is what you brought them for. Trying to paint fine details with too big a brush just wastes your time and paint. On the flip side, use a big brush when you need to. Bigger brushes save time, give a smoother finish and seem to use less paint. I have a set of 3/16, 1/4 and 3/8th flat nylon brushes I brought from Azalean Models which I use for drybrushing and blocking in.
An often repeated piece of advice is that two thin coats are better than one thick one. Mentally you have to accept that certain paints will not give 100% coverage first time. Don't try to add a thicker coat, resign yourself to the fact that you will have to add another coat, but it will look much better.
Most paints are not truly opaque. That is why what colour you paint them over has an effect.
"Pastettes" are handy things to have. They are ideal for adding water or thinner to paint pots or adding water to a container to make a wash. Pastettes are also known as Transfer Pipettes or Plastic Pasteurs. The majority of internet stockists seem to favour the latter term.
Blutac is handy stuff to have around. A very clever idea I came across was using blutac to mask off certain parts of a model you don't want to get paint on! Genius! Clingfilm can also be used to mask off parts such as limbs or heads. A useful technique if you are spraying.
For lopping hands or other parts off plastic models a hot wire cutter often does a fairly nice job. If you want to cut off a bit of a metal model you will generally need to use a saw if you want a neat job. The modeling saws that have an adjustable frame have the finest blades so are best for fine work. Downside is that the blades have to be thin and brittle, and therefore prone to breaking. Be patient and let the back and forth action of the saw do the work. Try to press down or speed up and you are way more likely to snap the blade.
Some Tamiya Acrylic paints tend to go gloopy or separate out with time. This seems to happen more often with some colours than others, and not at all with other colours. Storing jars of Tamiya paint upside down seems to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
If you want a brush on gloss varnish then the stuff from the Humbrol enamel range seems to work much better than the water-soluble acrylics I've tried. The acrylics tend to be more dirt sensitive and several times have gone cloudy when still in the jar.
Painting fire:-Fire is hottest and brightest near its fuel source, and becomes redder as it gets cooler. Flames are therefore white or yellow at the base, becoming orange and then red towards the tip. Many painters paint their flames upside-down!
Resin castings sometimes arrive bent out of shape. Check them by dry fitting before using glue. Resin can be bent back into shape if you submerge it in recently boiled water for a few minutes.