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How to Choose Your First Model

This P51 Mustang 1/72nd scale aircraft would be an excellent kit for a beginner.  It is good quality, goes together well, has an easy paint scheme and is a subject that appeals to many aircraft enthusiasts.


This article will provide advice to beginners on how to choose suitable models.  It will include simple guidelines to follow in making the choice to help avoid starting a model that is too difficult or might give disappointing results.

At the end of the article is a table with a few suggestions for models that are suitable for people starting out with the hobby.

General Factors To Consider

Whether it is tanks, cars, aircraft or something entirely different that appeals to you, consideration of the following factors will help guide your choice.


There are many reasons why this Trumpeter 1/16th King Tiger would not make a good model for a beginner.  One of these is the price. At £350 (Feb 2009) it is not something that anyone would want to mess up.

The price of scale models can vary from a few coins to a small fortune.  There is a good chance that the first few kits made by a novice may produce results that the modeller might want to keep hidden, or the model may not be finished at all, so it is wise to not spend too much in the initial stages.

The building and painting of the first few models should be a time for a modeller to experiment with different products and skills.  Mistakes will be made and that is part of the learning process.  However, if a modeller has invested a large amount of money in a model there will be a reluctance to push the boundaries and if the kit is messed up it can be demoralising.  Much better to work on a kit that is cheap where it does not matter so much if the results are not good.

Modelling requires skills that take practice to develop.  Nobody would expect to take up a musical instrument and be able to play a tune straight away.  Similarly, do not expect to build good models with your first few builds, so do not spend too much money on them.

Size and Scale

This S-100 Schnellboot builds up into a model that is a meter long and is definately a model that should only be tackled by someone with experience.

Italeri’s 1/35th scale Schnellboot builds up into a fine model, but the meter long hull halves are not something that a beginner should attempt to glue together.  It is common sense to start modelling with small models and that generally means choosing a small scale.


This model has resin, brass and steel parts as well as the normal styrene and this involves different techniques and glues not suitable for the novice.

The beginner should start out with kits that do not have many parts and that use only injection molded polystyrene.  There will be plenty of time later to develop skills with different media such as photo-etched brass and resin.  First gain the skills of working with plastic before moving on to other media that require different glues and skills.


Plastic kits have been widely available for over 40 years and the quality of the moldings has improved out of all recognition.  Nowadays, modellers expect parts to fit together well with very little need for fillers.  This has not always been the case and there are many models on sale today that were first released decades ago.  Even when they were first released they would not have met today’s rigorous quality standards and it is likely that wear and tear on the molds will have reduced the quality still further.

Experienced modellers may find some of these older models a welcome challenge that they are willing to take on to make a model of a particular subject.  However, it is best if the beginner avoids some of these older kits.  The beginner should stick to recently released models from mainstream quality manufacturers.

Most internet sites will allow a search for models that are recent releases and these can also be found from the pages of modelling magazines and reviews on Internet support sites.

It can be difficult to find a model that is both high quality and simple.  This is because the best quality kits tend to be those recently released, but these also tend to include mixed media such as photo-etched brass parts.  Therefore, it may be necessary to do a bit of research to find a good quality recently released model that only contains injection molded parts.  Once again, reviews in modelling magazines and on the Internet can help with this.  The table at the end of this article makes a few suggestions.

It is important that you feel excited about your chosen subject.  Your enthusiasm will carry you through those times when things are not going well.


It is very important that the modeller has some enthusiam for the kit they are about to build.  Maybe they just like the look of the finished article, or maybe they are fascinated by the history of the vehicle.  Whatever the reason for the interest, there should be some interest, because without it making the model becomes a chore and the project may be abandoned before the kit is finished.

Make sure that the first models you build are subjects that really stir your emotions and you are really keen to see what the finished model will look like.

This Tamiya Focke Wulf has a gorgeous paint scheme, but the soft-edged and mottled camouflage effect can only be done well with the expert use of a quality airbrush.

Paint Scheme

Experienced modellers revel in a complex paint scheme for both the challenge and the end result.  However, many of these are difficult to acheive and may require complex masking and a good quality airbrush.  For your first few models, choose a subject that has a fairly bland single colour paint scheme.  It is depressing to complete the build of a model and then ruin it because the paint scheme is too difficult.

Special Considerations

In addition to the general considerations applicable to all types of model there are a few special considerations applicable to different genres.


This Gazeelle helicopter by Heller ticks most of the boxes for suitability for a beginner, but look at all that glass!  It would be difficult for the novice to get a good finish with this subject.

Aircraft have clear parts, namely the cockpit canopy.  These are usually the most difficult parts to get right as they are made from brittle plastic which is easy to scratch or break and difficult to repair.  If the cockpit canopy does not fit well it is a big problem.  Some aircraft have a lot more glass than others so try to avoid models that look like a glasshouse with wings – helicopters in particular can have a lot of canopy.

On Bi-planes and tri-planes the wing alignment and rigging can be difficult so these are not recommended for the novice.

A lot of aircraft are finished in bare metal.  It is difficult to get a realistic finish for this effect with silver paint and there are a range of specialist products aimed at reproducing the shiny metal surface of these aircraft.  However, using one of these products is best left until a modeller has a few kits under their belt.

This Trumpeter LAV-25 is an armoured vehicle without any tracks or clear parts making it easier for the beginner than most armoured vehicles.

Military Vehicles

As with aircraft, it is perhaps best to avoid models with windscreens for the first few builds.  Open topped vehicles such as half-tracks, will be more of a challenge because both the interior and exterior will be on show.  For your first few builds, you may wish to consider an armoured car with 6 or 8 wheels to avoid the complexity of tank tracks.

Cars / Motorbikes

Regrettably, much of the advice above can not apply to cars and bikes.  These kits almost always come with parts in different materials like rubber or vinyl tyres, plastic tubes and chromed parts.  They will also have a lot of clear parts and a complex paint scheme with many decals.  Getting a good gloss paint scheme with no defects is also extremly challenging.  Put simply, most car kits are not ideal for the beginner to scale modelling.

If car or bike kits are what interests you, it may be worth considering tryiing out a couple of other types of kits first to hone your skills.


Anything with sails will have rigging and getting that right can be very difficult.  Ships usually have different coloured paint below and above the waterline and getting a neat line between the two is a challenge.  Consider getting a model that has the option of building the kit as a waterline model (although that might tempt you to try to make a seascape display).

This is the complete set of box contents for Tamiya’s M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier.  It is an old kit, but is good quality and has been updated with the addition of parts to make it into a vehicle serving in Iraq in 2003.

Building a large ship in a small scale (e.g. a battleship in 1/700th scale) is often more difficult than building a smaller ship in a larger scale (e.g. a motor torpedo boat in 1/72nd scale) because the former may have a lot of very tiny parts.

Table of Suggested Models

The following table includes a list of models that meet all of the above criteria and appear to be suitable for the beginner based on reviews in modelling magazines.  It is important that the modeller has enthusiasm for the subject being built and most modeller’s should find something in this list that appeals to them.

Of course, there are hundreds more models that are equally suitable for the beginner and we would encourage you to browse suppliers for yourself, but if you are keen to get started as soon as possible then the easy option is to choose something from this list.

Manufacturer Model Scale Comments
Acadamy F-8E Crusader fighter aircraft 1/72
Acadamy P-51 Mustang “North Africa” fighter aircraft 1/72 Kit supplied with jeep and trailer
Dragon M2A2 ODS Bradley Iraq 2003 1/72 This does have many small pieces but goes together well
Fine Molds Star Wars X-Wing fighter 1/48 A snap together kit that does not compromise on quality or detail.
Revell Germany U212 A class submarine 1/144
Tamiya Republic P47D Thunderbolt fighter aircraft 1/72
Tamiya British Universal Carrier MkII 1/48 This is a small tracked vehicle from WWII
Tamiya US M113A2 Amoured Personnel Carrier (Desert Version) 1/35 Although this is a fairly large model to start with, it is an easy build.  Older versions of this kit have been on the market for some time but the quality of the moldings is still very good.
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GRAB YOUR FREE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO GUIDE !Here you'll find the BEST on the web video tutorial on how to make 1:48 scale WW2 German jet. In our friendly step-by-step video guide we cover topics like: drybrushing, applying washes, applying decals and many more. Do not miss out - WE GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL LEARN SOMETHING NEW!!!!New GraphicName: Email: We respect your email privacy