CNSM 250 – 255 Combine by Boxcar Models

Whether you’re creating model trains or any number of other kinds of miniatures, our Fine Detail Plastic (FDP) provide incredible detail and can be totally transformed with a bit of paint. However, getting the models ready for painting is an important first step. In the future, Shapeways will offer a pre-treated alternative, but while we’re still developing a process to do so at scale, read on for tips and tricks on prepping your FDP models for painting.

Today, I’ll be working with a model train. Model trains are printed in a number of scales and sizes, and generally printed in Fine Detail Plastic. Let’s get started on the pre-painting post-processing of this model. First, we’ll need a few tools:

  • Acetone or Simple Green

  • Primer

  • Synthetic Paint Brush Set or Airbrush Kit

  • Acrylic or Enamel Paint

  • Matte or Satin Varnish

Once the tools are assembled, we’re well on our way to a perfect model train.

1. Model Prep

If there is any residual oil or wax support material left over from the production process, this can easily be removed using acetone or Simple Green solvent. You can simply dip and air dry the model. Or, using a paint brush, you can lightly spread the solvent on the train and air dry.

**TIP** If you notice an excess amount of residual support material or details are distorted, this may call for a reprint. Please send an image and order number to

2. First Coat – Prime

Primer is added as a first coat in order to provide a uniform surface and offer a stronger hold for your paints. Recommended primer colors include black, grey, or white. Your primer color selection will depend on the colors you decide for your top coat.

In order to keep the finest details visible, it is best to use a thin primer. For example, Krylon Color Master Primer will do the job.

3. Paint

Models can be painted in a variety of ways. The most common methods for painting a high-detail finish include airbrushing and hand-painting.

Airbrush painting is a great method for coating large areas of your design more quickly. This will require a fine-tip sprayer kit and masking to cover the areas that are not intended to be painted.

Hand-painting might be a bit more accessible to those who don’t want to invest in an airbrush kit. For this method, a range of small-sized synthetic brushes are recommended. The synthetic hairs do not fray, have a longer life span, and allow for finer points due to their stiffer structure.

With hand-painting, we suggest using acrylic or enamel model paints. First, we add the larger base details using a larger brush. Then, with a smaller brush, we use the lighter colors to make the details pop. Once painted, we’ll let the material dry completely before moving on to the next step.

4. Clear Coat

The final step to finishing our model train is to add a varnish. This will seal the paints and offer the appropriate sheen. Choose a matte or satin finish depending on your glossiness preference.

The varnish should be thinly applied and set to dry. Once dried, the model is ready to be displayed.

CNSM 203 – 214 MD by Boxcar Models

Do you have any tips or tricks to finishing your model trains or other FDP prints? We would love to hear them, so please share them with the community on our forum or in the comments below.