Painting and Polishing
How I Achieve a High Gloss Finish
by Andy Fulcher


I was recently ask by a fellow club member how I got such shiny cars. I sat down one Sunday morning and typed out this guideline. I mentioned the conversation I had with the club member at our last club meeting and was encouraged to submit the guideline that I had provided to him for publication in the newsletter.

There are many thoughts and techniques for obtaining that killer paint job. Following is the technique I use. I am always trying to think of a better way and as a result may deviate somewhat from what is listed. This is meant as only a guide, if followed, I think anyone can obtain a satisfactory finish. I am not a pro, but generally the results I get satisfy me, and that is all I hope to accomplish. If you don't understand a term, feel free to contact me. Remember, always build for yourself!

Step 1. Clean model with warm soapy water, rinse and let air-dry.

Step 2. Block sand entire model. This provides a surface for the primer to adhere to. I use 240-600 grade sandpaper depending on the corrections I have to make to the vehicle. Use photos to get correct contours for your vehicle.

Step 3. Rinse model with warm soapy water and rinse again. This will remove sanding residue and oil from your fingers. Let air-dry.

Step 4. Prime model with Plastikote T-235 gray primer. You could also use their red, black, or white. Your topcoat will determine which color undercoat you use. I use the gray 95% of the time. If you would like a brighter finish, use a lighter colored primer.

Step 5. Sand primer with 600 or 1000 grade paper or use a 4000 grit polishing cloth. I've had success using any of the three. The smoothness of the primer will determine which grade to use.

Step 6. Paint model your favorite color. I like MCW auto finishes. This is an automotive lacquer available from a company in NC. It comes in 3/4oz. and 2oz. jars which are pre-thinned for airbrush use. The cost range from $4-$9 per bottle. You can get factory correct colors for the era of vehicle by going this route. I've also used Dupli-color paint (also lacquer) in the small cans with very good results.

Step 7. Let model dry for one day.

Step 8. Apply clear-coat. I like to use a clear coat. This allows me to polish out the finish without worrying about going through the color to the primer. I use Plastikote T-5 for the clear. I transfer the clear to a jar so that I can use my airbrush. This enables me to apply thinner coats than if I sprayed directly from the can. (If you feel brave, you could sand before applying the clear-coat, use a 4000 grit polishing cloth).

Step 9. Let paint dry for at least 4 days.

Step 10. Polishing: This is where it gets complicated and very time consuming. I take between 25 and 40 hours to polish out a paint job. The purpose of polishing is to remove all orange peel and other imperfections in the paint.

A polishing kit is recommended with grits ranging from 4000 - 12000. These are available from Micro-mark.

If you want to try a shortcut, you could use 2000 or 2500 grit auto sanding paper.

Always start with the highest possible grit whether it is sandpaper or a polishing cloth. This will help eliminate deep scratches (our enemy). If you think that this first step is taking to long, then you can use a cloth that is the next coarsest, that is to say a lower number. This first step is the most important and also the most time consuming. Patience is a virtue.

Step 11. After polishing, I use the following Mequiars' products: #3, #7, and #26 in this order. This removes all the swirls and other marks. Number 26 is a wax, which brings the model to a high gloss.

Note: I have just clear-coated a couple of models and have been satisfied with the results and opted not to polish the finish. These were models I did just for the fun of it without regard to competition. The previous sentence brings us back to our motto, "Build for yourself."

I know some people have used Future for the clear-coat. I have not tried this, but will at some point.

Give it a try, you may even wow yourself, happy modeling.