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How to Paint Brass Models

Getting Ready to Paint a Brass Model.
Dan D. Sparks

Whether you are a gaming enthusiast or an avid model railroad builder, at some point you will want to paint your own brass models. Brass is a soft metal that can hold great detail, which is why it is preferred by model makers and users alike, a good brass model can make the world you are creating come alive. You can paint your brass models easily, however, properly preparing the model to be painted is a time consuming process.

Remove the working parts (the rail carriage) of the brass model with your small set of screw drivers. If you are painting a model without any working parts, skip this step.

Determine if your brass model has a thin coating of lacquer on it to prevent the brass from tarnishing. If you hold the model near a bright light and notice a sheen to it, then your model has a lacquer coating that must be removed before you can paint the brass models.

Place your model in one of your glass jars, if the model is larger enough to require a pan, use a glass baking dish. Pour enough paint stripper into the glass jar or dish to completely cover the model. Let the model soak for 15 to 20 minutes, then put on a pair of gloves and remove the model from the paint thinner and use the clean cloth to wipe the thinner and lacquer from the model. When you are done take off your gloves and throw them away.

Put on a clean pair of gloves and put the model in the dishwasher. Add dishsoap, put on the hottest wash cycle available on your dishwasher and run the cycle.

Remove the model from the dishwasher being careful not to touch the brass with your bare hands, continue wearing the gloves. Put the model in a clean glass jar or dish and cover the model with vinegar. Let the brass model sit in the vinegar for ½ hour. The acid in the vinegar will 'rough' or 'pit' the smooth brass just enough to help the primer paint adhere to the metal. After a ½ hour, using gloves again, remove the model from the vinegar and wash it again in the dishwasher. While the cycle is running, remove and discard the gloves you were wearing.

Put on a fresh pair of gloves. Remove the model from the dishwasher, carry it to a well ventilated area and place it on some old newspapers. Shake your can of auto paint primer well and spray the model. Apply two coats of primer. Allow each coat to dry completely before spraying the next. When the second coat of primer is completely dry you are ready to paint your brass models. Drying times for primer paint will vary from brand to brand. Let your model dry overnight to ensure that this step is completed properly no matter what brand of primer paint you use.

Move the model to your work table and arrange your acrylic paints according to the order you plan on applying them. Using a small paint pallet, thin the acrylic with water until the consistency is smooth, even and just slightly thicker than water. Apply the paint working from the top of the model down, then go back to add any details. Let each color dry completely before starting with a new color.

When you are done painting your brass model, let it dry completely and then spray a light coating of acrylic fixative over the model.

Things You'll Need:

  • Small Screw Driver set
  • Paint Stripper (If Necessary)
  • (2) Glass Jars (or Pan)
  • (3 prs) Cloth or Rubber Gloves
  • Clean Cloth
  • Dishwasher
  • Dishsoap
  • Vinegar
  • Old Newspapers
  • Auto Paint Primer (Spray)
  • Paint Pallet
  • Water
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Fine Brushes
  • Acrylic Fixative (Spray, Matte or Gloss)


Match your primer to the main color you will be painting your model---use a light color primer if your will be painting your model with mostly yellows, whites or reds; and a dark color if your brass models will be mostly blue, black or brown.


  • Never touch the brass metal of your model with your bare hands. Brass will absorb the oils from your hand and your paint will not stick well to its surface.
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