The difference between a good custom and a great one is quite simply in the details. Regardless of what type of build you are going for, without the finer things like headlights and taillights it simply looks unfinished.
Today we are going to take a look at how to detail your Hot Wheels diecast cars and go through a few different methods of how best to apply said details. We’ll also touch briefly on decals since they too form part of the ‘finer details’ side of things.
As a special bonus I have managed to get one of the most skilled Hot Wheels Artists you are ever likely to see to share a few tips of his own so don’t go anywhere because you are about to be educated and massively inspired!
Detailing Diecast Cars – What You’ll Need
I have two words for you: PAINT PEN
When it comes to the painting and detailing side of things even the best in the business turn to the trusty paint pen. Not only does it give you the fine point needed for those fiddly painting parts, it also makes the process quicker and cleaner since you are not cleaning brushes every 5 minutes.
You will still need to purchase a few bottles/tins of paint and a super fine brush (or 7) because
- Even a paint pen cannot reach some of the crevices found on a Hot Wheels casting. (The brush I use has like 5 hairs on it and is stupidly fine.)
- The colour range available in paint pen format is both limited and lifeless (comparative to the natural luster of acrylic paint)
Pictured above are the basic tools you will need, including:
- Superfine brushes
- Acrylic paints (I use Model Master brand Acrylic)
- the masking tape (I recommend 3M – don’t skimp on the masking tape trust me) and
- the paint pens. (Posca Brand in my case but any brand is suitable from my experience)
You will also need to have available the following items:
- Some ‘helping hands’ (pictured above) to hold the car when you are painting some of the hard to reach places.
Keep in mind that I do the bulk of my detailing by holding the car in my hand or down on the table itself. I find the helping hands to be more a hindrance than anything else and have only resorted to using them when I need to paint and detail multiple surfaces at once. That’s just me though – maybe I’m just retarded when it comes to using the helping hands so don’t take my word – give it a go first because it is definitely a better way of doing it – the less you touch your custom whilst working the better.
- Speaking of touching, I always have disposable gloves on hand – try to buy ones that don’t have all the powder inside as this tends to get onto the outside of the gloves from time to time.
OK now that we have the tools of the trade ready let’s set about detailing our custom Hot Wheels…
Detailing Tips & Tricks
I have thought about how best to structure this guide so as to cover all bases and I figure the best thing to do is just go through the process of detailing a diecast car and just write down what I am thinking… I mean let’s be honest – for the most part detailing a hot wheels is pretty straight forward. You want red tail lights? paint them red. I mean honestly.
So in order for this guide to actually add value I am just going to write down what I do and include any and all related tips, tricks, hacks, and general do’s and don’ts. Work for you? Ok great….
How to Detail Hot Wheels – Tips & Tricks
So you’ve just stripped and polished or repainted your custom WIP and now it’ time to add details…
The C3-Pig-O above was detailed with paint pens only.
- Always use gloves or a ‘Helping Hand’ (or both!) when painting and detailing your custom. The paint is delicate and not particularly impressed with your oily skin.
- The first thing I do is add any and all accessories that I might be including (things like intercoolers and oil coolers for example) and paint them first (if applicable)
- I like to look at detailing from the outside in. The more it sticks out the earlier it gets painted. This way you literally zoom in – working your way down to the finer details as you go
- When painting finer details like lines or even writing I hold the car in my hand or rest it on the table (if I am working on a top surface only)
- If the surface I am working on is the side, front or back of the car then I do one of two things:
1: I use the helping hands to secure the car – making sure I have both the grips on the vehicle.
- 2: I hold the car in my hand and just paint that way (I have a very steady hand and lots of practice so recommend practicing this on a crappy custom first)
- Regardless of the method I employ, when painting and detailing my custom I always prop my hand up with a book or two so that I can work with a wrist that is free to move without the stress of holding it’s own weight.
- When painting I always make sure my brush or paint pen is pointing in an almost straight down position, maneuvering the car around the pen as apposed to the other way around (which is another reason I like to hold it)
- The reason you should paint with the brush or pen angled down is because not only does it give you a more even distribution of paint, it also allows the paintbrush or paint pen to get further into the crevice or area you are working on. It goes without saying that working this way also removes ALL stress from your wrist as it is not having to hold something in place horizontally. It’s simple physics baby :p
- I always start with the darkest colour first. – The C3-Pig-O above for example had the cabling painted by starting with black, then adding the bronze, then orange and finally silver.
- Painting door and window sills?
Adding a (generally silver) door and window trim can really set a custom off and make the difference between meh and sah-weet. The easiest way to do this is to paint (from the outside) at as much angle as you can manage using a paint pen with a thicker tip (most silver paint pens have larger diameter heads on them and work well for this job). By applying the paint pen to the leading edge of the door and window sills you will get a consistent thickness in the line appearing on the outside of the car.
- Painting Headlights and Taillights?
Something that I have found works really well is to use a black fine tipped marker (Sharpie brand or Artline permanent marker) and go around the edges of the headlights or taillights first. This helps give you a guide (its quite often hard to see the exact edges of the headlight you are painting) and also provides a crisp edge to the light (more realistic)
Something else I have done to good effect is to then draw a few squiggly lines throughout the headlight area. This gives a good effect of modern headlights with their multi-angled lenses.
The above pic is a good example of why the black lines are effective. Not only does it look better (IMHO) – it also allows us to really fine tune the headlight edge. By this I mean we can do it once (as pictured) and then the black outline allows us to fine tune the silver edge – something I am yet to go back and do in this instance.
The above Alfa was done in 20 minutes to appease my 6 year old daughter and is a good example of the squiggly lines I was talking about. Up close they kinda look weird but from a distance they look the part beautifully 😉
Detailing the Interior and Next Steps
Different levels of interior detailing call for different approaches.
- If you are detailing a chrome interior then I would recommend painting the whole thing in primer first. Unless you specifically need the chrome, it is extremely hard for paint to stick to it and will make your job of painting individual details a pain in the brass wazoo.
- Generally you will be working with a black or grey plastic interior in which case I would only paint the bits I needed to.
- The approach to painting the interior is very similar to that of the exterior (in terms of methodology)
- Paint the seats first. Ignore colour order here – paint the seats as they are the largest and any over painting you accidentally do during this stage 1: can be fixed up whilst painting the other details and 2: won’t ruin your other smaller details when overpainting occurs
- Steering wheels are easy and add a nice touch. Paint the top with your paint pen and reach as far around the sides of the wheel*
Then reach from underneath the interior (most have a hollow bottom) and paint the underside of the wheel reaching as far around as you can. Then add a more solid line to the face of the wheel and voila.
*ALWAYS BE AWARE OF YOUR PAINT PEN OR BRUSH TIP WHEN PAINTING DELICATE AREAS*
Showing off the hako for the steering wheel and this reminds me to share another little painting and detailing tip!
- When you have masked your vehicle and are removing the masking tape always, and I mean ALWAYS peel the tape S-L-O-W-L-Y. Just pretend you are an asthmatic snail or something – channel your inner slow and peel away. You can see how the line between polished diecast and metallic burgundy has tiny ‘bites’ in it…. yeah well I forgot to channel my inner slow 🙁
Adding Decals and Finishing Touches
I will be doing a write up in the coming weeks (days even) on how to make and print your own decals so will cover this topic in a lot more detail but the one thing I wanted to mention, well two things – were CLEAR and COAT.
- Always finish your job by spraying your vehicle with clear coat. I use a spray laquer from Testors and like most brands, it’s available in semi-gloss and full gloss. For the record the full gloss is like not even glossy and the semi gloss is perfect for jobs where you have chosen a matte finish.
- If you apply decals then spray the clear coat over them within half an hour or so – basically don’t mess around or you may find your decals starting to peel off (conditions may vary the time it takes – see you doctor if Pain(t) persists) :p
When applying the decals I
- Use tweezers to remove (the usually tiny) piece of decal and backing paper from the water.
- I release the tweezer grip slightly and simply pull off the backing piece (which slides off naturally after 10seconds in water)
- I then shake the remaining decal to remove excess water drops and place it onto the car.
- I always wear a disposable glove when doing it because I use my finger to fine tune where the decals will sit
- You have about 30 seconds to a minute before it becomes too hard to move. If this happens you can just apply more water (with a q-tip) to the area and the decal should move again. I’d recommend against this – just sort your shit out and figure out where its going already!
- In cases like the hako above where 7 individual (and stupidly tiny) decals have to sit together I try to stage them so that each decal can dry in place before I add the next. This helps line them all up and stops you being in the (always fun) position of having 4, 5, or even more decals to position all at once. Don’t go there – trust me.
Whoops! Made a Mistake and Need to Correct it?
The final tip I will share before passing you over to my colleague for a dose of inspiration and envy (why can’t I paint and detail like that?!?!)
Making mistakes is normal – you can’t become good at customizing hot wheels if you don’t make mistakes (and learn from them). I won’t go into a long winded spiel about how this is a reflection of life in general because you already know this. But when that mistake comes at the end of a long and detailed session of customising awesomeness it can be somewhat annoying (read: I will kill the next person I see I am so angry right now!)
Most of the smaller detailing mistakes can be covered over by detailing the area next to it and fine tuning the lines with a black pen or silver pen if necessary.
In situations where the paint has gone over onto the actual car what I like to do is go and take a plastic bowl and spray some paint from the can I used into it. I then use this paint along with a fine brush to remove obvious mistakes and lines that are too fat etc. I also use it to cover up areas where the masking might not have been perfect.
That is all I can think of for now – I am sure I will think of ten more solid tips the second I hit publish but this post is already over 2200 words long and I am sure you have had quite enough of me yabbering on… so allow me to introduce you to one of the most talented artists of anything 1:64 scale I have ever seen.
Introducing Holzmobel Fathur
Holzmobel first came to my attention through Facebook and I instantly started annoying him with questions and comments of praise for his amazing work. Being an artist first and a customiser second I can truly appreciate how amazing and creative these custom hot wheels are and so – with Holzmobel’s blessing – I got a few vital tips from the man and downloaded heaps of his incredible art for your viewing pleasure and inspirational piggy banks.
You can see more of his incredible work on Facebook . Here is a link to the album
How Does One Even Begin a Monumental ‘Detailing’ Like This?!
Holzmobel Fathur – An Artistic Portfolio in 1:64 Scale
You can see more of his incredible work on Facebook . Here is a link to the album
I cant wait to get more detail tips.
Can you do a how to on how to make a clay body kit and how to give a Hot Wheels cars a off road look
Sure thing Chris. I am actually in the process of writing a guide on making wide body kits and the like so that will cover your ‘clay’ request … I’ll get to work on the off road one (y)
I just started my hobby, I mean habit of modding hot wheels. So far I tried only repainting damaged paint from old hotwheels. I used acrylic paint and small brushes.
How do I paint without leaving brush marks. I tried different swiping position, but still I cannot achieve smooth surface. Do you have any simple tips to overcome this.
thanks a lot
the key in my experience is making sure the paint is thin enough to self-level and the brush marks should disappear.
i use water based acrylics from Vallejo and they can be thinned with water pretty effectively.
you can use a retarding medium to keep the paint from drying when you are using it, because if it starts to dry as you are applying it, it can’t self-level and you will see brush marks.
Can I commission you to paint the car for me?
sure, but if you are not located in Australia then postage will make the whole exercise futile. I can recommend some good customisers local to wherever in the world you are – just let me know if you are still interested Mike 🙂
Hi, do you know any customizers in the U.S? Looking to customize a Disney Cars diecast.
I do, try instagram and look for Sean @Witheredcustoms or Corey @ripcitycuztoms – they may be able to assist
Where can I get the helping hands?
search helping hands on ebay and you’ll find heaps – cheap as chips too
Where do you get your decals?
I make them myself – and then sell them on the attached store = just click the link to decals or shop from the homepage 🙂
Hi! I have just start to repaint and renovate 1:64 diecast cars. Can i use markers like sharpie without hurting the humbrol enamel i paint the cars with?
Greetings from Sweden
Of course! I still rely on my sharpies to detail headlights and taillights sometimes (shhh don’t tell anyone now!) 😉
Hi there, have you ever tried making custom Micro Machines? They are tiny, about 3-4cm long.
hahaha yeah I remember them! My little brother had like a million of them and i always stepped on the damn things!
Would be tricky to cvustomise I reckon
What could I put on details like racing strips or something like that for an example when repainting the base color but try to keep the original stripes