So you’re wanting to start a hobby that you’re interested in but you don’t have the money for that fancy starter kit that comes with two hundred items plus a set of free widget-digits that is a killer price! However, do you really need all of that or is it just a gimmick?
The truth is, you can start almost any hobby on any budget [virtually speaking] as long as you stick to the basics. No one needs to go all out for anything when they first start, especially when it comes to painting, model building, small-scale models, or dioramas. There is a plethora of starter and beginner kits out there for everyone on every budget but yet, they all seem to lack the fact that you do NOT need them.
So how can you start model building on a budget? It’s simple, what do you have at home? Do you have kids that have acrylic craft paints and some inexpensive paint brushes that you picked up at the “dollar store”? Then you’re already halfway there! Look around your house for an old cardboard box, newspaper, 12 ounce to 2-liter bottles, any and everything can be used! Open your mind, use your imagination!!
Now what if you don’t have any of those things. What if you want to actually make something? Go to the “dollar store” or the cheapest place nearby and look for your basic black, red, green, and blue craft paints. Why not get more? Because you can make any color with all of these! Why the black? So you can lay what is called a “base coat” down on your model. This isn’t going to be the case with everything you paint as you’ll usually want to have a base coat that compliments the overlaying colors, but again, it’s a beginning! Nothing fancy, get the cheapest. It’s a start, that’s what you’re wanting to do. GET STARTED!
Right beside that you should be able to find a pack of cheap paint brushes. They’re not great, by any means, but again… It’s a start and that’s all we’re aiming for right now. Head over to the toy section and find some little toys or maybe even in the pottery section and find something that you can paint. Anything that isn’t overly painted already or if you can find something unpainted, grab it. If you’re looking for cheap miniatures to start out on a budget, head over to Reaper Miniatures [link below]. This is where I get most of my miniatures believe it or not. They come in metal and plastic. Their plastic line is a type of rubbery plastic that you can sit in some warm water and bend back into the pose it is supposed to be, but they’re reliable minis that are almost indestructible. Trust me, they’re wonderful.
But you want to build a scene?? It’s okay! While you’re over at the crafts area of your “dollar store”, pick up some type of glue. Whether it’s white glue [there are specifics but this is a start, don’t worry about the others right now] or super glue, find something that you can put on foam. You don’t want it melting the foam. And if you don’t have foam, that’s why we have the cardboard! Find a few floral plants, the fake ones, and grab them. Nothing too expensive and nothing over the top, you’re set!
Now that you’re back home and you have all of your supplies, start thinking of what you want to make. If you have foam, use that as your base and if foam isn’t something you have, find that cardboard box or use one of your snack/cereal boxes. Just cut it to the size you need. You may want to use something to reinforce the cardboard as well, this isn’t needed but it will help the base not to warp and bend after adding paint and glue. Again, you’re not making it to some high standard, it’s the start of your hobby. You have to get to know the basics, this is what that is.
Now use your scissors and start cutting things to shape. If you’re using foam, make sure you’re using a box cutter with a very sharp blade. Your base is set up? Great!! Now start painting your miniature or whatever you bought to paint. Use that black paint if need be [if you don’t understand what stripping is, that’s fine! Paint over all of those colors that are on that item with the black paint,one or two coats should suffice.] “I need to thin my paints, I hear that a lot.” No, no you do not. We’re just starting out, so you don’t need to worry about thinning or brush strokes or anything like that.
After painting the item you bought, let it dry and make sure you wait until everything is dry and you have an “outline” ready to go before you start painting. If you’re using thin cardboard [from those snack/cereal boxes] make sure you reinforce the bottom with something. Whether it’s wood, plastic, or something along those lines — use that to reinforce the bottom. You can use the super glue or white glue for this. It shouldn’t warp, but to make sure it doesn’t, lay something heavy on top and let it sit until it is dry. Whether it’s a few minutes to a few hours, have patience. You’re starting out, don’t rush anything.
Start laying your finished pieces out now that everything is dry and ready to set up. Make sure you’re happy with everything before you start gluing. If you’re adding grass or anything of that nature, put that down first unless you want your item to be “buried” in it. Use your imagination and let your mind do the work. Don’t think too much into it and don’t make everything “perfect.” Especially if it’s some type of “nature” scene. Nothing in nature is perfect, ever. There are no patterns thus, you don’t want any noticeable patterns in your scene.
So, for the price of a coffee or two from Starbucks or some other place, you just built your first diorama/model/small-scale! That’s no more than five or ten dollars in most places of the United States. So what are you waiting on? It isn’t going to build itself!