Nail Polish: Can You Use It to Paint Models?

Since nail polish is widely available and cheap, one of the common questions you might ask if you start painting or building models is if you can use nail polish to paint them.

You can use nail polish to paint models because it is a type of enamel paint. Nail polish provides a stronger and cheaper alternative to model painting. Furthermore, it is fast drying, thus, suitable for beginners. However, nail polish’s brush is small, so it will take time to paint models.

In this blog post, I am going to introduce you to using nail polish to paint models. I will give you the advantages and disadvantages of using this paint so you will know what to expect when doing so.

Can You Use Nail Polish to Paint Models

Can You Use Nail Polish to Paint Models?

You can paint your model vehicle in various ways, including utilizing splash paint, using an airbrush, or painting it manually.

Whatever you choose, painting a model vehicle empowers you to utilize your innovativeness to make your customized model.

The toy vehicle industry is every day trying to improve by leaps and bounds, just like any other market industry.

When it comes to the exterior look, most modelers go for gleaming or smooth surfaces.

For touch-up paint, you can use nail paint to paint car models.

Nail polish is a type of enamel paint.

It is the same as the enamel you can buy to paint model cars and whatnot for intents and purposes, having pros and cons.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Nail Polish for Painting Models

You can use nail polish to paint your models of different scales, but it has some advantages and disadvantages that you surely need to be aware of.

Here are these:

Advantages of Using Nail Polish for Painting Models

The advantage of using nail polish to paint models is that it offers cheaper and longer-lasting paint compared to other models. Furthermore, nail polish has a variety of styles to choose from, whether you prefer matte, sparkling, glittery, dull, or colorful colors.

  1. Nail polish offers gleaming, shiny, or smooth surface in painting models.
  2. Nail polish is much cheaper than acrylic paints, so that makes it a cost-friendly alternative.
  3. Enamel nail polish is more durable than acrylic paints which are usually used for car models.
  4. Nail polish is intended to be fast-drying and generally thin, which gives model cars a unique creator look.
  5. Nail polish has proper viscosity wetting and flow properties.
  6. Matte, sparkling, glittery, dull, or colorful, you can get it with nail polish no matter what sort of look you need.
  7. In contrast to other paints, the shade of nail paint doesn’t become obscure; when dry, you will end up with the same color you painted.
  8. Enamel paints can endure longer, and it’s more impervious to cracks and does not fade, unlike acrylic paint.
  9. Components in nail polish are, in reality, just as good and long-lasting as the paint that’s specialized for cars. Nail polish seals up dings so that you don’t get any growing rust problems.
  10. Nail polish provides flexible assortment of shades.
  11. Reasonable for all surfaces.
  12. Nail polish offers a smooth wrap-up without any hints of brush strokes.
  13. Nail polish deliversHigh-quality results.
  14. Nail polish meets your opaque and viscosity requirements for painting models.

Disadvantages of Using Nail Polish for Painting Models

The disadvantage of using nail polish to paint models is that it dries fast. So, it is close to impossible to blend or mix colors if you decide to do so. Furthermore, nail polish is not water-soluble. This means it is hard to clean nail polish if it leaks out of the bottle or on the floor.

  1. As nail paint is fast-drying and thin; accordingly, not great for blending tones on the range.
  2. Nail polish is not water-based, which makes it hard to tidy up.
  3. Nail polish is thin, so it is not defensive.
  4. Enamel paint will, in general, become yellow after some time in indoor regions where there isn’t sufficient daylight.

What kind of paint do you use on a model car?

As a general rule, acrylic paint should be used for model cars because it dries fast. This will prevent any errors from being made in the drying process. Furthermore, acrylic paints are water-soluble. Thus, it is easier to clean than enamel paints. However, there are now water-soluble enamel paints being introduced in the market.

SolubilityDrying TimeRecommended For
Acrylic Urethane PaintWater Based30 minutesplastic, metal
Enamel Paint Oil Based1-3 dayswood, plastic, metal
Nail PolishOil Based1 hourplastic, metal
Oil-Based Enamel PaintOil Based1-3 dayswood, plastic, metal
Water-Based Enamel PaintWater Based1-2 hourswood, plastic, metal
Comparison of Different Paints used in Model Painting

The big picture with paints to use for your miniatures and models is that you have an assortment of high-quality options.

A lot of these paints are incredible and generally utilized.

Which one is best for you is subjective, but I’ll give you a good sense of the more prominent brands.

I’ll cover oil paints momentarily here; however, all around, it’s Acrylics that are by a long shot the most utilized paints in model painting.

Present-day car paints are almost consistently an acrylic polyurethane “enamel” with a pigmented basecoat and a good topcoat.

It could be depicted as “acrylic,” “acrylic enamel,” “urethane,” etc., and the clearcoat, in particular, may be portrayed as a lacquer.

There are two kinds of auto paint: Waterborne and Solventborne.

While the two types of paint might be utilized on vehicles, the distinction lies in the material from which they’re made.

Solventborne paints are the customary auto paints that have been used for a long time.

Acrylic displaying paint is the standard paint of choice for most model enthusiasts.

It’s easy to work with and can undoubtedly be thinned by mixing with pure water.

However, acrylic paint is not so much as durable as enamel or spray paint.

Use acrylic paint unless you have an exceptional requirement for durability.

This is because acrylic paint is beginner-friendly. It dries at around 30 minutes, while enamel paints generally dry entirely in 2 to 3 days.

Use enamel modeling paint if you need a substantial completion or build.

Enamel modeling paint is a thicker, more grounded choice that will surely leave a stronger coat behind when applied.

It is also recommended to use enamel thinner when using enamel paints to soften the texture, and you can’t clean it without using an acidic solvent, like paint thinner.

Pick enamel paints if you want to achieve a permanent finish that will not effectively erode.

The Automotive paint resins are one of the following three chemical compounds:

enamel, lacquer, or urethane.

1. Acrylic Urethane Paint

If you’re painting a car without any assistance, the easiest type of paint that you can use is acrylic urethane.

Acrylic urethane is incredible for DIY car painting because it’s very simple to apply.

It won’t give you fits, regardless of whether it’s your first time painting a vehicle.

2. Enamel Paint

Enamel paint has an opaque and glossy finish.

It is solid and long-lasting and is usually used for painting indoors or on metal surfaces.

Enamel paint is oil-based, but lately, water-based enamel has become available as well.

3. Oil-based Enamel Paint

Oil-based enamel takes 8-72 hours to dry completely, and it starts drying from the inside to the outside.

Oil-based enamel paint contains a strong odor and can be cleaned with paint thinners.

When utilizing this type of paint indoors, ensure the area is appropriately ventilated because it discharges a strong chemical scent.

4. Water-based Enamel Paint

Water-based enamel dries faster than oil-based ones.

It takes less than 8 hours to dry out totally.

It dries first within, and whether it feels dry to contact, it isn’t easy to characterize whether it’s scorched.

It’s additionally simpler to clean and remove because you can wash it with water.

You can utilize enamel paint on copper, wood, plastic, metallic surfaces, glass, and walls.

The paint is resistant to dampness, and it’s perfect for characters that need to be washed on various occasions.

Accordingly, I unequivocally suggest that you give them a shot if you want something that is smoother, rich, and for multiple uses, simple to blend with other paints and applicable on different surfaces, and has a long-lasting finish.

What’s next? If you’ve decided to use nail polish in painting models, you need to know if nail polish remover or acetone can be used in cleaning models. You can check this blog post if you’re interested to know: Can You Use Nail Polish Remover on Models?

Only the things I love” is reader-supported. When you buy through links on the site, I earn an affiliate commission.

So, here are the things I love when taking care of my Diecast Models.

Cleaning the Models

The first we are going to talk about is cleaning the models.

Removing Dust

  1. Air Brush – For me, this is the best since it not just removes dust but you can use it in painting/clear coating.
  2. Air Duster – This is a good alternative to Airbrush
  3. Normal Brush – If you are short on budget, you can use a normal brush. However, make sure that the brush has soft bristles because there are some hard brushes than can cause scratches. That’s why I recommended a good brush that can do the job properly.

Cleaning and Shining Hacks

Well, here are some of my cleaning hacks for removing scratches, oxidation, and so much more.

  1. Removing Decal Adhesive – Use Goo Gone on those hard-to-remove decal adhesives. It works fast and works like charm!
  2. Waxing and Polishing – Here is something a lot of people don’t know. Waxing protects the clear coat and paint while polishing shines the model. Instead of buying it separately, use a 2 in 1 to save money. Get this instead.
  3. Beginner Wax – The wax I recommended earlier is good and provides the best results based on my experience. But a beginner might have a problem especially if they’re not good at applying wax. Solid wax reaching hard to reach surface can be hard to remove. You have two choices here. One is to use a qtips to reach those surfaces, another is to use a liquid wax I recommended.
  4. Cleaning Wheels, Rubber, Plastic – Do not forget that rubber and plastic surface are quite different, especially in the cleaning process. Just wiping it down won’t do the job. That’s why I use Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner and Conditioner. Works like charm!
  5. Make the Wheels Shine! – Making our models look good won’t be complete without tiny details such as shiny wheels! Do not forget this because however small this is, the difference can be as big as night and day.
  6. Remove Scratches Easily – Tiny scratches are not the end for your model. Here is a simple trick I’ve been using to make my models look scratch-free even without repainting. Use T-Cut.

Painting the Models

Painting Tools

Make sure when you paint models, have these ready.

  1. Tape – A tape is important if you are painting a straight line. Furthermore, it will prevent your paint to scatter on other parts. I recommend Tamiya Tape since it is really made for models. Furthermore, they stick really well preventing paint splatters.
  2. Brush (Beginner) – Find a good set of brushes to paint your models. Of course, you can opt for an airbrush but it’s quite expensive.
  3. Airbrush (Intermediate/Expert) – This will yield a significantly better result than an ordinary brush because you can easily spray the paint evenly. I recommend this if you know what you’re doing.
  4. Stand(Optional) – Stands are good because it can be hard to manually hold the models while painting. It is optional but in my opinion, the price is well worth it for the comfort it gives.
  5. Drop Cloths – Drop Cloths will protect your surroundings from the paint.
  6. Primer – The most common beginner mistake I see is painting models without any Primer. A primer will prevent imperfections such as bubbles or paint not sticking to your models. It is a small price to pay for quality results.
  7. Clear Coat – A clear coat will protect the paint of your models. This will make the paint last longer. Also, it is the one responsible for making your models shine.


Of course, you can’t do painting properly without paint. So here are the ones I recommend.

  1. Acrylic PaintGood for beginners because it dries quickly. However, it doesn’t produce results as good as enamel paint.
  2. Enamel PaintProvides a good quality finish and longer-lasting paint. However, it takes longer to dry and requires expertise to use.

Model Maintenance

Model Storage

  1. Simple Wood Cabinet – While it doesn’t let you display your models, wooden cabinets are good storage for these models. For one, they are not heat conductors which means that the temperature inside will remain constant and remain cool. Furthermore, they prevent light from reaching the models which can cause oxidation.
  2. Clear Cabinet with Lock – If you want to display your models, then I recommend this. It closes so dust won’t easily get to your models. I also recommend you don’t put more than 1 model in each compartment since metals are good conductors of heat.

Model Photography

So you want to show off your models to others? Well, I got you covered.

Here is my beginner-friendly model photography tutorial that teaches everything from taking pictures to the editing process.

You will also see me doing hands-on photography in that tutorial.

Here is the link: How to Take Pictures of a Diecast Model or Model Kit | Helpful Illustrated and Video Guide

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