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January 04, 2022
Using Metal Foil for Model Car Trim

Using Metal Foil for Model Car Trim

Model car building is one of the most popular hobbies in America. Since the 1920s, people have been creating replicas of their favorite cars, trucks and other vehicles. One of the most important tasks when working on a model car is getting the trim right. In the past, model car builders used products like chrome pens to paint the trim. 

However, using chrome pens to paint the trim can be messy — an easier solution is to use metal foil for your model car’s trim. Below, we will discuss how to use metal foil on a model car so that you can get your car’s trim perfect. 

Metal Foil vs. Chrome Pens

Metal foil and chrome pens are the two most common ways to finish the trim of a model car. Chrome pens are a pen-like product hobbyists use to create chrome trims. Some things to consider when using chrome pens include the following:

  • Their variety of use: Although popular for this purpose, chrome pens are not specifically designed for model car painting. People also commonly use them for costume design, traditional paintings and various other art projects. 
  • Lack of control: If you are a novice model car builder, you may want to avoid using chrome pens to paint your car’s trim. If you don't have a steady hand, the paint can bleed onto other parts of your model car that you don't want it to reach. 

In comparison, here are some aspects to keep in mind when using metal foil for your projects:

  • Good for beginners: Metal foil is the recommended method for detailing your model car’s trim if you are a beginner or don't feel comfortable using paint. With metal foil, you don't have to worry about paint dripping onto other parts of your car. 
  • Easily removable: Model car enthusiasts have raved about using metal foil to create trim. One benefit of using it is that if you make a mistake, you can simply use another piece of foil. Sometimes when you make a mistake with a chrome pen, it can be challenging to remove the paint. 
  • Coverage for large areas: Metal foil is also better than chrome pens for covering large areas.

What Is Metal Foil Used for In Modeling?

Metal foil is often used for other models besides automobiles. For example, hobbyists commonly use it for model airplanes to achieve the shiny, chrome appearance of many World War II-era planes. Besides model cars and airplanes, people also use foil to create a chrome finish on model ships, trains, tractors and more. 

White Muscle Car

Types of Metal Foil for Modeling

Within the metal foil category, adhesive and non-adhesive foil are the two major types used for modeling. If you don't feel comfortable applying adhesive to foil, you can use the non-adhesive kind for easier application. This type is thinner and is especially helpful for novice car model builders. The foil sheets come in various sizes, making them easy to use for any modeling project you have in mind. Other than chrome, you can even buy non-adhesive foil in black, matte, copper and gold styles.

With adhesive foils, metal foils that people traditionally use for HVAC work and plumbing can also create a chrome trim on a model car. These foils can be thicker than non-adhesive types, which often makes them more suitable for experienced builders. If you're a beginner at building model cars, it's recommended to use a thin, non-adhesive foil that's easier to work with. 

Using Metal Foil for Chrome Trim: Supplies You Will Need

Most of the supplies you'll need to create a chrome trim are household products. If there are any supplies you don't already have at home, these products are not too expensive to purchase. Make sure you have:

  • Metal foil
  • Tweezers
  • X-ACTO knives
  • Flat and round toothpicks
  • A straight-edge knife
  • Soapy water and a cloth to clean and dry the model car before applying the foil

Using Metal Foil for Chrome Trim: A Step-By-Step Guide

Below are some general steps for applying metal foil to create a chrome trim, whether you're using the adhesive or non-adhesive type:

  1. File the tip of the toothpick so it becomes chiseled — doing so will help get the foil into any potentially tight spaces.
  2. Using a knife, cut a piece of foil larger than the area you need to cover. You want to have extra foil to start with so you can trim it down as needed. 
  3. Begin cutting the foil to fit the area. Starting with the windshield and rear window frame, use your finger to attach the foil.
  4. Use the round toothpick to smooth out the foil, and ensure there are no wrinkles. Crinkled foil can ruin the appearance of your model car.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut around the molding and remove the excess molding.
  6. Using the chiseled end of the flat toothpick, work the foil into all crevices. 
  7. If you used any adhesive products, use a cloth to remove the excess adhesive from the foil. 

Some other tips to keep in mind depending on your specific case:

  • Some model cars have windshield wipers molded into place. If your model car has these, cover the wipers separately before covering the windshield molding. 
  • Vent windows can be more complex to apply metal foil to. Before applying the foil, cut the appropriate amount needed to cover the vent windows. 
  • Keyholes and door handles are some of the toughest moldings to cover. Sometimes, two pieces of foil are necessary to cover a door handle. If you have to use two pieces of foil, remove any excess when you are finished. 
  • You can also cover interior parts with foil. When working on the model car's interior, be especially careful — you'll be working in tight spaces that require precision. 

Purchase Model Cars from Auto World Store

Purchase Model Cars From Auto World Store

Using metal foil is a great way to add chrome trim to your model car. The materials needed to apply the foil are relatively inexpensive, and if you follow instructions carefully, it's easy to enhance your model car's appearance. Unlike chrome pens, metal foil does not require any paint that could potentially run onto other parts of the car.

If you are looking to add to your model car collection or get into the hobby, check out the automotive collection from Auto World Store. We are a leading provider of scale model and die-cast cars, and we offer other hobby model types like model airplanes, ships, trucks and more. Contact us today for more information on our offerings!