Big things with little cars

Detailing with Acrylic Paint to Create Shadows and Depth

I’ve only been here for two weeks but I’ve always wanted to share this with the LaLD community. This simple method is my favorite for detailing diecasts and I hope you guys learn to apply it too.

Sometimes tiny rims don’t have enough depth to produce a shadow. Acrylic paint helps create an artificial shadow to give the illusion of depth.


When I was still experimenting with 1:24 scale modeling, I came across an excellent YouTube channel that explained methods of detailing for scale models. Among them was a video on creating realistic diamond-cut rims. Please take a look at the video to give you a quick and easy introduction to acrylic paint. Among the facts you’ll learn are that acrylic paint is soluble in different solutions than certain other paints and it can easily be removed with a cotton swab with some airbrush thinner or just scratched off with a toothpick. Rubbing alcohol generally also works in place of acrylic airbrush thinner.

Although I mostly collect premade 1:64 scale models now, there are still details that can be touched up with many detailing methods that can be applied to other diecast models. Here are some examples of what I’ve done to keep the rims stock but really make them pop:

Tomica Premium R30

Half done. I wish I took a photo when it was still slathered in paint. Was still experimenting with just shadows on the bolt area at the time.
Completed product

Tomica Premium R33

WIP, half done
WIP, all paint still on
Finished product

Tomica Premium STI 22B

Oh these infamously ugly rims
Wheel swap not necessary. There’s also disk brakes casted in there. Perhaps they could be utilized for more detail but my brain hasn’t figured out a quick and easy method yet.

Tomica Premium Miura

Great wire rim wheel donor too

Tomica Premium Countach

Sorry I forgot to take ‘after’ photos of some pieces before putting them into the display and currently too lazy to dig it out

Tomica Premium NSX Type R

After applying and cleaning off. Rims look a bit too thin on the front
Final product after some additional careful toothpick scratching to give back more depth to the rims without going too deep.

Dream Tomica Initial D RE Amemiya RX-7


TLV Datsun 510 Rally

I wonder if I ruined the trade or resale value here

Matchbox Globe Travelers R8

Painted silver. This was done by removing the tires and then coloring the surface with Metallic Sharpie. Metallic Sharpie is not soluble in ethanol so it doesn’t rub off when removing the acrylic paint. However, certain brands such as Bic’s metallic permanent markers can be cleaned off with ethanol. Looks like nice deep dish BBS-style rims now.
Also had a gold marker lying around so I added a touch of gold to the edges.

How do I apply the paint? I usually use one drop of the acrylic paint and dilute it with a drop of the acrylic thinner so it isn’t as thick. Water might work in place of the thinner. Then I’ll paint using a toothpick and let it dry. Usually the duller the end, the better. If I scratch off using the toothpick, I always use the clean end otherwise the paint remnants on the “brush” end will start sticking to the paint on your car and peel off more than you want it to. It’s also a good idea to go over the area with a cotton swab or paper towel to clean off any remnants.


It’s not only rims you can detail. This is what I did to the exhausts on my TLVN R35s. Did an amazing job on the Kyosho Nismo N Attack Package R35s as well to get the exhausts on par with better than Oversteer’s R35 Nismo. I would imagine it would work well with Scott’s 1:18 Maisto Diablo SE30 too since those exhaust tips have raised edges and will be easy to scratch off the excess paint.


And here’s a picture of the NSX Type R again. Pay attention to the area below the front license plate.


It’s also been painted so it doesn’t look like there’s a solid block sticking out to hold the license plate. You can do that to the R34 Z-Tune and R33 Tomica Premiums as well.

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