8 steps and tips to do this:
1: Choose what you want to model!
This may seem like a completely brainless step to include, but your choice of what you want to model is extremely important. Don't just have an idea, you must know exactly what you want to do. The object that you want to model will affect your choice of materials, so it is wise to lay down the rules before you go down to the art and hardware store to get supplies.
If you want to make a model of a building, know exactly which building you want to make. If you want to make a model of human, know exactly which character you want to make.
2: Choose your scale
It is wise to decide on the scale before materials, because the level of detailing will affect which materials you should use.
Here's a list of scales commercially produced models commonly use, it is wise to choose one, because you can easily obtain parts to compliment your own model along the way:
1:6, 1:18, 1:24, 1:32, 1:43, 1:48, 1:50, 1:64, 1:72, 1:144
If your scale is 1:6, all measurements will be scaled down by 6 times. Measure a length, and divide it by six to obtain the length of the same side on the model.
Hence, the larger the number on the scale, the smaller your model will be.
The choice of scales are often very logical: tall buildings require scales along 1:144, if not your model will be huge.
3: Choosing the right medium
I myself work with clay and card/paper, because having a choice of either medium adds alot of versatility to what you can model.
The fact is, card/paper is the simplest and most effective solution to making your own own models. The reason is the advent of more and more high quality home-based printing solutions, as well as the easy availability of graphics design software. In other words, it's really easy to design models using the computer, and add colour/graphics by means of your printer at home.
I use clay to sculpt characters that I like because while paper/card works well for creating objects with straight edges and flat surfaces like buildings, gadgetry, robots etc, paper/card cannot follow the curves of human form.
Here's a list of medium you can use -
If your model has straight edges and flat surfaces e.g. buildings, gadgetry, robots, vehicles:
Polymer plastic sheets
If your model has plenty of curves and no angular edges e.g. humans:
Clay - polymer clays are the way to go e.g. air dry clay, oven bake clay, epoxy clay.
I strongly recommend you go for the brands professional sculptors use, because lousy brands are difficult to mold, break extremely easily and do not last.
Some recommended types of clay: Super Sculpey, Super Sculpey Firm, Super Sculpey III, Magic Sculpt, Chavant, Apoxy Sculpt.
Bewarned, some of these are toxic, so, have your own workspace that is well ventilated, and if you're going to bake the clay, do not re use the oven for food.
4: Choosing the right tools
There is no need to buy an arsenal of tools right away, it's wiser to start off with basic ones, then slowly amass better tools as your skills and models grow more complex.
If you're working with paper, card, cardboard, simple cutting tools like the paper knife, metal ruler will suffice.
If you're working with ply wood or metal, you will need more heavy duty tools to cut your materials. Check with your hardware store as to what you can use for your home.
If you're working with clay, a simple sculpting tool set will do. The tools sculptors use are extremely varied and depend on the way the individual sculptor carries out his work, but there is no need for this right now. Start simple!
5: Choosing the right adhesives
There are many kinds of glues available, but these are the 3 that I keep in stock at home. You can get them at any hardware store:
The usual art glue - good for holding paper model parts together.
Super glue - for fast bonding in emergencies. Contrary to popular belief, I've found that Super glue is extremely weak and only good for holding parts temporarily.
Expoxy adhesives - consists of two parts, a hardening paste and an adhesive paste. These take extremely long to reach full strength, but they are extremely strong. Very useful for holding heavy parts together.
6: Be resourceful
Most of the time, there are plenty of parts and materials that can be found lying around the house and even in the trash bin. Old toys, incomplete model kits etc - it's easier to use these, than to build everything yourself. If you need a car, it's easier to buy a model car, than to waste your time building a whole new one. So be resourceful!
7: Painting and finishing
For hobby purposes, go for acrylic paints. Poster paints, water colours are a no, because these are water soluble. A drop of water and your paint job is ruined. For now, buy 2-3 brushes of varying sizes, making sure you have at least one fine tipped one to reach into corners as well as apply details.
You will need to buy a primer spray as well. A primer is used to prepare the surface for painting, because not all surfaces can hold paint well.
I suck at painting, I really do, which is why Photoshop is a such a blessing - I print the graphics on, rather than paint. Printing is therefore, another option for newbies.
Here's a nice tutorial that covers all aspects of the paint job, from priming, base coating, washing, dry brushing to finishing:
The model maker's resource on painting
8: Patience, above skill
You'll be surprised at how well your work will turn out, provided you are willing to invest effort and patience into your work. Most adults already have the psychomotor skills to carry out fine work.
If you feel frustrated and tired and want to finish the model as soon as possible, it is better to stop for the day, than do a botched job and regret it later on.
Yeap. I leave you with a set of articles from Model Maker's Resource that will explain everything more in depth.
Click here for more information @ the Model Makers Resource.
If you have a passion for making models like I do, click here to join the Fx Console forums.
Remember the Fx policy that is: your own medium, your own models. Card, plastic, wood, clay, as long as it's a model, it's right at home.