First off, welcome to TRF. 8)
Ok, this may be long winded..
The basic idea is to finish building the rocket completely - following the direction that come with the kit, and when done, let her sit for a day or so to thouroughly let the glue/epoxy/CA dry. Once thats done, you can move on to Prepping the rocket for painting:
IF Balsa - Use fine sand paper and lightly sand the nose cone - this is just to make it smooth, and prepare it for the sealer step.
IF plastic, trim off the mold lines - sime kits have really bad or old molds they use, so you'll want a smooth look, with no discernable lines sticking up.
1) If the seams are very deep - that being the thin wrap line that runs in a spiral all the way down the airframe, fill all seams with Elmer's Fill-n-Finish , then sand smooth, you might have to repeat if the seams are deep. The idea is to have a smooth tube, with no visual seams.
Same basics apply for the fins as with the nose cone, but just make sure your fillets are completely dry, and smooth before moving on to painting.
Sanding Sealer, Primer and Paint
Always try to use the same products from the same company - if you use Testors for everything, then continue to use that as you progress throughout the various coats in the rocket. Why?
Less chance of having a reaction between coats - which can lead to wrinkles, melting of paint, or worst of all, the paint refuses to dry properly- if at all. IF this happens, well, your looking at stripping off all the paint, and restaring over. Trust me, it will happen at least once to you, and when it does you'll know to be more careful the next time.
When all else fails, and you can't match all the sprays together..use a test piece of balsa and plastic and see how the paints react. Well worth the rtrouble to do this in advance.
Always use a Sanding Sealer first to seal balsa or any type of wood thats on your rocket. It helps seal the pores in the wood, and gives the following coats of primer and paint a better base to dry on and gives a smoother finished look.
As well, on the off chance you just wish to seal and not paint, sanding sealer works fabulous followed by a gloss, or flat clear cote.
So, following this rule, seal the cone, fins and any other porous wood surfaces first. Then let dry, and hit with a second light coat and repeat the drying. Then sand the wood lightly, and repeat sealing if you wish. I even do this on the airframe because it helps prep for primer.
However good, or bad the primed coat looks when your done sanding, thats how the finished top coat will look. Period.
A grey or white primer is next on the finish list. Why?
Your going to spray the entire model with the same color and let her dry. From there, you can check the model and see what needs to be sanded or in the case of theose seams on the airframe we worked on earlier - you can see exactly where any problems are.
Sand the model smooth and let her sit for a bit. Close your eyes, and slowly run your fingers all over the model, letting your touch guide you to the problem spots.
When done, hit her again with the Primer, and repeat till perfectly smooth.
A finish coat can not hide scratches, bumps etc. - and even with 4 or 5 coats, it still doesan't help. So, take your time and make the primed coat the best you can, smoothing, filling (with Testor's or Signal white or green putty) so it looks sharp.
3 or 4 light coats are better than 1 heavy runny coat. Let the coats dry for 30 minutes before spraying the next one, so that your not creating pockets of tacky paint under a new cote, as it can cause wrinkles etc.
1) IF you have access to an airbrush you can use either Testor's enamal ( thinned ) or go with Acrylics.
Spray cans work just fine if:
1) Make sure the can is shaken soundly for 2 to 3 minutes. That can help ensure most globbing will be avoided.
One tip for paint can users, when you buy a new can at the store - make sure you shake it to ensure that little agitation ball is in there BEFORE you buy it. Some clear coat flat paints do not have the agitation ball, but most every other paint does to help stir up the can.
If that ball isn't in there, get a different can.
2) Invert the can when you get done to clean the nozzle for about 10 seconds. This helps on the next use to prevent globbing right away.
3) Almost to the letter, every cans directions says " Shake for 10 seconds for every minute of use " - Do this without fail when covering larger areas. It helps keep the contents shaken, and again can help prevent splatter.
4) Spray only 6 to 8 inches away from the model ( any further away and you risk the paint starting to dry before it reaches the model, but do it in quick sweeps. Example:
Say your paining the fins - start spraying about 4 inches to the right of the fins, across them, and finish the pass about 4 inches beyond - this keeps the spray from drying before it reaches the surface of the model. You should see a light sheen of wetness when the pass is made.
Too close and you risk having the paint run, which can kill a finish.
5) Finally, ensure that you don't shake the dickens out of the can and start spraying right away at full blast, remember a can is like a car's engine, it needs time to warm up, so spray away from the intended target for 3 to 10 seconds to help clear her throat..so to speak.
Apply all decals once the rocket has dryed for a couple days. Use Microscale Microsol and Microset to help the decals mold to the paint, and give them that painted on look.
After the decals have dried for a day or so, hit her with a finish coat.
1) IF you want a scale look, a dull coat is best, because no extra shine will reflect off the bird, thus giving a crisper and cleaner look.
2) If you want the bird to reflect in the sunblight, use a gloss coat.
Finally, I use DEFT Lacquer Sanding Sealer, American Tradition Primers and Paints made by Valspar - both are available at Lowes. When you compare the price to testors - a small can of Testors is over 4 bucks at the local Hobby Store, and these are under 3 bucks for cans 3 times the size.
My finish coats tend to be Testor's Gloss and Flat clear cotes.
I've tested all of these together, and they work very well, with a finish thats as smooth as glass.
Wheww....hopefully that helps get you started... 8)