Layering paint, panel lining, decals and topcoating

I recently received a question from a reader named Jason. He had a question about the right order for paint, panel lines, decals and topcoating.

Basic build order:

This is the order that I use when I'm working on a model. This is the order I prefer; however there are variations on this process that other modelers use and sometimes I'll alter this order for weathering or other techniques.

This diagram represents a cross section of a kit. The bottom of the diagram is the first layer. This is the basic order that I use on any of the clean 'Out of box' builds you'll find on my site. Although other builders have advocated using clear coats between the paint, panel line and decal layers I have found those steps don't offer much benefit, are wasteful and time-consuming.

If you prefer to pre and post shade your main paint layer you can add those steps directly before and after (respectively) the gloss paint layer.

Variation on the basic build order:

This is a similar build order that's used when you use flat paint instead of gloss paint. You will need to coat the flat paint in a layer of gloss before moving on to the panel lining and decaling steps. Excess panel lines are very difficult to remove from the surface of flat paints. Decals also adhere to a smooth glossy surface better than rougher flat-coated surface. 

Weathering build order

Applying a weathering wash or filter to a kit requires a few additional steps.

A flat topcoat is applied before the weather wash because it will protect the decals, and panel lining and the rougher surface of the flat topcoat tends to hold the wash better than a gloss surface. Apply an additional topcoat over the weathering wash to seal the wash/filter in.
Have any questions about a build order not featured? Leave a comment below!