Crafting Beyond the Box: How Kitbashing Enhances Model Making

Are you ready to get creative with your model building?

If you’re tired of building the same old models from the same old kits, it’s time to expand your horizons.

It’s time for kitbashing.

What is Kitbashing?

Kitbashing allows you to create unique new items by combining model kits.

The term is a portmanteau of “kit,” which comes from the model kit, and bashing, which means to combine.

But kitbashing isn’t limited to model kits. You can create your new pieces using any toy or accessory.

Remember Sid from Toy Story? Technically speaking, he was a kit basher. He took toys apart and recombined them in interesting new ways. Though Sid was a villain in the movie, we know that toys aren’t really alive, so we don’t need to feel guilty about exploring our creativity through kitbashing.

Kitbashing combines model-building hobbies with crafting hobbies to create a fabulous new hobby where the only limit is your imagination.

Kitbashing Origins

Kitbashing became popular with the rise of model-building games like Warhammer. Warhammer is a unique tabletop battle strategy game because it allows players to build their own pieces with kits. The kits come with paints, plastic-molded figures, and an instruction manual for building your pieces.

Creative users wanted unique pieces, so they combined the materials from different kits to make new figures for the game.

However, model builders in various niches probably bashed kits long before the term became popular. Anyone with a love of building scale models, from toy train enthusiasts to diorama builders, likely combines kits in one way or another to build their perfect scenes.

Modern kitbashers expanded the hobby beyond the confines of model sets. They use random tools and toys found in dollar stores, toy emporiums, and craft shops to make unique items no one will find anywhere else. 

Kitbashing Supplies

The most crucial thing you need to start kitbashing is imagination. Bring your creativity!

Next, you need to gather some supplies. To make your own incredible models, you’ll need:

  •       Model kits/toys
  •       Flair
  •       Tools
  •       Craft paint/brushes

Model Kits/Toys

Kitbashing starts with kits. You need something to serve as a baseline for your new models. Model building kits and any toys that require assembly are perfect for kitbashing. Check your hobby store for:

  •       Model trains
  •       Model car kits
  •       Model airplane kits
  •       Model ship kits
  •       Toy military vehicles
  •       Lego sets
  •       Military models
  •       Model railroad sets
  •       Other Toy Models

Model-building kits, especially the ones in hobby shops, can get expensive. However, you don’t have to stick to defined kits for kitbashing.  

Grab some action figures, trucks, tractors, or plastic animals. Toy robots, battleships, spacecraft, submarines, and farm equipment work great for kitbashing.

Kitbashing in progress: An action figure made from dollar store goods and recycled materials that hasn't been painted yet.
Kitbashing in progress: An action figure made from dollar store goods and recycled materials that hasn’t been painted yet. Photo Credit: Partners in Fire.

Explore the dollar store toy section for cheap, silly toys that could make a great base or accessory for your creations. They often have small vehicle and action figure kits that work perfectly with some model kits and cost far less.


The toys are just the beginning. They make perfect bases for your new models but often lack essential design elements.

You need flair.

Hobby supplies allow you to decorate your new creations with cool textures. Craft beads make great armor. Popsicle sticks offer perfect bases for support. Paper clips provide wire. Metal bits can create tank tracks.

Browse your local hardware and craft stores for bits that will add exciting flair to your creations.


Next, you need to gather your tools. You’ll want wire cutters (or heavy-duty scissors), pliers, a hot glue gun, and hot glue for best results.

The wire cutters and pliers manipulate and cut the rigid plastic used in toys, while the hot glue makes a perfect binder.

If you get really into it, you should explore a more heavy-duty glue, but hot glue will work great for beginners.  

Craft Paint/Brushes

Your new creation will likely be a hodgepodge of different colors and textures. Painting them pulls the pieces together and makes it seem like a real model.

You can find model paint at nearly any hobby or craft store. However, some charge a premium for it. If you want to explore kitbashing on a budget, you can use acrylic craft paint, which works well on most items.

The toys from kits typically come ready to paint. Off-the-shelf toys likely already have a layer of paint. Some can be easily painted over, but others (particularly the ones with that reflective shine) may need sanding or extra layers for the craft paint to stick.

How To Kitbash

Now that you’ve gathered your supplies, it’s time to start bashing!

First, think about what you want to create. Then, grab the models, toys, and flair you want to use.

Kitbashing is a two-step process. First, you have to make your model, and then you need to decorate it.

Creating Your Model

Create your new model by cutting off pieces of different toys and reattaching them in unique ways.

Kitbashing is easier if you stick to models. They come ready for assembly! All you have to do is select your pieces and decide how to put them together.

Using toys takes a little more effort and creativity.  You’ll have to channel your inner Sid as you cut parts off action figures but remember, they’re not really alive. They’ll also be way cooler when you’re finished!

Once you have the parts ready, lay them together to see how they fit. The assembly order depends on how and where you apply flair and glue. Typically, you’ll want to start from the inside out, but sometimes, it will be harder to attach flair after two pieces combined, so you’ll have to consider the ease of access before and after attaching each piece.

Decorating Your Model

After everything dries, it’s time to paint!

You’ll want to start with a base coat of white acrylic craft paint. The white base will ensure all the colors go on as you intended and create a blank canvas for you to work with. You may need to apply numerous layers to ensure the entire model gets coated in white with no other colors shining through.

Kitbashed toys in various states of painting.
The white layer on the two toys ensures the final paint job will come out as expected. The other toy hasn’t been painted yet. Photo Credit: Partners in Fire.

Once it’s all white, you can start decorating however you see fit!

It’s Alive!

When you see your finished creation in all its glory, you’ll want to scream to the heavens, “It’s alive!” like Dr. Frankenstein.

But the toys won’t really be alive, and with the fantastic paint job, they won’t be grotesque Frankentoys.

They’ll be unique pieces you can use to create your own games, complete your collection, and show off your creativity!

Give it a try; you may be shocked at what you come up with!