I've been asked many times what kind of tools or advice I could give to a beginner who has never picked up a model and built one before. With the resurgence of model building lately, here's a good list of the basic tools that may get ya started if you have absolutely nothing:
1) Paint brushes - All sizes and shapes. For the beginner get the Testor's Hobby brush set as a good beginning!
2) Paint - When I first started I dealt with enamels mostly, basically because what color you mix is the color you get. Acrylics tend to dry darker then what they are mixed. Get a paint set... basic colors mainly (black, white, blue, red, yellow)... experiment with mixing colors.. gloss colors, flat colors... get them all! Testor's makes quite a few paint sets in different "themes" like military, aircraft, and naval color sets. Basically you can never have too many paints in different colors and as long as you have the 5 basics you can always mix a color to what you need. There are 3 basic types of paints Enamels, Acrylics, Oils, Watercolors and Lacquers. Each have their own properties and each can be used together to create interesting effects. You will find that if you paint a layer of acrylic over a layer of enamel, you can erase any mistakes to the enamel without disturbing the acrylic layer below. But with any kind of paint, always get a healthy supply of the exact same thinner/paint remover/spirits that goes with that paint. Experiment
3) Knives - Hobby knife sets are all over the place... X-Acto brand tends to dominate the market but they also come in various sizes and types. Can never have too many... they tend to dull over use and time. Always good to have a backup when that happens.
4) Glues - All different kinds of glues should be added to your list... Superglue, Model Glue, Epoxy glue, Elmer's White Glue. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and they keep coming out with all kinds of new glues. Just depends on what material you're working with to know what type of glue you will need. Grab as many different types as you can for your toolbox... you'll end up using them all at some point!
5) Tweezers/Clamps - This again is a wide variety... from Clothespins to Industrial Clamps... Hemostats to eyebrow tweezers... again... you can never have to many in your toolbox.
6) A Dremel - This is by far one of the most versatile and valuable tools in my toolbox. Get all the bits and attachments for it you want/can. You'll use them!
7) An Airbrush and a GOOD compressor - These come in so many different types and sizes... from the cheap plastic Testor's ones to the expensive industrial ones. Everyone is looking for the BEST OF THE BEST but really, it doesn't matter. Its what you feel comfortable with. I've used a cheap $40 airbrush and have gotten the same results that someone else that has a $500 airbrush and compressor has. Why? Because I was comfortable with it. Some are better then others, I agree, but until you get proficient using one, start with a cheap one and then move up to something better. Or just stick with rattle cans! You'll be glad you did... fixing a more expensive airbrush because you didn't understand how to work it can be just as expensive as buying a new one.
8.) A Good Light - Have a good light over your workbench. Use a DAYLIGHT bulb in it. You'll be glad you did.
9) Sandpaper - Go nuts getting every type of sandpaper you can get your grubby little mittens on. Don't just think of sandpaper but also sanding sticks, emery boards, sanding sponges. I just got this nifty little battery operated nail polisher which is basically a tiny sanding machine for women's fingernails. I LOVE THIS THING!
10) Clippers - You should get a good set of sprue clippers to cut the parts off the sprues. They make some good ones specificially designed for this and they are worth it but you could always use a good pair of fingernail clippers as well. Wire cutters work if they are sharpened as well. But all in all, you can always use a hobby knife in the end in a pinch.
11) Odds and Ends - You'll find you can use just about anything to spruce up your model so collect little odds and ends pieces from around your house like paperclips, wires, straws, rubber bands, old FOR SALE signs, toothpicks, old credit cards, name badges, bottle caps, tuna cans, pens, pencils, medicine cups, pill containers, wire coat hangers, you name it! You'll probably find a use for it at some point in your build! Trust me!
A bit of advice... don't assume that you have to buy the best of the best and most expensive anything in this hobby. Just because it's expensive doesn't mean its better. You'll find you spend enough money on the model kits to have to justify buying a $700 table saw to cut one part. Don't make sense when if you take your time you can cut the exact same part using a hacksaw that costs $5. Don't rely on tools that are made specifically for model building. You can usually find the exact same tool for less than half the cost if you look around. For example, you can purchase a bag of 5 sanding sticks made for model building for $10, but if you go thru the cosmetic department, you can find a bag of 25 emery boards for $2 that are the exact same thing. This is a hobby of looking outside the box. Sometimes you can spend days looking for the right tool for a job when you can have probably made a tool yourself to do that same task. Don't be afraid to make your own tools. Old Wire Coat Hangers come is handy for making your own tools. Cut a piece of wire, hammer one end nice and flat, then shape/cut it into the design you need using a Dremel tool. Wrap it in duct tape and viola, you have your very own tool to do the job for no money. You'd be surprised how just using a paperclip or a bit of frayed wire from an old phone cord can make the difference between a model looking like a toy and one looking like a museum piece! Don't rush into anything... study the assembly instructions and compare them to the parts while they are still on the sprues. Visualize how they fit together and gather reference material for the project you are working on and keep it close so you can look at it while you're building. My best bit of advice that I wish I could have given myself when I first started is LEAVE THE PARTS ON THE SPRUES UNTIL YOU'RE READY TO GLUE THEM TOGETHER! Paint the parts on the sprues... then you don't have to hold them and mess your paint job up!
Hope this helps you get started and gives you some better idea of what you'll need! I hope everyone else feels free to add to this list! This is just the bare basics to get started... you'll find your toolbox grow with every model you build! You may end up having to get a toolbox at some point to store all your tools when your collection starts growing. But just wait til you get into lighting then we'll talk LEDs and Fiber Optics! LOL