(Rev. 7/14)


The purpose of our society is to promote the hobby of scale model building, a hobby of individual achievement and significant artistic content. We take great pleasure in displaying our models to fellow modelers and to anyone else who might appreciate our work. We meet to do that in each other's homes, at displays arranged in schools, malls, and shops and at local, regional, and national meetings and conventions. A natural outgrowth of such displays is competition.

This handbook is designed for the use of all modelers, competitors and non-competitors alike. For competitors, it outlines the basic principles that guide IPMS/USA model contests. For all modelers, it is a good reference on how to look at models objectively, to know what to look for, to know what others are looking for, and to learn how to set personal standards of satisfaction and accomplishment.

We encourage modelers to enter our competitions because when properly conducted, they are one of the best ways to improve one's modeling skills. In addition, participating as a judge allows a modeler to look at models in a new and objective fashion and has been declared almost unanimously to be the single best way to become a better modeler. Whether or not you judge or even enter contests, this handbook can help you recognize some basic, objective truths about models and modeling.


How We Judge

An IPMS contest, at any level, should be guided by the proposition that every entry is a modeler's creative work of art. Not quite the same as a great painting or famous musical composition, but art nonetheless. Pieces are assembled, painted, and finished, producing a result in which the builder takes pride. In a contest, each piece needs to be evaluated. The question of how to evaluate art has been around for centuries. As all judging is done within the framework of the biases, opinions and preferences of the human mind and since that framework varies from person to person, all judging, by definition, is subjective.

For that reason we do not use a system of numbers to measure quality. Numbers are often used to create the appearance of objectivity, but the assignment of a 4 or 7 to an entry by a judge is essentially subjective as it is that judge's opinion. What we do is look at the whole model and try to determine how well the modeler did in bringing his project to completion. In addition, there is also no "National Standard" against which all models are compared. The best model in a category on any given day is just that, no more, no less. There may be other models somewhere that are better, but that does not matter. Only what is present on the contest table can be judged. The final result of the judging says only that, of the models entered in this particular category on this particular day, this one is better than that one.

IPMS/USA does this ranking by using odd numbered person teams to avoid ties in instances when the team's decisions are not unanimous. We try to have each team made up of judges from different sections of the country to avoid even the appearance of impropriety such as two pals from one chapter giving a friend an award or to avoid any category being skewed by a locally favored technique. In one area, for example, it may have become quite the rage to heavily weather or shadow-paint a model. In another area, the current fashion might be sparkling new finishes. While neither of these is "right" or "wrong", we don't want the contest results skewed by these kinds of constantly changing fashions. Another reason we judge in teams is so that the preferences/biases of one judge are balanced out by those of the other two. When evaluating a model, a judge may think that "X" is a more important on an entry than is "Y" on another. However, the other judges on the team may have different opinions and through the ensuing discussion a consensus is sought to pick the better entry.

Throughout the judging process, the first and most important things the judges consider are the basics. The judges first identify models that exhibit flaws in basic construction and finishing and then through a series of "cuts", eliminate entries with flaws. They continue narrowing the field until the winners have been decided. Only when the basics don't allow for a clear-cut ranking do the judges begin to look deeper.

As a modeler works on his model, he should keep in mind that the level of workmanship should be consistent throughout the model. In other words, the modeler who adheres to the basics throughout his model will be judged more favorably than one who does not. It's not ok to detail the cockpit but not blank off the engine intakes because that's "not as important". With the basics, it is all important.

Which leads to the question: what are the criteria used for judging models? For specific classes of models, such as ships, automotive, etc, these are outlined in sections later in this document. However, there are some criteria that apply across classes. These are listed in the section entitled "Modeling Basics" and apply to every class of model.

An IPMS Contest brings many different kinds of models and modelers together in a single competition. Since it's not just for aircraft, or cars, or any other single kind of modeling, we've tried to evolve a set of rules and standards that enable us to have a contest that's consistent across this broad range of classes, skills, and interests. That's not always easy to do, but we will continue to strive to maintain the broadest and most integrated modeling society in the world.

What Qualifies Someone to be a Judge?

Let's start at the National Level

To be a certified judge at the IPMS/USA National Contest held in conjunction with the annual IPMS/USA National Convention, a person must:

  • Hold a current, Adult membership in the International Plastic Modelers Society.
  • Serve their first year as a judge in an OJT (on-the-job-training) capacity, working with a team of experienced National judges.
  • Participate as a judge in at least one National Contest every five years. Failure to meet this currency requirement means that a judge has to repeat his OJT training in order to re-qualify and be considered eligible to judge at the next convention.
  • Help train any OJT judges assigned to work with them. In the process, they will also evaluate the OJT's suitability to become a National judge and report any problems to their Class Head Judge or the Contest Chief Judge.
  • Be available to spend some of time working with modelers who would like critiques of their models. The judges' names appear on the category cards of the categories they have judged so that modelers who would like a critique after the judging has been completed, currently on Saturday, can identify and approach a judge for information on their model. Judges will not, repeat NOT, compare one modeler's work with another's, nor will they unfairly criticize. The experience is intended to be positive and helpful, and this requires judges to have an ability to explain their approach and conclusions to concerned modelers.

If at all possible, those wishing to become National judges should have first gained judging experience at lower-level IPMS events such as Regional Conventions, local shows, etc.

There is one overriding requirement for IPMS/USA National judges, INTEGRITY. The National Contest Committee has a zero-tolerance policy toward those who violate that requirement. Judges have been, and will be, removed from the National judging ranks for proven breaches of integrity. The following are some examples of how the integrity of the contest is protected:

  • All judging is impartial. In the Contest Room, judges have neither friends nor enemies. Knowledge of who built a particular model must not influence the outcome of the judging in either a positive or negative way.
  • A judge will never judge his own work, nor will he attempt to influence other judges who are evaluating his work. This includes not observing the judging of his work by "hovering" around a category and needing to excuse himself from judging any special awards for which his entry may be a candidate.
  • All judging is done using the same set of rules and applying the same criteria to every model.
  • From the time that judging begins, and until the conclusion of the awards ceremony, judges will not disclose the outcome of any portion of the contest to anyone other than those directly involved in recording the results.
  • As judges point out and discuss a model's pros and cons, they will do so in a way that is not disparaging to either the model or its builder.

The foregoing are only examples and are not an all-inclusive list of what constitutes judging integrity. While the standard is strict, judges can meet it easily by using basic common sense and by continuously applying the judges' Golden Rule: Judge the work of others in exactly the same way you would want others to judge your own work.

Now let's look at the Regional and Local level

Regional and Local shows may not have the body of trained, experienced judges the National has. They are hostage to whoever volunteers to judge. If the Contest Chairman is at all worth his salt, he will brief his judges effectively, but frankly, once those volunteers start judging there are no guarantees. Most will have some judging experience, but others will have none. We do not say these things to discourage you from entering contests at this level, but rather so you can be prepared for any unusual situations, should they occur. Your best bet is to know what the rules and categories for that particular contest are in advance. If there is something unique or different about your model that you feel may cause a problem under the rules and/or categories the contest is operating under, it's best to speak with the Head Judge BEFORE judging. This can avoid confusion and problems during judging as after judging it may be impossible to get anything changed. However, if despite doing all this you do not agree with something, approach the contest chairman in a respectful, polite manner and voice your concern. They will usually work with you to resolve the situation, but be prepared to accept what has happened and move on.

Contest Rules

At the National Contest level, the Official IPMS/USA National Contest Rules are used. These rules are set by the National Contest Committee which consists of the Chief Judge, the eight Class Head Judges and in ex-officio capacities, the IPMS/USA 2nd Vice President and as a recorder, the IPMS/USA Secretary. To accommodate changes in the modeling community and industry, the rules are updated from time to time by that committee. Look at the IPMS/USA web site to find the most recent rules update to be used at the next National Model Contest. These same rules are also published in a pre-convention issue of the IPMS/USA Journal, the official publication or the organization.

However, while all IPMS/USA chapters and Regional sponsored contests are encouraged to employ the IPMS/USA National Contest Rules, they are not required to do so. If the Forlorn Hope, Arizona chapter hosts a contest, they set the rules for that show. The same holds true for Regional sponsored contests. Make sure you know the rules before you enter. Check any Regional Contest's entry form and/or web site to see what rules they are using.

Model Categories

It would be difficult to compare a ship model to a figure, or a car to a diorama to determine which is "better", so in an effort to compare "apples to apples", IPMS/USA uses a system of classes and categories. Classes group the major divisions of types of models such as civilian vehicles or figures or ships. Within these Classes, models are entered into categories that group like subjects and scales, such as 1/72 scale single engine aircraft, together so an entry can be judged more fairly against other like models. These categories are set by the National Contest Committee annually and are published before each National Convention.

Again, however, these categories are not required at local or regional contests. Indeed, they may not even be possible. The National Model Contest may have dozens of entries in a given category that may draw only two or three at the local level, so local sponsors sometimes combine categories to make their contest more manageable. Check local or regional contests' web sites and/or entry forms to see what categories that particular contest is using.

The Modeling Basics

There are basic construction/finishing criteria held in common by ALL CLASSES OF MODELS. Note, however, that each class also has additional basics criteria specific to that class. All these criteria are listed under each class's individual section in the Judging System section below.

Judging and Competition FAQs

Why didn't this model win?

One comment heard at times in the Contest Room after the awards banquet is, "How could this model not have won? Look at the detailing in the . . ." The simple answer to the question is usually the "basics". An AFV with a super-detailed open turret on a suspension with pigeon-toed tracks is like a mansion built on sand; it's beautiful, but it's sitting on a weak foundation, and that will be its downfall.

When modelers casually look at entries on the table, they are usually taken with the extra detail added or the unusual or perfectly executed paint job. When they are walking through the contest room, they are admiring the models in general and they don't look at the model in the same way the judges do. Judges look first to see how well the model is made and they notice flaws the casual observer may overlook.

These Models Are All So Beautiful. How Can The Judges Possibly Pick a Winner?

Judges hear sentiments like this at virtually every National Contest. The answer is simple. The judges are trained to look at and evaluate the models using the criteria set out in this handbook. They spend time evaluating all the entries in a given category and discuss what they see and find.

Using their experience and training, they come to a consensus amongst themselves as to the ranking of the winners. It's not always easy and, as a matter of fact, it rarely is. A category might have three to five excellent models that the judges have to rank, or it might have only six entries, all with major flaws. In either case, they use their training and experience to make their decisions.


Absolute accuracy is a noble, but probably unattainable, goal. Despite the fact that no scale model is ever 100% accurate, some people urge that models be judged principally on their accuracy. This is a real minefield. While gross inaccuracy is easy to spot in some instances, the situation quickly becomes murky past obvious things and can lead to unfairness in judging. For example, suppose one of the aircraft judges spent the better part of twenty years as the crew chief of a particular aircraft. That judge will probably be able to find inaccuracies of one sort or another on every model of that type of aircraft entered in a category. But, there's a real risk he will unfairly penalize those who entered those models if he judges solely on the basis of accuracy as he can readily spot their flaws while he may miss inaccuracies in other aircraft types with which he does not have the same level of expertise.

Along the same lines, modelers who know the minute aspects of a subject often mistakenly believe judges also have similar detailed knowledge. This may or may not be true. It's simply not possible for all IPMS judges to match the expertise developed by our disparate and incredibly knowledgeable membership. The Chief Judge and Class Head Judges take pains every year to remind the judges to be aware of these problems and to be fair to all on this issue. You can also help yourself by not assuming the judges know all the details you know. Help them and yourself by putting such information on the entry sheet or any other display material you put with your model. Judges are instructed read that stuff and it could make the difference for you.

Lest we get too wrapped up in the accuracy debate, remember that IPMS/USA judges concentrate first on the modeling aspects. A model with every component built absolutely accurately probably still won't win if seams between the components aren't filled properly. Conversely, a superbly built model containing an inaccuracy could win if it is, in all other respects, the best model in the category.

Know Your Own Model

At every National Convention, judges spend time before they begin judging a category checking for misplaced models and moving the ones they find to the proper category. This causes trouble and wasted time if the proper category has already been judged because the judging then has to be done over again. Much of this misplacement could be avoided if entrants would take a few minutes ahead of time to determine the proper category for their models. Remember that the folks working the model registration desk aren't always model builders and even if they are modelers, they may build one type of model and not know a whole lot about other types.

If an entrant knows ahead of time, for example, that his twin-engined aircraft doesn't belong in a single engine category because it has two engines, he won't let a registrar put it there. Spend some time at home checking out in what category your model belongs and you may save yourself some hassles, keep your model from being moved more than it absolutely has to be, and earn the gratitude of registrars and judges alike.

Are the Judges a Bunch of Nit-pickers?

Some modelers have accused the judges of negativism and of being nothing but glorified nitpickers. All of the models in any category are on the table to be ranked and that's what we have to do. Modelers have brought their models to be evaluated and to compete for prizes.

At the level of most of our contests, the differences in ranking are probably going to be the result of some pretty small issues and as has been emphasized repeatedly, we rank the models principally by a close look at basic modeling techniques. However, when that doesn't result in a final result, we've got to go closer and examine even more critically. It's hard, but there is no other way and, really, it's a compliment to the incredibly high standards that are being set by IPMS modelers.

If The Judges Aren't a Bunch of Nit-pickers, Why Do They Use Those Darn Little Flashlights?

In some cases, especially in earlier years, the penlights were often needed to even SEE the models in contest rooms that were far less than well lit. Fortunately, that's not the case nearly so often these days, although it does still happen occasionally. Beyond that, however, a good penlight is an invaluable aid in highlighting such things as poorly finished seams, unsanded ridges and poorly finished interior areas.

An old judge's technique is to shine the light across a seam area at an angle. Nothing will pop out an incorrectly filled seam more quickly. Serious competitors would be wise to examine their own models with a penlight before coming to the contest. They might be amazed at what they see!

My model box slipped off the seat in my car and it was damaged just before I got to the contest. What can I do?

Accidents happen and usually do at the most in-opportune times. If the damage is minor, such as ordnance knocked off a pylon or a hatch snapped off, just note on your entry form that the item was damaged in transit. The judges are instructed not to hold such damage against an entry. However, if the damage is so extensive as to make the model uncompetitive, such as the top wing of a biplane being snapped off with attendant damage to struts and rigging, you may want to take the model home to repair it and bring it another day.

Judges' Decisions

Players and fans love the umpires or referees when the calls are in their team's favor and hate them when their calls favor the opposing team. Modelers often have similar reactions to IPMS National judges. Many National judges have been cornered after the Awards banquet by a modeler with fire flashing from his eyes demanding to know why his model didn't win. That's not a good way to begin a dialogue and it almost guarantees that there will be no useful exchange of information.

Before jumping a judge like that, take a moment to consider who these National judges are. They're modelers. Collectively, they exhibit a wide range of modeling interests, skills, background, experience, temperament, and personality, and they're also imperfect human beings. In short, they're just like any other member of IPMS, but with one major distinction: they volunteer to spend a significant chunk of their convention time working hard well into the wee hours to make it possible for the National Model Contest to exist. The vast majority of judges is also more than willing to share their expertise, discuss your model with you, and give you some tips on things to do and not do to give your next model a leg up on its competition. All you have to do is ask, but please do so in the same way you'd want to be asked if you were in the judge's shoes.

And, if you really want to learn what separates the winning models from the rest of the entries in a category, next time you're at a one-day show or a Regional Convention, volunteer to judge. Get yourself assigned to work on a team with experienced judges. Tell them you haven't judged before but want to learn how, and they'll take you under their wing. The vast majority of folks who've done so have found that they've learned more about judging--and model building--in one afternoon than they could have in a whole month of Sundays.

What's a Hypothetical Vehicle?

The Hypothetical category was established both to provide a competition slot for models that don't fit into the standard categories, and to take some of the pressure off the Miscellaneous category, previously the only place such models could compete. Think of Hypothetical as something akin to the "Science-Fiction Vehicles" part of the "Space and Science-Fiction Vehicles" category. It's a place to enter models of aircraft, cars, ships, etc. that never made it off the drawing board (e.g. Luftwaffe 1946, futuristic auto designs), or models in markings that the actual vehicle never wore (e.g. a Royal Navy F7U Cutlass, Go/Ho 229 flying wing in squadron markings), and for vehicles that have never existed except in the mind of the modeler (e.g. an Indy Car with a body fashioned from a MiG-29 fuselage).

What about a full-size, 3-D mock-up of a prospective vehicle? Well, if the builder produces a model of that mock-up, the modeler has made a model of a real thing and the model should go in the appropriate standard category. However, if he paints and finishes that mock-up as it might have looked if the prototype had reached production, then it is a hypothetical vehicle. In other words, if the model is a true, scale representation of something that actually existed in three dimensions, it belongs in a standard category. If it doesn't fit that description, and it isn't a space or science fiction subject, it belongs in Hypothetical.

What about Weathering? Are weathered subjects looked upon more favorably than non-weathered ones?

Weathering is inherently neither good nor bad. When comparing a model with a weathered finish to a model with a pristine finish, the judges will concern themselves with the degree of success achieved by each builder in depicting the intended finish. An exception to this could be, say, in the diorama class. A World War I tank with a pristine finish set in the middle of the mud of the Western Front would be inappropriate.

Will the judges pick up my model?

The short answer is "yes" and for two main reasons. First, since models are three-dimensional representations of full size three-dimensional subjects, models need to be judged in three dimensions so judges may have to handle models to evaluate all sides of an entry in a consistent manner. Secondly, as the number of entries at any given model show cannot be predicted in advance, it may be necessary to move models to make appropriate space available on the tables. In both instances, the judges are thoroughly cautioned to use the greatest care. However, accidents do happen. If a model is damaged during judging or while being moved, the judges will note that on the entry form and any damage will not be held against the entry during judging.

What about putting my model on a base?

There is both a practical and esthetic reason to do so. Esthetically, in the Diorama classes judges do consider the base an entry is on, but only in this class. As a matter of fact, if you make your base too elaborate, your entry may be moved to a Diorama category. Check the rules of any given contest to see what is allowed on a base in any given class of model to avoid a problem.

On the practical side, however, one thing to keep in mind is that if your model is on a base, it may be easier to move if the need arises. Just make sure you note on your entry form whether the model is actually affixed to the base or only just sitting on it. That can avoid it slipping off and crashing to the floor as a judge moves it from one table to another to make room in a category.

What is an Out of the Box model?

Basically, this is a model that is built using only those parts supplied by the manufacturer in the box the model comes in or any extra parts that may be called for in the instructions, such as a stretched sprue antenna. There are also limits as to what you can do with these parts. In some classes you can drill out gun barrels, in others you can add rigging, but you may not be able to thin a part or open a vent. These limits are established as representing more or less what the "average" modeler would do to a model. To make sure your model qualifies as Out of the Box, make sure you check the rules for the specific contest you are entering. Also take note of the fact that the instructions for your model must accompany it. At some contests they need to be on the table under the model, at others they just need to be "available". Whatever the case, make sure you bring them along. As no judge can know every model, he may need to refer to them to make sure that what they are looking at is, indeed, out of the box.



This section sets out in five parts the personnel, criteria and procedures for judging at the IPMS/USA National Model Contest:

  1. Structure. The personnel involved in judging an IPMS/USA National Model Contest and their general responsibilities.
  2. General Rules. The specific expectations of IPMS/USA judges.
  3. Procedures. How judges and/or a team of judges should proceed when judging a category of models as well as individual models.
  4. The Modeling Basics List. The general criteria used for judging all models.
  5. The Class Specific Basics List. Additional criteria specific to each class.

A. Structure

Only IPMS members in good standing who are not currently under sanctions in any way regarding the National Model Contest or judging may be involved with the National Model contest in any capacity including judging, recording or photography, and in addition may not be present in the contest room during judging.

The personnel involved in the judging at an IPMS/USA National Model Contest and their responsibilities are:

The National Contest Chief Judge. This person is appointed by the President of IPMS/USA and serves at his pleasure. The duties of the National Contest Chief Judge are:

  • To oversee and control all aspects of the IPMS/USA National Model contest.
  • He will work closely with the IPMS/USA Second Vice President and National Convention host Contest Chairman to ensure that the National Model Contest is operated in accordance with all IPMS/USA rules and procedures.
  • With the prior advice and consent of the Eboard, he will appoint the Class Head Judges. These judges serve at his pleasure.
  • The Chief Judge will hold a session at the National Convention before judging to explain the On the Job Training (OJT) judging system to any prospective OJT judges.
  • The Chief Judge will conduct a meeting of all judges before judging begins to brief them on any changes/updates to the rules, to re-iterate the integrity policy and to answer any questions they may have.
  • He will maintain the judges' certification records. This will include a system for recording who judges at each convention, what judges are current with their certification and which are not and the judges that have achieved five and/or ten year certification status.
  • He will ensure that only certified or OJT National Judges are used for the National Model Contest.
  • He is the Chairman of the National Contest Committee and as such, besides calling meetings of this committee as needed throughout the year, will conduct a meeting at the National Convention. The National Contest Committee consists of the Chief Judge as chairman, the Class Head Judges as voting members and the IPMS/USA President, Second Vice President and the IPMS/USA Secretary as ex-officio (non-voting) members. The National Contest Committee sets the rules and categories for the National Model Contest and can change rules and procedures involved in judging as they deem necessary. All actions of this committee are subject to the approval of the President of IPMS/USA.

The Class Head Judges. There is one Class Head Judge for each of the main contest classes, such as Aircraft, Ships, Figures, etc. They are selected by the Chief Judge with the approval of the Eboard and serve at his pleasure. The duties of the Class Head Judges are:

  • To serve on the National Contest Committee.
  • To control/administer the judging of the categories under their supervision, including keeping track of what categories have been judged and which have not and to ensure that any special awards in his class are judged.
  • To form the judging teams for his categories.
  • If they choose, to appoint one or more Check Judges for their categories, or they may serve in this capacity themselves.
  • To brief his judges on how he wishes them to report the winners, including what paperwork is involved and if he will be using a Check Judge or doing it himself.
  • To ensure that the winners in each of his categories are reported to the contest recorder/s.
  • The Class Head Judges under the supervision of the Chief Judge together select the Judges' Best of Show winner after all other judging is completed.
  • To assist the Chief Judge if requested.

The Certified National Judges. To be a certified National Model Contest Judge, a person must hold a current, Adult or Family membership in IPMS, be in good standing regarding the National Model Contest and its judging, and serve first in an OJT capacity with a team of experienced National judges. To maintain certification, he must judge in at least one National Contest every five years. Failure to do so will require a repeat of OJT training in order to re-qualify. Their duties are:

  • To judge the categories assigned to them by their Class Head Judge
  • Assist in the training of any OJT judges assigned to their teams
  • Follow all procedures regarding reporting the winners to their Class Head Judge.
  • Assist their Class Head Judge in any tasks he requests regarding the contest.

The Check Judges. These are appointed by the Class Head Judges for their areas and must be Certified National Judges. Their function is:

  • When a judging team has completed a given category, they turn in the results to the Class Head Judge. He, in turn, may ask a Check Judge to go over the results with the judging team. He can review their results, double-checking for any obvious omissions or mistakes and he should bring any that he finds to the attention of the judging team to determine what, if any, effect they may have on the results. However, if the judging team stands by its initial decision, that decision stands.
  • The Check Judge cannot over-rule the results reached by a judging team. He can, if he feels it necessary, bring the matter to the attention of the Class Head Judge, who, in turn, may consult with the Chief Judge. Only if the Chief Judge determines that the judging team has been incompetent and/or dishonest can he, and only he, over-rule any decision. In such a case he would dismiss the original judging team and the category would be re-assigned to another team for judging.

The OJT National Judges. To qualify as a National Judge, an IPMS member in good standing with the contest must serve their first year as an OJT judge. As such, they are assigned to regular judging teams by the Class Head Judge and their job is to learn the IPMS/USA judging system and philosophy of judging and to assist in the judging of the categories to which their team is assigned.

B. General Rules for Judges and judging

There is one overriding requirement for IPMS/USA National Model Contest judges, INTEGRITY. We will not tolerate dishonest judges. Integrity comes in two forms, real and perceived. Real is self-explanatory. Perceived means what OTHERS think, what their interpretations of a judge's actions/motives are. While we can control real integrity with rules that govern judges' actions, etc, it is harder to guard against perceived violations of integrity because we cannot control the thoughts of others. We can minimize the chances of misinterpretations, however, by following the precepts listed below.

  • All judging is impartial. In the Contest Room, judges have neither friends nor enemies. Knowledge of who built a particular model must not influence the outcome of the judging in any way.
  • A judge can never judge his own work, should never attempt to influence other judges who are evaluating his work and is required to excuse himself from judging any categories in which he is entered as well as any special awards for which his entry may be a candidate. In addition, to avoid any possibility of influencing other judges, he will avoid observing the judging of his work if at all possible.
  • If a judge has special knowledge about a particular entry, such as who the builder is, what work was done, etc, he should be very careful with that information. If the builder is a friend, it might be best to excuse himself from judging that category. If his knowledge about the build is from an "open" source and not from knowing the builder, he can share that info, but to share "inside" info might be construed as lobbying for a model and should be avoided.
  • The same rules, criteria and judging procedure are used to judge every model in a given category.
  • Before, during and after judging, as judges discuss a model's pros and cons, they will do so in a dispassionate, non-disparaging manner to the model or its builder.
  • Judges should proceed at all times in accordance with the Golden Rule of Judging: Judge the work of others' as you would want others to judge yours.
  • All alleged breeches of integrity should be brought to the attention of the appropriate Class Head Judge or Chief Judge as soon as possible. Such breeches will be handled by the Chief Judge. Issues raised "after the fact" may not be able to be resolved effectively, so timely reporting is essential.
  • All judges should feel free to express any concerns they may have regarding judging to a Class Head Judge and/or IPMS/USA Chief Judge.

C. Procedures

Before judging

  • Judging is done through a system of teams of judges. These teams are formed by the Class Head Judges. Optimally, each team is made up of three judges to avoid tie votes. In addition, they should be from different sections of the country. This will avoid even the appearance of impropriety such as two judges on the same team who are from one chapter giving a friend an award or the models selected or selections being skewed by a locally favored technique.
  • The first thing a judge should do is acquaint himself with all rules governing the category to be judged.
  • As it may effect what entries receive awards, judges need to be familiar with the restrictions of the "No Sweeps" rule. It states:
  • "First, Second and Third place awards will be given in each category. Individual contestants are eligible for only one award per category entered, that is, no category "sweeps" are allowed. The only exception to this rule is in the Junior Class where the same junior modeler can be awarded a 1/2/3 place award as well as be designated Best Out of the Box entry in that category.
  • A count should be made of the total entries in the category. If the judges think it advisable, they should consult with their Class Head Judge regarding splitting a category. If he agrees, the procedure to split the category should be initiated. Unless the contest host specifies otherwise, splits should not result in a category having fewer than five entries if at all possible.
  • While doing their prejudging inspection, judges should ensure that all entries have the proper paperwork, (e.g. entry forms, instruction sheets for out of the box categories, etc.) and if there are any category entries in other locations due to size/space/other limitations.
  • The judging team should do a quick review of all entries in the category to make sure all are in the proper category. If there are models entered in an inappropriate/incorrect category, the Class Head Judge should be notified. Only with his approval should such models be relocated. Any paperwork must accompany the models if they are moved.
  • Any judges performing administrative functions such as moving models for space or to the appropriate categories while the contest room is open to the public should wear a badge/nametag that identifies them as a judge.
  • While pen lights/small flashlights may be used to aid in judging, no magnification devices other than corrective lenses may be used.
  • If there are only three entries in a category, there will be a First, Second and Third Place. If only two, then there will be a First and a Second Place, If only one, that model gets the First Place Award. Note, however, that the No Sweeps rule takes precedence over this. For example, since a modeler may not win more than one award in a category, if two out of three models in one category are done by one modeler, then one modeler will get the first and the other the second and the third will not be awarded.
  • The Chief Judge may waive any rule/procedure if circumstances warrant such action.


  • Models will be judged for skill in construction, finish, realism, scope of effort, and accuracy. Additional criteria are considered for special categories such as Dioramas, Collections, Conversions, and Triathlon. Models are judged as three dimensional objects and are examined from all angles.
  • If a category is large, a judging team can do a first, "Basics", judging of each model. This may allow them to narrow the field in a category by cutting models with obvious and/or basic flaws. This will leave fewer models, enabling the judges to take more time evaluating each one.
  • While there are different ways to actually proceed with judging, no particular way is stipulated by IPMS/USA. Some teams may have each judge review every entry separately and then come together to discuss their findings. Other teams may choose to review each model together at the same time. This method has the benefit of the judges hearing each other's feedback on every model thereby facilitating discussion. In addition, by judging as a team, Judge "A" may notice things that Judge "B" does not.
  • The builder of a model is to remain anonymous until the results are determined in a category. Judges must not look at any part of the entry form that has the modeler's name on it prior to this. To implement the "No Sweeps Rule, judges may determine models done by the same builder by the entry number, the first digit/s of which identifies the modeler by IPMS number. This will allow them to select a given modeler's best entry in a category without revealing that modeler's name.
  • A judging team may have an OJT Judge assigned to it. If so, the certified judges should integrate that person into their team, teaching him how and what to look for as well as engaging him in any discussion.
  • It is not possible to dictate a strict priority of what types of flaws are more significant than others. The Modeling Basics and the Class Specific Basics lists are not prioritized. This is where judging comes in. Besides the number of flaws, the judges will need to decide how important they are. It is up to the judging team to evaluate each model and weigh its pros and cons and compare it to the other models in its category. Whether a model does or does not get an award is up to the judges.
  • The Scope of Effort needs to be evaluated. Did the modeler do a less labor-intensive state of the art kit or did he put a lot of work into an old classic? The latter would certainly take more effort and two or three basic flaws on the larger project may compare favorably with only one or two on the less ambitious one. Another example might be comparing two conversions, one where the major changes were done from scratch and another done with a conversion kit. If both were done with equal skill, the conversion done from scratch would have greater scope of effort and could be rated above the other entry.
  • At the national level, judges are allowed to handle a model. If a model needs to be moved/handled, the judges of each class should have a prescribed procedure on how this is to be done. Judges need to make sure they know what the procedure is. If a model is to be handled, following whatever procedure has been set, whoever is doing so should use the utmost care. Do not assume the model and/or any display parts are fixed to a base. Assume everything is loose. Assume any open canopies, doors, etc. can fall off. Be careful of all protrusions, such as pitot tubes, machine guns, masts, etc. When moving models for space, etc, DO NOT PICK UP A MODEL UNLESS YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO PUT IT DOWN. You should not be aimlessly wandering around with someone's labor of love in your hands. Make sure your hands are clean and dry. The use of cotton gloves can be a plus in some instances but a negative in others. While they may keep body oils from spoiling a finish, they can become caught in rougher surfaces or on small protrusions and you have less "grip" so models can slip and fall out of your hands.
  • Models in the Contest Room may be covered by cases while on general public display, but such cases must be removed from models for judging. Judges will not remove cases from models unless the modeler has given explicit, written approval in advance. Models in cases will not be judged except in instances where removal of a case could cause damage and in the judgment of the respective Head Class Judge the case will not impede effective judging. In such instances, a display case may be left on during judging. However, such an arrangement must be made prior to judging and be noted on the entry form by the Head Class Judge
  • If a model has damage and that damage is noted on the entry form as "Damaged in Transit" or some such statement, unless the extent of the damage makes it impossible, the judges will proceed to judge the entry as if the damage had not occurred.
  • If a model is damaged while being judged and/or moved, the judge/s responsible should note that on the entry form and that the damage did not effect the evaluation of the model and then they should SIGN THE FORM.
  • Judges other than those on a given team who do not have an entry in the category in question may be consulted for additional information on an entry.
  • If an impasse is reached on making a decision on the winners of a category, the Class Head Judge should be notified and he will take appropriate action to resolve the issue.
  • Judges should keep in mind that all discussions should be conducted in a respectful, logical, dispassionate manner and that all such issues never leave the contest room after judging. To discuss such matters outside the judging arena would be considered a breech of ethics and could result in a judge being decertified.
  • While judging, it is permissible for judges to take notes on the models. In larger categories or during check judging, this will enable them to remember what specifically was found. However, these notes should never be used for any purpose other than judging.

After Judging

  • When they complete a category, the judges should report the results to their Class Head Judge. They then may be asked to review their results with a Check Judge and/or be assigned to another task.
  • Judges of a particular category are asked to identify themselves. This can be done in several ways, such as signing the category sign or some other form that may be placed in the category. This makes the judges of a category known to the entrants of that category.
  • If judges move models in a category to facilitate judging, such as pushing "cut" models to the back or bringing all the final contenders side by side, after they are done, they should rearrange the models so the outcome is not obvious. For example, move any "cut" models back into the main group.
  • Judges should know what their responsibility is regarding the judging of any special/best of awards and should make themselves available for those tasks.
  • From the time judging begins until the conclusion of the awards ceremony, judges will not disclose the outcome of any portion of the contest to anyone other than those directly involved in recording the results.
  • Once the contest room is reopened to the public, a judge can give a modeler feedback on his entry if asked, but he will not compare it to other models in the category, will not give feedback about other models in the category and will not reveal what other judges said.

D. The Modeling Basics

These basic construction/finishing criteria are held in common by ALL CLASSES OF MODELS. Note, however, that each class also has additional basic criteria specific to that class. These are listed under each class's individual section further below. In addition, the rules for Out of the Box categories supersede these when they are in conflict.


  • Flash, sink, mold, ejector-pin marks, Trade Marks and any provisions for motorization, etc. are eliminated.
  • Any openings are blanked off or have the field of vision obstructed (a figure that blocks the view through an armored vehicle's open hatch for example.) to prevent a "see-through" effect or if not, show the appropriate detail inside.
  • Seams are filled if not present on the actual prototype. If depicting a subject with visible seams, such detail should be uniform and to scale throughout the model.
  • Correct cross section of round/cylindrical/oval parts is maintained.
  • All components are appropriately aligned.
  • The underside of the model, if visible, should have the same attention to these criteria as the rest of the model.
  • Any clear parts present (i.e. windshields, vision blocks, canopies, etc.) should be free of glue marks or scratches/cracks unless they are part of the weathering of the subject.
  • Detail removed while filling seams, removing sinkholes etc. is restored to a level consistent with the rest of the model.
  • Aftermarket parts and kit bashed or scratch built additions/changes should blend in with the rest of the model.
  • What was the Scope of Effort of the project?


  • The model's surface once painted should show no signs of the construction process such as glue, file or sanding marks, fingerprints, etc.
  • Unless irregularities in the actual subject's finish are being duplicated, the finish should be even and smooth. Exceptions should be documented.
  • There should be no brush marks, hairs, lint or dust in or on the finish.
  • There should not be any "orange peel" or "eggshell" effect and no "powdering" in recessed areas. Any exceptions on the actual subject should be documented.
  • There should be no differences in sheen of finish or whitening caused by the misapplication of final clear coats or glossiness caused by washes.
  • Paint edges that should be sharp are sharp (i.e. framing on aircraft canopies) with no effects of bad masking. Edges that are supposed to be soft or feathered should be in scale and without overspray.
  • Drybrushing should not be apparent as such.
  • Paint colors can vary due to variations from paint batch to batch, different operating environments can change colors in different ways, paints fade from the effects of weather and sunlight, and viewing distance can change the look of virtually any color. Poor initial application and subsequent maintenance compound these problems. Therefore, color shade should not be used to determine a model's accuracy. Models with unusual colors or color schemes should have appropriate documentation.
  • Any bare plastic, resin, etc, that is visible should not be recognizable as such. i.e. If the plastic is the correct color for the model, even if a modeler does not paint the model, he should apply a gloss and/or dull coat to make the plastic "look" painted.
  • "Weathering" is inherently neither good nor bad. When comparing a model with a weathered finish to a model with a pristine finish, the judges will concern themselves with the degree of success achieved by each builder in depicting the intended finish. An exception is in the diorama categories where appropriate weathering may be necessary to render appropriate realism.


  • Decals should be aligned properly. If the real prototype had a markings anomaly, the modeler should document it.
  • There should be no silvering or bubbling of decal film.
  • Decals should "snuggle down" around detail/corners smoothly.
  • Decals should blend in with the rest of the finish to look painted on.
  • Decals should have the same sheen as the rest of the model unless they are simulating a different type of surface such as a glass window on a brick building.

E. Class Specific Basics


These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.

Construction and Painting

  • Wings/tail planes have the same dihedral or anhedral on both sides.
  • Wings and stabilizers are aligned correctly with each other and identically on both sides of the centerline.
  • Fin to stabilizer angles are correct and aligned with each other in front and side views where appropriate.
  • Engine nacelles/cowlings lined up correctly in front, side, and plan views.
  • Landing gear components are properly aligned with the airframe and with each other in front, side, and plan views.
  • Ordnance items such as bombs, rockets, pylons, etc, are aligned correctly with the aircraft and with each other.
  • Weathering, if present, should show concern for scale (e.g., size of chipped areas), be in accordance with the conditions in which the real aircraft was operating and its age (a factory-fresh interior would be unlikely on a 100-mission aircraft) and be consistent throughout the model.


  • Wing trailing edges, ordnance fins, landing gear doors, edges of open panels, etc. are thinned to scale or replaced
  • Gun barrels, exhaust stacks, intakes, vents, and similar openings are opened.
  • External stores are built to the same level of quality as the model to which they are attached.

Armor/Military Vehicles

These are specific to this category and are in addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.


  • Any gap/overlap at the point where the track ends join is eliminated.
  • Machine guns/main guns, exhausts, vents, etc, are drilled out/opened up.
  • The track pattern faces in the proper direction on both sides of the vehicle.
  • The suspension parts such as idler, drive, and return rollers on tracked vehicles are in correct alignment and sit appropriately on the track.
  • The tracks are vertical (i.e. not leaning in or out when viewed from the front or back of the vehicle.) and parallel (i.e. not toed in or out when viewed from the top of vehicle.)


  • Parts are made to be of scale thickness and texture.
  • Weld marks are simulated where applicable.
  • Small detail parts such as rivets, nuts, bolts, tie downs, grab handles, windshield wipers, hatch and storage compartment handles/latches, valve stems, etc, are added/simulated.
  • Stowage, such as tarps, bedrolls, chains, fuel cans, etc. have been added and if necessary, have some method by which they are attached to the vehicle such as hooks, a rope or a tie down.
  • Photoetched parts that require forming are precisely shaped and any surfaces requiring building up to a thicker cross-section should be smooth and uniform.
  • Cable and electrical lines are added to lights, smoke dischargers, and other electrical equipment where appropriate.
  • Molded on parts that simulate things separate fro the subject such as tools, cables, etc, are undercut or removed completely and replaced.
  • Molded on screening has been replaced with real screen.
  • Track sag on tracked vehicles is duplicated appropriately.
  • Head, tail and spotlights are hollowed out and have lenses added or simulated.
  • Instrument faces of dashboards have detail picked out or added and lenses added.
  • All crew positions in open topped vehicles have been appropriately detailed, e.g. Gas and brake pedals, gearshifts, etc. for driver's positions.
  • Molded on grab handles, tie downs, hatch levers, etc. have been replaced with separate parts.
  • Any parts with inaccuracies in shape and/or contour have been corrected and/or replaced.
  • Weathering is not required. However, if present it should be consistent throughout the model and be in accordance with the conditions of how and where the real vehicle was operating. Extreme examples should be documented. Weathering should not be used to hide flaws in construction or finishing.


These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.

Construction and Painting

  • If not found on the actual vehicle, seams are filled. This is especially important on the car's body.
  • The mold seam is removed from rubberized kit tires that have one.
  • Gaps between the body and chassis are eliminated as applicable.
  • Where applicable, external items such as mirrors, exhaust pipes, etc, are aligned appropriately.
  • Internal items (e.g., seats, some engine/drive components) aligned properly.
  • All wheels touch the ground and aligned properly when viewed from the front or rear of the vehicle.
  • Wheels should be alignment, even if turned.
  • Chrome parts should be correctly represented and should be just as free of surface blemishes and evidences of the construction process as the painted components.
  • Although weathering is gaining more acceptance in the automotive ranks, especially with some trucks and certain types of racing cars such as the Rally types, it is not standard practice. Most auto modelers build what is considered a "show" car or restored car, and because of this, weathering will be the exception rather than the rule. If present, however, weathering should show concern for scale, be in accordance with the conditions in which the real vehicle was operating, and be consistent throughout the model.


  • Contour errors corrected.
  • Exhausts, intakes, vents, and other objects that have openings are opened.
  • Detail added to the vehicle, such as door lock buttons, tire valve stems, dashboard gauge detail, fabric surfaces on interior components, etc, should be as close to scale as possible.
  • Engine and chassis detailing is consistent with the level of detailing on the rest of the model. i.e. Do not completely plumb and wire an engine but not add the gearshift and driver's pedals.
  • Working parts, if any, such as opening hoods or doors, should match the level of workmanship of the rest of the model. Such parts should operate realistically and the operating mechanism(s) should be in scale if visible.


These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.

Construction and finishing

  • Superstructure components (platforms, cabins, funnels, etc.) aligned with the vertical when viewed from stem to stern.
  • Masts parallel to the vertical axis of the ship when viewed from stem to stern. Rake of masts uniform, unless the real vessel's masts had varying rake angles. Rigging tension must not cause the masts and spars to bend.
  • Paint should have a matt finish, unless a different sheen is being used to create a special effect
  • Color schemes should be correct for the era being modeled.
  • Weathering should be kept to a minimum because of the small scales involved.


  • The ship's configuration should be correct for the time depicted by the model.
  • All parts round in cross sections should remain round.
  • All small parts (including masts, bulwarks, splinter shields, railings, and rigging) should be as close to scale as possible.
  • Small details sanded off during construction should be replaced with scratchbuilt or aftermarket material.
  • Gun barrels and vents should be drilled out whenever possible.
  • Sailing ship rigging and lines should be correct for the era being modeled.
  • Deadeyes should be right side up, and rigging lines and blocks should be in proportion to each other.
  • Photoetched parts:
    • Nubs and burrs where parts are removed from fret must be eliminated.
    • Parts should not be unintentionally damaged or bent.
    • Glue marks and buildups should not show.
    • Parts (e.g., rails and stanchions) must not overlap.
    • All railings should be straight, no wavy railings.
    • Railings must line up horizontally and vertically where they join.
    • Corner seams created when parts are bent to shape should be filled.
    • Paint should cover brass completely including areas at bends and cuts.


These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.

The underlying premise of a miniature (that is a figure) is that it should look like a small version of a real person. The closer the figure comes to that goal, the better the figure will appear to the judges.

Construction and Painting

  • Where construction seams have been filled, creases that cross these seams restored.
  • Equipment is properly attached, e.g., holsters not hanging in space, canteens attached to belts.
  • Straps hang properly. Rifle slings, horse harnesses, etc. hang/sag properly to depict their weight.
  • Feet touch the ground/surface properly.
  • Cloth, leather and metal should have the proper sheen, e.g., a matt finish for wool, leather, other than in shoes, should have a slight sheen.
  • Blending of highlighted and shaded areas with the basic color should be smooth, gradual, and subtle. No demarcation lines should show.
  • Shadows should be present when two surfaces meet (e.g. belts over tunics) and on undersurfaces (e.g. between legs and under arms).
  • White should not be used in eyes in order to avoid a popeyed look.
  • Eyes should be symmetrical; figure should not be walleyed or cross-eyed.
  • Weathering of feet or shoes, if depicted, should be appropriate to the ground cover.
  • Headgear shadows should show on the figure's face.
  • Equipment such as swords should have a shadow shown on the figure.
  • Flesh tones should reflect the climate in which the figure is depicted.


  • Straps should have proper thickness.
  • Gun barrels should be drilled/hollowed out.
  • Accessories and equipment should be in proper scale for the figure.
  • Ground bases should show footprints.
  • Foliage should harmonize with the figure (e.g., no flowers present when figure is in winter clothes).
  • Lapels and collars should be slightly raised whenever possible.
  • Slings should be added to weapons where necessary.
  • Figures shown on ground should have feet/footwear slightly indented in the earth to depict weight.
  • Equipment being worn by, or slung on, the figure should be given an appearance of weight, e.g., by indenting straps slightly into the shoulder.

Note: Additional equipment such as a desk, bar, etc. will not be judged unless such equipment is included with the original figure casting/kit.

Space and Science Fiction

These are specific to this category and are In addition to those listed in the section on Modeling Basics.

Space and Science Fiction models depict a wide variety of subjects, from real vehicles to complete flights of fancy. In so doing, they run the gamut from sleek "rocket ships" to boxy satellites, from robots to alien armored vehicles. The incredible range of science fiction subjects, however, would seem at first glance to defy any attempt at systematic judging. Models of actual spacecraft are typically judged much like aircraft or vehicle models and even a model that represents a builder's total flight of fancy can still be judged on the basis of basic scale modeling skills.


  • Reentry vehicles (Space Shuttle, Apollo, etc.) should show some aerodynamic weathering if depicted in a post reentry or landing mode.
  • Rocket engine nozzles generally should show some sort of weathering, particularly on the inside; but check references, as such weathering can vary greatly from one nozzle to another.


  • Overly thick parts should be thinned to scale or replaced. This is especially true of the antennas supplied with many kits. Kit versions often appear too "fat" and lack detail.
  • Scoops and other such openings should be blocked off to prevent a "see-through" effect.
  • Weapon barrels, exhausts, intakes, vents, small thrusters, steering rockets, etc. should be drilled or opened.
  • Details added to the model should be in scale or as close to scale as possible.
  • Science fiction and fantasy modeling can entail a fair amount of scratch building or kitbashing. Items or areas added in this fashion should look useful and truly part of the vehicle, and should be similar in fit, detail, and overall finish to the rest of the model. Parts used from other kits should be sufficiently altered or disguised so that their origin is not immediately apparent in order to avoid the appearance of a haphazard assemblage of spare parts (sometimes known as the "Panzer IV in Space" syndrome).


A diorama is a combination of one or more models in a believable setting that tells a story, sets a mood, or creates a charged atmosphere. In addition to evaluating the diorama's individual elements, the judges will consider the strength of the diorama's story line or mood and the overall presentation of the diorama. These three factors are equally important. A diorama with superbly modeled components but a weak story line and presentation is not as strong as a diorama with well-modeled components and strong story and presentation.

Model Components, Ground Work, Scenery, etc: The individual model components of a diorama will be judged according to the criteria specified in the Modeling Basics and the appropriate individual class. For example, armor pieces will be subject to armor judging criteria while figures will be evaluated according to the figure modeling guidelines. The basics of construction and finishing are of prime importance not only with the model elements, but also with the terrain, roadwork, buildings, and accessories that set the scene of the diorama. These are given equal importance to the primary model components and consistency of workmanship will also be evaluated. Well-done vehicles may not overcome poorly done figures and mediocre groundwork.

Presentation: The diorama base should comprise individual elements that combine to form a realistic and/or plausible setting for the primary model component(s). Each of the elements also should be believable in its own right and consistent with the action or mood being depicted. The degree of imagination and inventiveness used to pose the main elements will factor into the overall presentation evaluation. The base should provide a focal point for the scene and fit or enhance the story line or mood of the diorama. Dioramas with a well-defined focal point highlighting a simple story generally will have a stronger presentation than those attempting to portray an entire battlefield.

Story Line, Mood, Atmosphere: This element is what separates a diorama from models merely set on a base. A simple derelict vehicle rusting away in a field could set a mood as well as a complete recreation of the Battle of Waterloo. The story, mood, or atmosphere created by the diorama should be obvious; the judges shouldn't have to strain to see it. Stories can incorporate historical or even humorous aspects. Imagination and inventiveness in telling a story or setting a mood can lift a diorama above the ordinary.


The Junior Class is unique in two respects. First, as opposed to the other classes where only one kind of model can be entered, any type of model, such as a car, plane or ship, is allowed. Secondly, it is the only class that has a breakdown by age of the modeler. The assumption is that the skill level of the modeler increases with age so we group modelers with similar skill/age levels together.

Since any class of model is eligible, we recommend that the modeler go to the things the judges look for in the Modeling Basics and Class Basics section of the type of model that he/she is building (i.e. aircraft, ship, etc.). Note that in the Junior Class there is much emphasis on the Basics, such as alignment, gluing, filling, painting and decaling. If you build a model that goes beyond the Modeling Basics, the additional things that are listed in the Class Basics section will be considered but remember that a model completed with attention paid to the Modeling Basics stands a much better chance of doing well than one with photo etched controls added to a 1/72nd scale cockpit without the Modeling Basics being taken care of.

III. IPMS/USA National Model Contest Rules


1. Entrants

  1. All entrants, regardless of age, must be current members of some national branch of IPMS. Any such member is eligible to enter any number of models in the National Contest.
  2. A current member may serve as a "proxy" to enter models for a fellow current member who is not attending the convention as long as those models are entered under the builder's name. It is the modeler's responsibility to identify his proxy BEFORE submitting his models for entry. No models should be sent directly to either the host chapter of National Contest Committee. The host and NCC assumes no responsibility for any models sent directly to them. Entry fees for proxy models are set by the Host Chapter.
  3. Junior Division categories are limited to members 17 years and younger. Those categories are split into two age groupings: Pre-teen for ages through 12 years and Teen for ages 13 through 17 years. If they wish, Junior members may enter any or all of their models in the Senior-Division categories. However models entered in Senior categories will not be eligible for any special Junior-Division awards.

2. Entries

  1. With the exception of Chapter/Group categories, an entry must be the sole work of the individual whose name is on the entry blank.
  2. Commercially built and/or finished models that do not require significant additional work by the modeler are ineligible.
  3. Models that have won First Second, or Third place, or Out-Of-The-Box awards in any category of any previous IPMS/USA National Model Contest are not eligible for awards, except as provided in Section III, Categories 4 (Triathlon), 5. (Collections), and 6. I(PMS Chapter/Group Entries). However, models that have won individually and as part of a Collection, Triathlon or Group entry, are not eligible for subsequent National Contests.
  4. Test Shot or pre-production examples of kits not yet commercially available may not be entered in any national competition for awards.
  5. The Chief Judge will exclude/remove from competition any entry considered by Contest officials to be inappropriate or offensive to generally acknowledged standards of taste and acceptability.
  6. The following are prohibited in competition and may not be placed on display at any IPMS event:
    1. There shall be no depiction of excretory functions depicting any human being or animal.
    2. There shall be no depiction of sado-masochistic activity, equipment, settings or situations, to any degree, regardless of whether there are figures in the model and regardless of whether any figures present in the model are clothed.
    3. There shall be no depictions of explicit sexual conduct, bilateral or autoerotic, regardless of degree and regardless of the clothing-status of the participants, that involves the touching of the breasts or genitals or other erogenous zones of any depicted figure.
    4. There shall be no depiction of any nude human male or female figures where the genitalia of the figure is exposed where the clear intent of the same is to portray a sexual scene.
  7. The following may be entered in the competition or put on display but can be presented only behind opaque screens or similar visual barriers and only where visitors are provided with a fair description, in written format, of the contents of the models behind the screen. This screened presentation covers competitors and the general public, but no person younger than 18 will be admitted except in the presence of an adult responsible for the young person, subject to the provisions of governing local law:
    1. Depictions of any nude human male or female figure, subject to the provisions of F.iv, above.
    2. Models or dioramas of historic events (e.g. general dioramas or specific depictions of the result of the activities of the communist Cambodian Pol Pot regime, a Soviet Gulag, or a Nazi death camp) where the suffering of human beings, or the result of a pogrom, is depicted. Where the theme, content or subject matter of presentations is graphic or would violate any provisions cited above, then the presentation is prohibited in any setting.
  8. Modelers entering pieces that exceed three feet in either width or length, or that require special power support or special placement, must notify the Convention Contest Chairman at least one month in advance of the Convention. The limited space for the Contest requires pre-planning for such entries. Failure to provide advanced notification for such models could result in their being unable to compete or inadequate special support.
  9. Exhibitors are encouraged to leave their models in the display room until the awards banquet is over and the attendees have had the maximum opportunity to view them.
  10. Contest registrars will help determine proper entry categories for models during registration, but final category placement is at the discretion of contest judges. Judges may split categories during final judging.
  11. The use of plastic is encouraged. However, the use of other modeling materials is allowed as the builder sees fit.


  1. Scratch-Built models may incorporate parts from other kits, but these should be generally unrelated to their original identity, except for minor parts. Models determined to be scratch-built must be entered in the proper scratch-built category.
  2. Conversion category entries must represent a version different from that provided by the basic kit. The conversion must contain significant structural modifications to the basic kit involving extensive changes in contour or configuration. In addition to the normal judging criteria common to the entire contest, judges of the Conversion Category will give special consideration to the complexity of the conversion. A conversion accomplished with primarily commercial aftermarket parts will be at a disadvantage, therefore, against a conversion accomplished primarily by the builder’s craftsmanship - assuming both are finished to similar standards. Simple conversions may be entered in regular categories. More extensive conversions, however, must be entered in the appropriate conversion category. The builder must describe in detail the conversion changes made to the base kit on the entry sheet or accompanying documentation. Judges have the ultimate authority to determine a model’s category placement, and such decisions by judges will be final.
  3. Scratch-Built and Conversion. Military Vehicles. Any Scratch-Built or Conversion model (Cat 228) must be constructed or must have its silhouette substantively changed by the modeler, using scratch-building supplies (i.e., sheet plastic, sheet brass, tin or wood). Any Kit-Bashed Conversion model (Cat 229) will have its silhouette substantively changed by the modeler using any pre-existing kit parts from another model or manufactured conversion parts/pieces designed for such change by the manufacturer, whether or not they’re intended for the particular model to which they are applied.
  4. Figures. Figures Class entries will not be classified as Dioramas by the inclusion of accessories supplied in the figure's kit.
  5. Markings. Markings will determine the category in which a model is entered. For example, the entries in the Aircraft categories are generally defined as military aircraft unless otherwise noted. Entries carrying only civil markings will be placed in the appropriate Civil Aircraft category. They do not need to be marked with a national civil registration (e.g. N-number for the USA) to be entered in a Civil Aircraft category. Models of CIA, NASA, Treasury Dept, and other government-marked (but non-military-marked) and operated aircraft will normally be placed within the Civil Aircraft categories. Movie planes, war birds, and those with combined civil and military markings (e.g. NASA band and USAF titles) likewise will usually be placed in Civil Aircraft categories. Another example would be a 1941 Ford marked as an Army staff car would be entered in the Military Vehicles Class category of soft skinned vehicles and not in an Automotive Class category.
  6. Missiles. Winged 'airplane-type' missiles will generally be entered in a UAV Aircraft category. When a missile's transport vehicle or launcher is the predominant portion of the system (e.g. Patriot, SCUD), the model will be entered in the appropriate Armor category. Military launch vehicles (e.g. V-2, ICBM, IRBM), civilian launch vehicles (e.g. Scout, Saturn), and military launch vehicles modified for civil missions (e.g. Atlas/Agena, Jupiter C) will be entered in the Real Spacecraft category.
  7. Jets. Jet Aircraft categories include manned, rocket-powered aircraft such as the Me-163, X-1, X-15, X-24, etc.
  8. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The UAV categories are to include drones, flying bombs, winged missiles and other aerial vehicles, powered or glider, designed to fly without carrying a crew. Aircraft originally designed for manned control but converted to remote-control operation (e.g. F6F-5KD, QF-104, DeHavilland Queen Bee) will not be considered as UAVs for the purposes of this contest, and shall be entered in the appropriate regular Aircraft categories. Conversely, a pilotless machine does not have to meet the ‘modern’ definition of UAV to be entered in this category. Qualifying UAV models, regardless of markings, shall be entered in the appropriate UAV category.
  9. In-Flight Aircraft. Generally, Aircraft models in an “in-flight, gear-up” condition mounted on stands will be entered in this category. The model must depict a retractable-landing-gear prototype, modeled with the landing gear fully retracted. Models of fixed-gear prototypes or aircraft with fully or partially extended landing gear displayed on stands will be placed in the appropriate regular Aircraft categories as will seaplanes displayed on stands, unless the depicted prototype has retractable landing gear modeled in the gear-up position. Spinning props and jet exhaust emissions may be simulated, but are not required. Similarly, crew figures are optional. This is not an “in-flight diorama” category. Models will be judged solely as individual aircraft. Note that aircraft models on stands fitting the 1/144 scale definition are to be entered in the appropriate 1/144 regular or OOB categories regardless of landing gear configuration.
  10. Automotive - Documented Replicas. This category is for models built as a precise replica of a specific real-world vehicle. The competitor must display documentation to authenticate the actual vehicle upon which the model is based (can include photographs, copies of brochures, magazine articles, etc -- materials should be in some form for judges’ review). Evaluation of the model may include the completeness of the documentation and how well the model agrees with the information presented. As usual, the builder’s basic construction skills will still be the primary judging criteria. Adding more documentation will not make a poorly built model compete better than a less-documented better-built model.
  11. Automotive Curbside. This category is judged as if the vehicle is parked at the curb. The model must be displayed with hood, trunk, all doors, etc., closed. No engines allowed. No motorcycles are allowed in this category, as the engine is visible. If the engine is included or visible, the model will be moved to the appropriate automotive category. Judges will ignore any detail on the bottom of the model (mirrored bases are not allowed). Body detail will be judged by the basic construction criteria. There will be no additional credit given to models with added body/structure details.
  12. Automotive Technology and Culture. This category is for models of automotive subjects that do not meet the definitions or requirements of the more specific auto categories. It can include: automotive toys, such as pedal cars; caricature or cartoon vehicles; small motorized vehicles not intended for on-road use and not derived from road-capable vehicles (go-karts, mini-bikes, quad-runners, powered skateboards, etc); ‘slammer-style’ models (models of a complete vehicle with painted-over windows and no interior or mechanical components); stand-alone engines or other mechanical components; cut-away/engineering models meant to show the internal construction / operation of an automobile or part of an automobile; wrecked or ‘junk’ vehicles that are no longer complete or drivable (e.g. driveline and/or body panels have been visibly removed); bicycles.
  13. Bases. Bases are allowed in all categories but with these stipulations:
    1. They will not be considered in the judging except in the Dioramas-Class categories.
    2. A base may simulate the natural surface on which the prototype would be found, however, nothing other than that surface may be depicted. For example, an aircraft may sit on a tarmac surface, but no ground equipment, fuel drums, etc, may be displayed. Aircraft that need beaching gear or dollies may be so equipped.
    3. Ships may be displayed in water but entries with dry docks must be entered in the appropriate category in the diorama class.
    4. The base must not be the predominant feature of the entry and must be of a size proportionate to the model.
    5. Bases – Military Vehicles. Any AFV model that is displayed upon a base may have ‘basic’ groundwork; i.e., dirt, grass, roadway, a low stonewall, etc. No part of that groundwork may extend taller than the topmost portion of the body of the model; i.e., no trees, buildings, structure, chimney, water-tower etc. Any vehicle entry that has more than basic groundwork will be defined as a Vignette (see Rule II-19), and will be transferred to the appropriate Diorama Category for judging there. Any model entered into an AFV category that is displayed upon a base, permanently or temporarily, may have no more than two (2) figures in total and the figure(s); must be a crew member; only one (1) figure may be affixed to the base off the vehicle; a second figure must be affixed to or within the vehicle model. If there are more than two figures total, the entry will be defined as a Vignette, and will be transferred to the appropriate Diorama Category for judging there.
    6. The Contest Chairman and Judges reserve the right to exclude oversize bases.
  14. Multiple or Towed Military Vehicles. This is any grouping of two or three vehicles (no more), attached to each other. For example, any towed artillery and prime mover; an artillery piece with a limber; a tank transporter/ trailer with or without a load vehicle or any other combination of two or three vehicles that are attached to each other. The attachment system can be a ball & hitch, fifth wheel, whiffletree, or tow chain/cables designed specifically for such purpose. The model(s) may be displayed on a base with or without basic groundwork, either temporarily or permanently affixed to such a base. Like other AFV model entries, rule 14 applies.
  15. Dioramas/Vignettes. A model that includes figures other than the primary crew, has equipment outside or not attached to the model, or has additional terrain features, is a either a Vignette, which contains five(5) or fewer figures, or a Diorama which has more than five figures. The number of subjects (vehicles or figures) will determine in which category an entry is placed. Entries with no more than five figures and/or a single vehicle subject will be placed into the Small Composition or Vignette categories (710, 712, 720, 730). Entries with two or more vehicles and/or more than five figures will be placed into the Large Composition categories (714, 722, 732). Such models must be entered in the appropriate Diorama/Vignette category. All aspects of a Diorama/Vignette are judged (i.e. terrain, buildings, figures, vehicles, etc.). A Vignette does not require a theme and/or storyline. It may depict just a "scene" or "slice of life". However, a Diorama must have a theme and/or depict a story and it is judged not only on the technical merit of its construction but also on the strength of any theme or story presented. Accordingly, if two dioramas were technically equal, the one having the stronger theme or story would win. One previous national contest winner may be included in an entry in these categories as long as it is not the primary focus.
  16. Mecha subjects – Space & Sci-Fi. These are Gundams, powered sci-fi robots, armor or machines with limbed features or humanoid construct. Such models may contain or display an operator figure as long as it is not the dominant part of the model; mechanical features should predominate. Otherwise an entry will go in the appropriate fantasy or sci-fi Figures category.
  17. Judges and judging.
    1. A Chief Judge chosen by the President of IPMS/USA will brief all judges before the contest judging.
    2. Only current members who are certified national judges and are fully registered at the Convention are eligible to join judging teams.
    3. Junior members may not serve as voting judges, but may be assigned to judging teams as participating observers.
    4. Judges may not judge a category in which they are entered.
    5. Judging teams will be composed of multiple judges, preferably representing different regions.
    6. Strict impartiality will be observed, and violators will be removed from judges' lists for future National Conventions.
    7. Any judges disqualified for cause may not assume any role related to the contest at IPMS/USA National Conventions and may not be present in the room during the judging for any reason. This will include, but not be limited to, administrative, scoring, photographic and other support responsibilities.
    8. Judges will be provided with a special ribbon or other device to allow their easy identification during the convention.
    9. Specially designated judging teams will monitor the contest room prior to judging to ensure models are in the proper categories for judging. They will also move models to accomplish the “splits” required in the larger categories.
    10. Models will be judged for skill in construction, finish, realism, scope of effort, and accuracy. Additional criteria are considered for special categories such as Dioramas, Collections, Conversions, and Triathlon.
    11. are judged as three-dimensional objects and, as such, all sides, top and bottom may be judged.
    12. Judges may handle entries as required.
    13. Models may be displayed in cases, however, the modeler must remove them before judging. Judges will not remove cases from models unless the modeler has given explicit, written approval in advance. Models in cases will not be judged. In instances where removal of a case could cause damage, and the respective Head Class Judge says the case will not impede effective judging, a display case may be left on during judging. Such an arrangement must be made prior to judging and noted in writing on the entry form by the Head Class Judge. The Chief Judge and Head Class Judges only will have the authority to allow or deny this exception.
    14. While the use of other modeling materials is allowed, regardless of the materials used, judging standards are the same.
  18. Judges' Decisions can only be appealed to the Chief Judge (not the Head Class Judges), and his decisions are final.
  19. With the approval of the IPMS/USA Executive Board, the IPMS/USA National Contest Committee (NCC) is solely responsible for the creation, modification, addition and deletion of all Rules and Categories and the judging for the IPMS/USA National Contest. Any exceptions sought by the Host Chapter must be submitted for consideration to the National Contest Committee at the time the Convention is bid.
  20. Awards, Categories and Splits. The Host Chapter will supply a sufficient number of trophy packages to provide for awards for all categories and preplanned splits. It may also add provide up to, but no more than, 15 trophy packages for additional, unplanned splits at the Convention. At its discretion, the Host Chapter may also add up to five additional “experimental” or local-interest categories for that year only. These categories must be announced at the preceding Convention (See IV.4 below.) and all necessary trophies provided.
  21. No liability for loss or damage to contest entries is implied or assumed by IPMS/USA, the Host Chapter, the convention hotel, or the contest judges.
  22. The Chief Judge may waive any rule if in his judgment circumstances warrant.


  1. 1. Out-of-the-Box (OOB). The IPMS/USA National Contest includes separate categories in selected Classes for OOB entries. An exception to this rule is the Junior Class, where OOB awards may be selected from among the entries in the standard categories. Juniors must indicate on their entry form if they are entering their model as OOB. Out-of-the-Box entries will be governed by the following rules:
    1. Any commercially available kit may is eligible and any parts provided in the kit may be used, regardless of their material (i.e., brass, resin, plastic, etc.). Only parts that are included with the kit may be used, although not all parts are required to be used. If the instructions call for the modeler to make a part, such as an antenna or seatbelts, he may do so. If they say the model may be rigged and gives instructions for that rigging, the modeler may add it in the manner suggested. However, if the instructions suggest that other detail sets sold by the manufacturer are available, such sets MAY NOT be used.
    2. All finishing techniques are allowed. Decals other than those included with the kit may be used. Insignia, markings, and instrument panels may be hand-painted instead of decaled. Weathering is permitted.
    3. The modeler may fill seams and gaps; sand off rivets; drill out gun ports, exhaust pipes, or other appropriate openings; thin to scale such parts as trailing edges, flaps, and doors; re-scribe panel lines lost in construction; and add rigging and antennas.
    4. It is not permitted to vacuum-form, manufacture, or replace any part, or substitute parts from another kit; cut or separate canopies, surfaces, hatches, doors, etc. (no major surgery); combine a standard kit with a conversion kit.
    5. Modelers must attach at least the first page of the kit instruction sheet to the entry form and have the rest of the instruction sheet accessible to the judges for review during judging (preferably, directly under the table from the model). Models entered without an attached kit instruction sheet will not be considered for an Out-of-the-Box award.
    6. Models that meet the OOB criteria are not required to be entered in the OOB categories. Modelers may choose to place their model in a standard category where it will be judged against the other entries with no reference to it being OOB and it will not be considered for an OOB award.
  2. Humor (Category 810). Models entered in the Humor category will be judged on both their humor content and the degree of modeling exhibited.
  3. Hypothetical (Categories 820, 821). In general, models that do not represent a factual, physical prototype will be entered in one of the hypothetical categories. Each Class has its own definition of hypothetical, depending upon the tradition and practice within that Class. Class Head Judges will determine whether models will be judged within the regular Class categories or moved to one of the Hypothetical categories. Entrants may chose to enter their model in either the overall Hypothetical categories (820 and 821), or in the regular categories in their Class (armor, aircraft, etc.). The Class Head Judge, however, will determine final placement. Models placed in category 820 are based on kits, with the hypothetical component being the result of markings, finish, etc. Models placed in category 821 are hypothetical as a result of being scratch-built or kit-bashed.
  4. Triathlon (Category 830). Three models of different classes grouped and displayed as a single entry. The models will be judged as a group, with overall quality determining placement. Credit will be given for diversity of entries. Entries must be composed of three models selected from three of the following Classes: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and Categories 800, 820, 821, and 860. No more than one of the three models comprising this entry may have won as an individual entry in a previous National Contest. To be eligible for an Out-of-the-Box award, all three models must be Out-of-the-Box. Models constituting a Triathlon entry may not, simultaneously, be competing in other parts of the contest. Models comprising a winning Triathlon entry may subsequently be entered individually, if they were not themselves previous winners.
  5. Collections (Category 840). A Collection is any group of five or more closely related items. Past National Contest winning models may be included as part of a collection, if they comprise no more than 40 percent of the collection. The entire collection must be the work of one person. The closeness of the relationship within the collection is a significant factor in judging. For example, a collection based on variants of a single airframe is a tighter relationship than one of different aircraft operated by a unit. Models comprising a winning Collection may subsequently be entered as individual entries, if they were not themselves previous winners.
  6. IPMS Chapter/Group Entries (Category 850). The Chapter/Group entry shall be the only exception to Rule I.2.A. that stipulates all work be done by a single individual. The intent of this category is to provide a forum for displaying a project that is too extensive or complex for a single individual to complete in a reasonable time. It is also intended to provide a vehicle for an IPMS chapter or a group of IPMS members to exhibit a project that may have been prepared for an event or display other than the IPMS/USA National Contest. Subject matter, time frame, scale, location, etc, are open. Models comprising a winning chapter/group entry may subsequently be entered individually if they were not, themselves, previous winners. In addition to the normal category award, first place in this category will be acknowledged by a rotating award. The winning group or chapter will have its name engraved on the award and retain it until the next convention. At that next convention, they may defend the award with another entry, or turn it over to the next winner in rotation. The original winners will retain the normal category award. This rotating award is intended to promote club activities and a healthy competition.
  7. Display Only. Where space and finances permit, conventions are encouraged to add a Class IX, “Display Only.” This should be open to any model by any registered entrant, regardless of its having won or not at a previous convention. No awards will be given in this class, nor will it be judged. It will serve to exhibit the full range of work accomplished by IPMS modelers. Space restraints could limit or eliminate this option, which should not impinge on the space required for a full and safe contest.


  1. No awards associated with the contest will have any intrinsic monetary value beyond the cost of their materials and production. Monetary awards, certificates and scholarships tied to placement in the contest are expressly prohibited.
  2. First, Second, and Third place awards will be given in each category. If there are only two entries, then a First and a Second Place will be awarded and if only one, a First Place. Note that the "No Sweeps" rule supersedes this provision. For example, if there are only three entries in category and two of them are by the same modeler, only two awards, a First and a Second, are made in that category.
  3. Individual contestants are eligible for only one award per category entered, that is, no category “sweeps” are allowed. The only exception to this rule is in the Junior Class, where the same junior modeler can be awarded a First, Second or Third place award, as well as be designated best Out-of-the-Box entry in that category.
  4. Additional theme awards,“Specials”, may be presented at the discretion of the host chapter. The host chapter may add up to five special awards for its convention only. These additional special awards must be identified to and approved by the National Contest Committee at its meeting during the convention preceding the one where the awards are to be presented and cannot be advertised until they are approved. IPMS National Judges working for the Head Judge, Miscellaneous, will judge these special awards. The sponsoring committee, however, may at its discretion ask that qualified judges who are members of the local group be included on those teams as long as they do not constitute a voting majority of the assigned team.
  5. Manufacturers, organizations, interest groups or individuals can present other awards. These awards must conform to Rule IV.1, above. The screening/selection for these awards will not be done by IPMS/USA, they will be chosen while the contest room is open to normal viewing by the sponsor or his designate. To have such an award announced at the convention awards ceremony and/or in the Journal, the sponsorship must include a sponsorship of at least one regular trophy package otherwise it is presented by the sponsor before the awards ceremony at the convenience of the sponsor and recipient.
  6. In the Junior categories the host chapter is encouraged to make use of incentive awards or other non-trophy items, within the restrictions of Rule IV.1, as it sees fit to develop and encourage participation.
  7. The National Contest Committee may name "Best" awards in honor of individuals. Such awards will remain named for a period of three years, After three years, a name for an award will either be re-ratified, changed to another name or revert back to an un-named status at the discration of the National Contest Committee.
  8. Best of Class awards will also be presented for each class in the contest and are listed below. The winners in each class will be determined by a vote of the judges assigned to that class, led by the Class Head Judge. Only models entered in Junior categories by Junior members are eligible for special Junior awards. The following 'Best' Awards will be presented at the National Convention:
    • Junior Model
    • Aircraft
    • Military Vehicle
    • Figure
    • Ship
    • Automotive
    • Spacecraft
    • Diorama
    • Miscellaneous
    • Best use of a national convention decal
  9. Popular Best of Show is determined by popular vote. The host chapter/s will provide a ballot to everyone registered for the convention and a prominently displayed ballot box. A simple majority of the votes cast will decide the winner.
  10. The Judges Grand Award will be chosen from among the Best of Class award recipients by vote of the Class Head Judges, led by the Chief Judge and must be the final award presented at the Awards Ceremony.

IV. National Model Contest


Models are entered in specific categories to enable the judges to better compare "apples to apples". The categories have been established over years of monitoring the number of entries and designing a system of categories that best reflects the break down of the types of those models. These categories are reviewed each year by the National Contest Committed to see if any changes need to be made. A list of the current categories may be found on this year's convention web site.