What Are Scale Model Sizes?

A black-and-red Mercedes roadster in 1/24 scale with another red Mercedes model in the background.

In the world of scale models, understanding the different scale sizes and what they represent can be tricky and often misleading.

There are so many different types of models, and there are dozens of different scale sizes that these models come in.

For every modeler, it is important to understand the differences between the scale ratios. 

What are scale model sizes? Scale model sizes are ratios of size comparisons showing the degree to which a model has been scaled down from the original. For example, 1:24 scale means the model is 1/24th the size of the original object. The larger the second number, the more the model has been downsized.

There are so many various types of scale models out there: everything from aircraft, ships, boats, cars, motorcycles, figurines, and even dolls, each of which is made to a specific size ratio.

Model scale sizes are not as complicated as they may seem; these are important figures to understand in the world of modeling.

Let’s go over what model scale sizes are and some of the more common scales sizes for different types of models.

Model Scales Explained

Models scales refer to the size of the scale model in relation to the size of the original object that the model is made to represent.

Scale size is important, as the scale is not to make all models fit within a certain size parameter but to rather accurately represent the size discrepancies between various objects on a smaller, more home-friendly scale.

A full-size F22 Raptor fighter jet is not going to fit into your house, but a model that is 1/72 the original size (72 times smaller) will fit into the palm of your hand.

This is the importance of the scale size of models.

Scale Size Ranges

The size ratio that a sale model is built is usually proportionate to the size of the original object.

A very large object, such as an aircraft carrier, is often built in much smaller ratios, such as 1:700 scale, while more commonly sized objects, such as motorcycles, are usually made to be around 1:24 scale.

This may seem like a drastic size difference, but when the two models are placed side by side on a shelf, a 1:700 scale aircraft carrier is still significantly larger than a 1:24 scale motorcycle.

For this reason, many modelers build and collect models from the same scale size so that the relative size of the scaled objects stay true to the size ratios of their life-size originals.

There are many different model scale sizes, ranging from the largest scale size of 1:1 scale (real-life size) for small original objects to the smallest scale size of 1:20,000 for models of very large fictional spacecraft from science fiction.

Realistically, when it comes to scale models, the usable scale size ratios range from 1:4 at the largest to 1:720 at the smallest.

The most commonly used scale sizes range between 1:24 and 1:700 scale size.

Uncommon Scale Sizes

There are some relatively uncommon scale sizes as well, such as 1:25 scale rather than 1:24 scale.

1:25 scale is usually used for cars and trucks and allows for very precise measurements.

Various scale sizes are used for various reasons, such as the standard unit of measure in various countries.

Countries that use the imperial system of measurement prefer 1:24 scale size, as 1 foot scales down to ½ inch.

In countries that use the metric system, 1:25 scale size is preferred, as 1 meter scales down to a perfect 40 millimeters, which is very easy to model with.

Common Large Model Scales

The size of the model in scale is relative to the size of the original object.

Even if the scale size ratio is a large number, the model itself may still be physically large.

Large scale usually refers to the actual size ratio of the model to the object, even though the model itself may not be particularly large.

Commonly used large model scale ratios range between 1:4 scale to 1:25 scale.

This includes 1:4 scale, 1:8 scale, 1:12 scale, 1:16 scale, 1:20 scale, 1:22.5 scale, 1:24 scale, and 1:25 scale.

This scale range is usually used for models of cars, trucks, aircraft, motorcycles, figures, and miniatures.

Common Medium Model Scales

Commonly used medium model scales are most frequently used for military models.

The scale ratios that are used in this range of models keep all models fairly close to their relative size compared to other models.

This again does not mean the models themselves are a particular size, but the model size refers to the size of the model compared to the size of the original object.

This range of model scale is also commonly used for aircraft and allows for very detailed modeling of incredibly large objects.

The commonly used scale ratio sizes in this range include 1:32 scale, 1:35 scale, 1:43 scale, and 1:48 scale.

Common Small Model Scales

Small scale model size ratios are often used for modeling the very largest objects such as ships and super-aircraft.

While the size ratio is small, these models are often the largest in physical size compared to other models.

The commonly used scale ratios in the small range include 1:72 scale, 1:76 scale, 1:87 scale, 1:96 scale, 1:100 scale, 1:125 scale, 1:144 scale, 1:160 scale, 1:192 scale, and 1:200 scale size.

These model scales are often used for aircraft, boats, trains, some ships, tanks, and other large vehicles.

There are even smaller model sizes that range from 1:200 to 1:720, but these model scale sizes are not very commonly used.

Even though the ratios are high, the models themselves are physically very large, and not many collectors have the space that is required to collect models of this size.

Popular Scale Model Sizes

While there are many different size ratios used for modeling, here is a shortlist of the most popularly used model scale sizes and what they are most commonly used for:

  • 1:4 – Flying models and steam trains
  • 1:8 – Cars, motorcycles, and steam trains
  • 1:12 – Cars, motorcycles, and figurines
  • 1:16 – Cars, motorcycles, and armor
  • 1:20 – Cars
  • 1:22.5 – G scale trains
  • 1:24 – Cars, trucks, and large-scale planes
  • 1:25 – Cars and trucks
  • 1:32 – Aircraft, boats, cars, figurines, No. 1 scale trains
  • 1:35 – Armor, boats, figurines, diorama structures
  • 1:43 – White-metal cars and trucks
  • 1:48 – Aircraft, trucks, cars, O scale trains
  • 1:64 – Aircraft, S scale trains
  • 1:72 – Aircraft and boats
  • 1:76 – 00 scale trains
  • 1:87 – HO scale trains
  • 1:96 – 1/8 scale Ships and aircraft
  • 1:100 – Aircraft
  • 1:125 – Aircraft
  • 1:144 – Aircraft and ships
  • 1:160 – N scale trains
  • 1:192 – 1/16 scale ships
  • 1:200 – Z scale trains
  • 1:350 – Ships
  • 1:700 – Ships
  • 1:720 – Ships

Conclusion

Scale models come in a great multitude of sizes, types, scales, and variations.

The most difficult to understand and arguably one of the most important aspects of modeling is scale sizes and their differences.

The basic premise of model scale size ratios is the size of the object versus the size of the model of the object.

For example, if a model is 1:48 scale, that means that the model is designed and built to be 48 times smaller than the size of the original object.

There are commonly used sizes for various objects, but the larger the object usually means the smaller the scale ratio.

Large scale ratio sizes are usually used for objects that are not immensely huge, such as motorcycles, while small-scale model ratio sizes are usually used for modeling massive objects such as warships and super-aircraft.

There are standard sizes that are used for specific models, such as model trains, where there are three or four set sizes that are used and there are not many variations outside of them, but in other models, there can be wild size variations.

Many scale modelers collect models of the same or similar scale size ratio as this allows the actual size difference between objects to be accurate.

A jumbo jet and a Jeep in the same scale size ratio will be the correct relative size as they would be in their life-size muses.

Understanding scale model sizes is important for anyone who is getting serious about scale models, and choosing models that are the right size for you is vital!

So take your time when choosing which models you are going to collect, and bear in mind the scale size of your new model versus the models that you have already collected!

Sources:

https://finescale.com/how-to/articles/2014/02/build-great-scale-models-part-1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scale_model_sizes