I received an email the other week from someone asking for a little bit of help, or clarification, on what to do when building Gunpla and how to get better results on a finished project. I don’t consider myself to be anything special in the world of Gunpla. I’m still relatively new and have much to learn, and have picked up a lot of useful information from some good people. That said, there are some works I’ve done that I am proud of and if there is something I can do to help others achieve a sense of satisfaction in their own work, I should do so. So I’m writing this post.
I can only really write about what I have experience with and being a spray-can guy there is whole side of the hobby that I am missing out on so I’ll write about how I go about building a kit. There are a couple ways of doing it and which route I take when working on a kit is determined by whether I am building out of the box or painting. This post is about Out of the Box building. (The most recent mail I received asked about painting but I feel it is best to write these posts in this order so there is continuity.)
Out of the box
This is probably the most fun I have when building. I just get to assemble things. However, there are some things I do during the assembly that I think I should bring to the attention of new people wishing to get into the hobby.
Relevant Point#1: Remove the piece from the runner leaving some of the gate remaining, then cut the remaining gate off with the side-cutters or design knife.
Relevant Point#2: When test building I try to cut down slightly the connector pegs on each piece at an angle, so that I can always disassemble the kit a little more easily later on regardless of whether I am going to be painting it or not.
An out of the box build can still be fairly detailed. There are things you can do to make just a standard Gundam kit look much better. For instance,
A standard Gundam panel line marker or copic marker is all you need for this. If the color of the plastic on the kit is dark I’ll tend to use a black but if the armor is lighter in color, which happens frequently, I’ll use the gray
It’s worth noting that the gray runs a little more than the black and is easier to remove.
Relevant Point#3: It’s pretty easy to remove Gundam marker using only a standard eraser like those heavy white things we all used in school as children. You can also use a cotton swab, which I use often because it leaves the marker in the panel line while removing the excess.
I also will use different Gundam Marker to add details to the frame and some places on the armor as well as simple weathering. It’s very quick and easy to clean up with that eraser.
Relevant Point#4: I need to mention that I do the panel lining and details before I move onto…
There are several ways to add markings to your kit. Everyone knows about the stickers that come with Gundam kits. For an out of the box build the stickers can work providing you are careful when applying them. If you reposition them frequently before putting them in their final place then they will tend to peel later and a top-coat is a necessity. I tend to not bother with the included stickers but I do use the dry transfers and always try to get my hands on some water slide decals, especially the Bandai Gundam Decals. There are also some great after market decals out there.
When I apply dry transfers I use scotch tape to hold the marking in place and a toothpick to rub it on. If you can find the good kind of scotch tape which has a low adhesiveness you can place and remove the marking numerous times until you get it in the correct position. I like using the clear tape because it is much easier to see if you’ve got the transfer lined up correctly. Masking tape is not transparent so you have to guess a bit with the marking. I use the toothpick because I can apply pressure to a small part of the transfer at a time. Yes, I do have to go over the transfer several times but if I’m careful I get the transfer on first try rather than having that horrible experience of pulling the tape and backing away and realizing some of the marking has not gone on.
Tip: When placing the marking on do it lightly as you line it up in case the alignment is off and you have to reposition it. If you press strongly some may go onto the piece before you are ready.
This step is more involved but the extra effort is made worth it by the better result in most cases. I have in the past used Mark Setter but I don’t feel it is necessary. I tend to apply decals with the kit divided into sections, i.e. torso, feet, legs, arms, shoulders, skirt, head, backpack, etc.
Relevant Point#5: Put a gloss coat on before you apply the decals. This will prevent silvering and make the decal move along the part easier while you search for the proper position. However, I have in the past skipped the gloss-coat part on Out of Box builds and just used Mark Softer on the decal afterwards with good results. I’ve even used Mark Softer over decals I applied to a kit that was flat-coated!
If you’ve used water-slide decals then the best advice is to…
If you’ve applied markings of any kind, or even if you haven’t. then you should consider a top-coat. You want those decals to stay on and not be abused as you play with the kit. Also, top-coat is a good way to lose that plastic look that a model has. There are two ways I go about top coating.
Have the kit divided into sections (torso, skirt, legs, feet, etc) much like how I described it when applying water-slide decals and top coat each section.
Relevant Point#6: This method is the fastest but it can mean there are certain parts that won’t get hit with that first top-coat such as the areas around the knees and elbows that are exposed as the limb bends. For that, I will spray a coat of top-coat with the limb straight and then, once the coat is dry, bend the limb and spray it again.
Spray each armor piece separately. If I’ve applied the markings to the armor pieces individually, usually done this way when I’m working on something complex such as the Yellowbird. I will still spray top-coat on the frame with it divided into sections as there’s really not reason to topcoat individual frame pieces. Once the top coat is dry I assemble the kit for the final time.
Relevant Point #7: If you choose to go this last route (individual piece top-coating) you need to be very careful as you do the final assemble. You’ll have your hands all over the pieces so there is a risk you can damage some of the markings you just sprayed with the intent to protect.
That’s all I can think of. I’m sure I missed something here or there. Next up will be how I go about painting.