This second post explaining how I build my models hopefully will answer the questions posed to me about painting Gundams. Remember, this is how I go about doing things and other people will likely do things differently (and some even condemn me for doing it ‘incorrectly’) but remember, this is a hobby. If you enjoy what it is you do and are satisfied with the result, how can it be wrong?
A lot of the process when it comes to painting will overlap with what I wrote in the Out of the Box post, so bear with me.
Building a kit with the intention of painting calls for a little bit of a different approach than one just out of the box. You will be test building it knowing that it will be coming apart again. Because of this it’s important to assemble the kit in a way which allows you to disassemble it easily. The previously mentioned peg-cutting method is very important here. Another thing I tend to do is not use any stickers during the test build except for the eye sticker. I put the eye sticker on because I like to take pictures when the test build is complete, and occasionally do a review. If the eye sticker wasn’t there, it would look odd.
As well, if there is a part of the frame or armor that snaps into place strongly, with the loud noise, I will often leave that part out of the test build to eliminate the risk of breaking something when it comes time to disassemble.
Relevant Point#1: Pay attention to areas where you might be making any modifications such as seam lines, etc. When the test build is complete, you’ll want to know what you’re going to be doing when you disassemble and prepare for painting.
Relevant Point#2: When I’m painting a kit I will use sandpaper (usually 400 grit) to clean off any remaining gate marks. The primer and/or paint will cover up the scratch marks easily enough.
Before you can do any painting you need to look at…
If you don’t plan on modifying anything on the suit before painting you can skip this section, but if you are considering it, maybe I can help.
Probably the most common modification is the removal of seam lines. For that, all you really need is some model cement and some sand paper. We’ve even done an episode of Gunpla TV showing the simple process.
If the seam line is still showing after this process you can use some putty and fill in the gaps. Remember the more you do it the better your results should become.
Relevant Point#3: If you are working on removing seam lines from areas such as the head, etc, you’ll need to come up with a method which will allow you to remove the line but still complete the final assembly.
Perhaps there is an area of the kit you feel is too plain and needs some more details. Or perhaps there are gaps or areas you want to cover over. One way to do these things is to add plastic. There are all kinds of plastics you can buy from sheets to rods. Tamiya makes them, as well as a company called Evergreen. I’ve used the Evergreen strips to good effect on the Musha Mk-II and have added it to other kits as well.
Putty is also another way to add shape or fill gaps in your kits. I won’t go into any real detail about the putty because I feel there are far better people and tutorials out there. If you want to try it yourself, you’re in good hands.
Here’s a video.
Relevant Point#4: If you are scribing a line that will change direction in the middle of the piece, it’s a good idea to take a very small pin vise or even a pin and make very shallow hole at the point the line changes. This way your scriber should start/stop at the correct spot.
Once you’re satisfied with your modifications, it’s time to paint, but before you lay down primer and/or paint you need to look at your paint scheme and…
What color will you be using? Will you be painting more than one color on the same piece, which means masking? Will different areas of your kit have a different finish in the end? Will the frame be painted?
These are questions you will need to ask yourself (and answer!) before picking up the paint cans.
I know a lot of people use lineart/photoshop to design/color their scheme before putting down paint. I don’t do that but I do follow a firm design in my head.
Let’s start with the basics.
Priming Gundam kits isn’t always a necessity (though some disagree on that point). I tend to follow a simple rule; If the color I am spraying is lighter than the color of the plastic piece I am spraying, use primer.
Painting black on a yellow piece; no problem. Painting yellow on a black piece; not so easy. Some lighter metal colors have no problem going on dark pieces, but in general, whites, yellows, oranges, light blues, some reds, will need primer if going on to darker colors.
There are two primers I use. Tamiya Gray and Tamiya White. I use the White often because it doesn’t affect the color of the paint going on over top. When painting yellow or white the white primer works well. Gray is fine for the dark colors if you want to prime before using them and I have also use Gray primer to influence the color of a white paint coat.
Dark over light. That’s the general rule I follow. It’s easier to do the dark over the light than to spray dark, then mask, then prime and finally paint a light coat.
I’ve done a lot of masking in my time and have my own system that works pretty well, though I’m sure there are better methods. For me how I mask depends on what I am masking. If I want to make a section silver, for example, I’ll spray the entire piece silver then cover the section with a length of masking tape, then take a tooth pick and press the masking down along all the edges of the section, and then take my design knife and cut away the excess from the edges.
If there is an area of the section I missed, I will cut a very small triangular shape of tape and cover it up. Keep in mind, that this method may lead to some knife marks in your plastic.
My other method spares you the knife marks but can be more time consuming. Using tiny triangles/squares/diamond shapes I cover the surface that is to be masked.
Once I’m satisfied with the masking, I spray the second color. More times than not both colors receive the same top-coat finish so I’ll spray that once I remove the masking. If the finish is to be different then I’ll spray the one finish before masking then the second after the second color is painted and before I remove the masking.
More or less, this is how I do it. (Actually, this is me doing it.)
Once all the painting is complete, which may require a few coats, I gloss top-coat using one of the two methods I detailed in the Out of the Box post.
Relevant Point#6: Gloss coat!!!!! This is very important. You’ll need that coat to not only protect the paint you just applied but also prepare for Panel Lining and Markings.
The panel line marker will work fine here but many experienced modelers will opt to use the Panel line wash method.
For this you’ll need some paint for the lines and some thinner to make it run more and to remove excess.
Relevant Point#7: If you use spray can and top coat can as I do chances are you’re using lacquers. If that is the case the best bet for panel lining is an enamel. Enamels don’t affect lacquer top-coats (unless you overdo it.) On the flip side, if you under do it, i.e. spray very lightly, you can use lacquers for panel lines over top of enamel or acrylic top coats. I don’t recommend it to beginners, though.
Once the panel line is cleaned up and dry you can gloss top coat it again to protect it before moving onto the markings or you can go straight to the markings.
Relevant Point#8: If you choose not to gloss coat after panel lining, there is a chance the water from the decal or any Mark Setter/Mark Softer you use can cause the panel line to run/smudge. I usually gloss-coat again before markings.
If I’ve gone through the trouble of painting a kit I want it to look great right down to the markings so this is where the water-slide decals come in. I explained the procedure in the Out of the Box Post so I won’t be redundant and repeat it again here.
Once the decals are on the final phase is…
The final top-coat determines your finish. I used to use Gloss or Semi-gloss extensively but I’ve moved more towards Flat recently.
Relevant Point #9: Flat top coat reacts more to moisture/humidity/overspray than the gloss so be careful when using it. Be sure to be about 30 centimeters away from the piece and spray lightly. Don’t do it on a damp day!
That’s all I can think of right now. If I missed anything be sure to leave a comment. There’s lots of experienced modelers around the net and I learn as much from them, if not more, than people learn from me.