And to make up for the fact there isn’t much gunpla-building going on right now, here is a rundown on how I build my models (something I’ve been putting off for ages, longer than my Turn A page). Once this post (and the one below it) get bumped off the front page, I’ll be migrating them to a ‘Tools and Techniques’ page since the current tools page is very very dated and in need of some reworking. Most of these pictures will be from the Sazabi build, but depending on what I need to reference there will be a variety of things mixed in there. Enjoy!
So, you’ve got your gunpla.
This is where everything begins! Let’s crack that bad boy open and see what we’ve got to work with.
They always put the manual at the bottom of these things…why is beyond me. Find that and flip through it to familiarize yourself with the model and figure out where you’re going to start. Some people like to build strictly by-the-book, others like me like to skip around and build weapons first, then go back and work on other areas. I find that building the weapons first is a nice countermeasure to the dreaded ‘weapons block’, which is what happens when you get to the end of a long project and just conk out and only put a little work in to the weapons. It sucks, and if you get it done early that might mean they’ll look that much better. While perusing the manual, if you’ve got anything special in mind for the model now is a good time to figure it out. If you have a plan of action for paint schemes, decals or other little details it’s much easier to execute when you’ve worked out some of the specifics ahead of time. Sometimes things don’t always go as planned, but if you can build a model you can usually come up with some sort of solution to any problems that may arise.
Once you’re all set, you’re going to have to clip out the parts you need. The manual actually shows the proper way to do this, with clipping a few millimeters away from the actual edge of the part. This is to make sure you don’t scratch or otherwise damage the part while cutting it off of the tree.
I usually clip out everything I need ahead of time so I don’t have to keep stopping to clip another part out. This way I can clean everything up all at once and assemble at the same time.
Here’s a big secret: I don’t use sand paper. After clipping the part off the tree, I cut down the flash with a hobby knife. It’s dangerous in some regards since, you know, there’s a chance you’ll ruin the part if you slip up with the blade. I’ve never had this happen though, so I guess until then I’ll stick with this method. What I do is put the blade against the nub as pictured and push against it with the blade angled up so if I do put too much force on it the blade goes away instead of down on to the part. Repeat this a few times and do the same from the opposite side to make sure the nub is gone all the way! After that, if there’s any white residue left over you can just scratch it with your thumbnail and it should hide it well enough (though this isn’t a big deal if you’re painting anyway). After the part is all cleaned up, it’s time to move on to painting (and if you’re not, just skip to the part about panel lining and decaling). The other big con is plenty evident by looking at my index finger…
Another big shocker: I don’t prime my models prior to painting. This is due to the fact that I’ve always liked darker colors or paint things in a fashion similar to the original scheme, neither of which really require primer. If you’re going to be painting something a lighter color, use primer before you realize it just doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried. Moving on, if you’re going to go the route of spray painting via can Tamiya’s TS-xx series of paints have always given me great results. I orgazine everything by what color I’m going to paint them, grab a box, head outside and get to work.
And there you have it. If both sides need to be painted just wait about an hour, flip them over and go to it. Ideally, one sprays about 30cm away from the parts and lets a fine mist hit the stuff to be painted. This prevents paint building up on one area of the model. Another important thing to avoid is stopping with the spray on the part- always make sure to spray past the stuff being painted. For tiny details, I’ve got a tamiya size 0 brush or I just use one of the many gundam markers I have.
after painting, it’s time to fill in the panel lines. I’ve got no experience with panel line washes, so for now that method of panel lining can’t be covered here. For using the fine tipped gundam markers, I typically prefer to use those since the way they tend to spill ink out over the line makes it easy to simply rub of the extra with your thumb or an eraser and be left with a nice thin line. I also have a few copic pens, but since they’re warm grey in color they only really come in handy for white surfaces only. There’s not much extra here to explain…some people use pencils and the like for panel lining which works good too. Experiment and see what method you like best.
Gunpla models come with three different kinds of marking methods. Clear stickers, foil stickers and dry transfer decals. The application of the first two are pretty straightforward, though I know some people can be thrown off by the dry transfers if they haven’t dealt with them before. I find taping the dry transfer down (remember, glossy side up!) and rubbing it on with the blue part separator they give you with some MG kits work great. Make sure the decal is applied completely, you only get one chance with these things. I’ve noticed on older kits like my Ez8 they don’t go on so easy, but for stuff like the Sinanju and Zeta 2.0 they go on hassle-free.
If you’re not in the mood to deal with stickers and dry tranfers, you can just pick up a set of waterslide decals that usually include all of the normal stickers and the dry transfers. If they’re available I’ll usually get these since they look so much better on the finished model than a sticker. For some kits, like the Unicorn and Sinannju (or any ver. Ka kit, really), I feel that waterslide decals are a must. As far as applying the waterslides I’ve learned (thanks Sonar!) that a clear gloss coat should be applied before the decals to ensure you can move them around easily! After you’ve got it in place just roll over it with a q-tip to push the extra water out. After a few minutes of drying apply some Mr. Mark Softer and let dry overnight and you’ll have a decal with almost no visible edge!
after the decals have been applied and have dried properly (be very careful with them after the softer has been applied, you don’t want it to rip!) all that’s left is a finishing touch. If you’re going to weather your kit, give the model a flat topcoat, being sure to remove any clear parts unless you want them fogged up by the chemical. The flat topcoat helps the weathering stick a little better (or at least, the weathering compact I used- I’m no good at drybrushing) and after applying the weathering give it another flat topcoat. For most models, a flat topcoat is what you’re going to want to spring for since it takes away that shiny plastic toy look. Of course, if you’ve gone the route of metallics (as I often find myself doing) a nice coat of gloss will really make the model shine.
For brands, I used to exclusively use Mr. Hobby topcoat but due to recent restrictions on shipping that require companies to spend too much effort packing they are not exporting that particular brand any more. Luckily there are a lot of other variants out there, such as Tamiya’s flat/semi-gloss/gloss/pearl clears which are what I’ll be using from now on, having found the Tamiya gloss clear to have a better shine than Mr. Hobby’s gloss topcoat.
You can topcoat the model however you like, just follow the same rules as spray painting- some of you might prefer to topcoat each part individually to make sure you cover the whole part and others like myself just leave the model assembled and spray away. Depends on how thorough you’re being, really.
And there you have it! Once the topcoat dries go pose your model on your self, with or without a stand and sit back and bask in the glory of your hard work. While some people will complain if you don’t paint/panel line/ect a model, I’m of the belief that it’s your model, do what you want and get what you want out of it. Don’t be afraid to try new things though, there are a lot of resources out there that you can consult if you’re not sure how to go about doing something.