How to do panel-lining

June 16, 2008 at 14:16 | Posted in How-to | 12 Comments
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Panel lines are those lines which resemble tiny drains on the surface of most gunpla. They’re there to provide more details and to brighten-up your gunpla, provided you do something about it. Basically there’s 2 ways about it: 1) using markers to ‘draw’ the panel lines or 2) using enamel paints.

Using markers

This is the most noob-friendly method. Basically you can use any fine tip marker with the color of your choice (preferably dark colors) to draw along the panel lines. I have a fine-tip black Gundam marker which I bought when I first started this hobby and I still use it from time to time. You can just rub off any excess lines using an eraser or just rub using your fingers. You should get something like this:

Pros: Little start-up material needed, all you need is the marker. Easy to do

Cons: Choice of color is limited by what marker is available. Very tedious when you have a lot of panel lines to fill. Looks less ‘natural’ compared to using enamel paints

Final comments: I think it works best on bare plastic rather than painted surfaces so I would only recommend this if you’re just starting out with the hobby and you didn’t paint your kit.


Using enamel paints

This method involves thinning your enamel paint and applying the colors on the panel lines using a fine-tip paint brush. If the paint is thinned properly and the panel line is deep enough, the paint will flow along the panel line due to capillary movement.

I’m using enamel paints for panel lining because the bulk of my painting is done using spray cans which are lacquer based. Even if I didn’t paint my model, using enamel paint on bare plastic works well too.

Basically the rule of thumb is: Don’t use the same paint type (acrylic/lacquer/enamel) as your base paint to do your panel lining. For example, if you use enamel paints to paint your model, don’t use enamel paints to do the panel lining. The reason is to avoid wiping off your base paint when you wipe the excess panel lines. Of course, this can be circumvented by applying a layer of gloss topcoat over your paintjob before you apply the panel lines, but that just adds another step to your workflow.

I have no exact formula on how much thinner or paint to use, just as long as it looks thinned. If you find that the paint is too thick, just add more thinner and vice versa. After you finished panel lining, you can clean up the smudges by wiping them off using a cotton bud soaked in the appropriate thinner.

If you feel that thinning paints is too much work, you can buy ready-to-use enamel paints by Tamiya. They’re specifically thinned for panel lining and come in three color choices: black, grey or brown.

Pros: More choice of colors, depending on what paints you have available (remember: black is not the only panel line color). Easier to do when you have a lot of panel lines to fill. Looks more natural

Cons: More startup material (paint, thinner, brush) needed. Can look smudgy when excess lines are not cleaned properly.

Final comments: The preferred choice for those who paint their kits and just as effective on bare plastic as well.


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  1. Hi! I’m just wondering about the specific name of your blue gundam marker? Is it a sharp point/fine tip pen? have a couple of gundam marker and sometimes they can’t get into the lines that well. I use washes but I’m not too fond of them. Can your recommend some alternatives?

    • it’s a fine-tip gundam marker. you can make the panel lines deeper by scratching using a pin or something sharp.

  2. if the kit is not painted (meaning bare plastic), also planning to use tamiya acrylic black for panel lining, can alcohol 70% or water can do for panel lining???

    • yes, that will work. actually that’s what i did for my earlier kits

      • nice ^^ thanks for the reply ^^

  3. Hi Can I do aclyric wash with Mr.Color+alcohol or water without applying a gloss coat?

    • depends. if you painted your kit with aqueous or acrylic paints, then you should apply a layer of gloss coat before the wash.
      if you didn’t paint your kit then you don’t need the gloss coat before the wash.

  4. Hi does using matt tamiya spray paint will make panel lining harder? I use matt white from tamiya spray paint as base colour. Do i need to apply gloss topcoat??

    • I’ve used enamel paints for panel lining on matt paint jobs and had no major problems. Just have to rub a bit harder to remove unwanted smudges. Not too sure about panel line marker pens though…

  5. I used gundam marker as yours shown above for my panel lining. I however did not paint my kit. When I used top coat (spray can, Testor brand), my panel linings were smudged all over place.

    Can you give me some advises about why the smudging happened and how to prevent it?

    My much appreciation,
    Hildon Godchild

    • Sounds like you oversprayed the topcoat. Try spraying a good distance (~20cm) from your model and move the can as you spray. Hope that helps

      • Hi Kusakusa,
        My much appreciation for you reply. I believe I did sprayed a bit too close. However is 20cm too far ? I fear the spray would not reach the model

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