How to GUNPLA

November 29, 2010 at 17:27 | Posted in How-to | 2 Comments
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After building plenty of model kits down the years, I decided to come up with a basic gunpla-building workflow, summarized in this flowchart:

how-to-gunplaIt’s not necessarily something that you have to follow, it’s just my own Standard Operating Procedure. You can read the TLDR version below:

1. Snapfit your model
Sounds simple enough, just follow the instruction manual. This is where you get acquainted with your model kit. As you build, you should take note of which parts need to have the seam-line fixed, which parts need coloring, masking or modification. Since I usually disassemble the kit again after snap-fitting, its better not to snap-fit the parts too tightly.

2. Disassemble and apply modification/fixes
After snap-fitting and identifying which parts need fixing or modification, I disassemble the kit and sort according to body part (head, torso, arms, legs). Then I do some of the following to the individual parts:

i) Clean up the nip marks
ii) Fix seam lines
iii) Apply structural modifications (battle damage, mobility improvement etc.)
iv) Paint/mask parts that require different color
v) Add detail parts (Wave, M.S.G, etc): *optional*

3. Priming and painting
Priming entails spraying your kit with surfacers or primers, which usually come in neutral colors (white, grey, black). This essentially makes your kit a blank canvas prior to painting. For example: if the original plastic is molded in red, and the intended color is white. It’s better to cover up the red with a layer of primer & then paint it white, rather than painting many layers of white color to cover up the red (in which case it can end up pink).

Other reasons to prime your whole kit are: It makes the paint stick easier to the kit surface & also allows you to identify scratches or imperfections on your kit. I use a spray can (Mr. White Surfacer, Gaianotes Evospray etc.) for priming.

For painting, I used to rely on spray cans (Mr. Color, Tamiya) and hand painting using Tamiya enamels. Now I use an airbrush with lacquer paints (Mr. Color, Gaiainotes). Before spraying, the separate parts are attached to a bamboo stick and then arranged on to a polystyrene block (the white packaging stuff inside boxes) or whatever surface where the sticks can be upright. After painting, I tend to leave it for a few days for the paint to cure.

4. Choose your path
From here on, there’s two options to take, depending on the final look I’m after: clean or weathered. Admittedly, I tend to favor the weathered look; but sometimes just for the sake of doing something different (or when I’m lazy), I go for the clean look.

The clean path

If you’ve chosen the clean look, there’s only two things to do: add panel lines and apply decals. You can add panel lines first and then decals, or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter.

The weathered path

It takes a bit more effort and time to reproduce a weathered and damaged look to your model kit. The first thing to do is apply decals. To enhance the sense of realism, you’d want the decals to also look weathered, especially the huge markings. Imagine a clean, white, numeral marking on top of a dirty, weathered, shoulder part for example. That would look a bit unrealistic, no?

It should be noted that I exclusively use waterslide decals. Stickers are just ダメ。Now would also be a good time to apply some scratch marks on the decals to further add the illusion of battle damage. Just very carefully scratch the decals with a hobby blade.

Next, you’d want to protect those carefully applied decals with a layer of gloss topcoat.

Now it’s time to add weathering effects. I usually apply the wash method using enamel paints. This step also fills the seam lines so it’s like killing two birds with one stone. Other weathering effects you can do include:
i) Dry brushing
ii) Add paint chipping effects
iii) Apply touch up using weathering pastels

5. Final topcoat and assembly
After I’m done with all the previous steps, its time to apply a final layer of topcoat. You can choose gloss, semi-gloss or flat topcoats depending on how you want your kit to look like. For me, 99% of the time I use flat topcoat. I usually apply the topcoat on the assembled arms, legs & torso separately and then make the final assembly. And that’s it for the building part.

6. Photography
What you want to do with your kit after you’re done with it is up to you. But I’m sure after all the effort put into the kit, you’d want other people to appreciate it as well. You can read about how I photograph my kits in this post.

After photography, I keep the ones I like on my shelf. The rest I keep in a box to conserve shelf space. Maybe I should consider selling them. Any takers?

So if you’ve made it all the way here, thank you for reading and I hope this post was useful. If not, let me know your opinions in the comment section.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Hi there, what type of paints are best to use for gundam airbrushing? Acrylics or enamel?

    • between those two? acrylics, I guess. I’ve only ever used lacquer paints for airbrushing. i tend to use enamel paints for handpainting or panel lining


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