Best Practices for Painting Gunpla

Painting is practically the beginner’s first step into Gunpla customization. If you are brave enough to try and make your Gunpla your own, you’ll find that it’s very satisfying and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Here are some tips on how to get the best results when painting your Gunpla.

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  • How’s the weather? Wet weather causes moisture in the air, which can greatly affect spray painting. Water droplets can mix with your paint while it travels from the spray can or airbrush to the painting surface. This is the common cause of frosting. To avoid ruining your paint job, do your painting during sunny weather. It also helps if you have a spray booth with an exhaust fan. This circulates the air and sucks any moisture out of your way.
  • Do not paint over a dirty surface. Before you apply your paint, make sure that the plastic is free from dirt and dust. Use a brush or your airbrush to blow away any molecules stuck on the surface. Also wipe off oils, stains, and even fingerprints.
  • Agitate your paint pigments thoroughly. Rigorously shake your spray can or stir your bottled paint for at least one minute. Dormant paint lets its pigments settle at the bottom of its container. Agitating paint allows those pigments to disperse making the paint more workable and opaque.
  • Know your brushes. There are basically three types of brushes based on their shape: flat, round, and pointed. Base coats are best applied using a flat or round brush, depending of the edges of the part you are painting. Pointed brushes are good for detailing. It’s also better to use a larger brush for the larger parts to minimize the brush strokes. Lesser brush strokes result in a cleaner finish. Also, brushes with soft sable bristles are better for smoother finishes while hog/bristle brushes produce a rougher texture.
  • To prime or not to prime? Most builders would say priming is not necessary but is recommended. I say, ALWAYS prime. A primer acts as a filler for any minute, invisible blemishes that the plastic may have that may have been caused by unintended scratches or sanding. It also reveals larger blemishes, which allows you to fix before applying your base color. Priming also gives you an even-colored base which makes sure that your colors are as uniform as possible by preventing color bleeding.
  • Maintain proper distance when spray painting. Most modelers will tell you to keep at least ten centimeters between the painting surface and your spray can or airbrush. That is not entirely true. It all depends on the strength of your spray. Model grade spray cans (e.g., Tamiya, Mr. Color) usually have 30-40psi of pressure—for which you can probably apply the 10cm rule—while industrial grade spray cans (e.g., Bosny) can go up to 80psi—which means you have to spray from a greater distance to avoid overspray. On the other hand, you also don’t want to spray too far or you’ll just be dusting the surface and produce a grainier texture. It’s practically trial and error at first until you get a feel for your equipment and the paint products you are using.
  • Paint in multiple thin coats. Rather than finishing your paint job with just one thick layer, apply a thin coat and let it dry. Don’t worry if you do not get full paint coverage on the first coat. The second and third (if necessary) will take care of that for you. You’ll be amazed on how clean and sleek the result will turn out.
  • Let the paint cure before re-assembling your kit. Paint is considered ‘dry’ when its solvents have evaporated, which can take only hours depending on the type of paint you used. Curing is a totally different thing. Paint is ‘cured’ when it has reached its maximum hardness, in which case you can consider it as 100% dry. Letting your paint cure for at least 1-2 days prevents it from chipping when you start to assemble your kit.
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