Gunpla Newbie Guide: Construction Manual Icons, What Do They Mean?

If you have built at least one Gunpla, you will recognize these icons as they are all over the construction manual. Non-Japanese-speaking (or –reading for that matter) folks like me, could only try and decipher these icons. Although Bandai’s construction manuals are easy to follow—even without any reading involved—it is still useful to know what these icons stand for.

Apply Glue


Bandai’s early Gunpla kits require the use of plastic cement or glue. Although today’s kits are snap-built, you may still see this icon in a few construction manuals.

Apply Sticker

StickerNumberThis icon comes with a Japanese symbol that identifies which sticker to use. Unless you will be painting your kit, it is recommended that you apply stickers as you go on assembling your kit.

Apply Decal

DecalLetterMore complicated kits—such as MGs and PGs—come with dry transfer and/or waterslide decals. This icon indicates that you may apply these decals during the construction of a part/section.

Attach Part to Opposite Side

AttachToOppositeSideSome parts are intended to be placed on a specific side of an assembly. This icon indicates that the specified part should be attached to the opposite side of the part related to it.

Attach Identical Parts to Each Side

IdenticalPartWhen you see this icon, attach two pieces of the same part to each side of a section.

Do Not Over-Tighten Screw


Some Gunpla kits—usually PGs—require screws. This icon warns you not to over-tighten the screw as doing so can crack the plastic and damage the part.

Also Move the Other Side


RG frames oftentimes require loosening or moving a part into position. This icon tells you to also move the opposite side of a part/section.

Cut Off


Some parts may have nubs or stumps that should be removed. Remember to only cut parts that are indicated by this icon. Otherwise, stick with cutting parts from the runner gates.

Assemble First


Construction manuals provide step-by-step instructions that should be strictly followed. Complete any section that is accompanied by this icon first before you proceed to any other assembly.

Assemble Later


This icon is the opposite of the above icon. This indicates that the section should be assembled after one or a series of assemblies have been completed.

Multiple Assembly


You can usually see this icon when assembling multiple parts/sections such as arms, legs, funnels, wings, etc. The value indicates the number of parts/sections you must complete.



This icon simply tells you to rotate a part to a specific direction as well as how many degrees it should be rotated.

Mind the Orientation

PayAttentionSome parts are a bit tricky to position so you have to pay attention to its orientation when attaching.

Alternative Parts


Some kits include alternative parts. Choose the part that you prefer and attach it. This usually solves the mystery of additional parts that are left over from your kit.


Barnaby Brooks Jr. Becomes a Trendy Stormtrooper – Conversion Build by Acoy Delgado

It’s one thing to build a model kit and do some bad ass customisations. But, it’s another when you create an entirely unique character from a totally different kit. Such are the skills of premiere modeler, Acoy Delgado. One of his latest projects, a Galactic Empire Stormtrooper crafted from Bandai’s 1/8 MG Figure Rise Barnaby Brooks, Jr. kit. See the progression of the build below.


You’d think that the concept is simple until you look into the obvious details of this build: the red Chucks, double-striped sleeves, mace from a 1/100 Kampfer,  backpack-mounted Gundam rifle, even the Kanji gives the figure much character.

Modeler: Acoy Delgado

Painting Notes: Airbrushed and hand painted with Pylox and Vallejo paints; Washed with MIG products.

Modeling Notes: Modifications  using sculpted AquaStop clayputty, Gundam parts, and plastic plates.

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.


  • 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.

Decisions… Decisions, Getting Your First Gunpla

So you want to try out building Gunpla, see if you’d enjoy it, and (maybe) eventually start your own collection. Now, you’re trying to decide with which kit to start. Given that Gunpla has been around for more than 30 years now, there are literally thousands of options. Here are a few tips or what to consider that may help you on finding your first Gunpla kit.

  • Are you really into it? That’s should be the first question you ask yourself. Are you really interested in the hobby or a friend just pushed you to try it out? If you’re into toys, statues, action figures, anime, manga… Gunpla should be interesting to you, and you should start with the latest kits. If you’re just peeking to get into a new hobby, start with simple kits so as not to get you intimidated.
  • What’s your favorite Gundam anime? If you don’t have one, pick one. Most starting collectors—may it be model kits, toys, statues, etc.—lose interest quickly because they fail to have a connection with their collection in the long run. Starting with your favorite Gundam anime’s Gunpla line allows you to create that connection. If you have seen the mobile suit in action, you get more enjoyment in building the kit. You will know its character and that increases your eagerness to finish the build. If you haven’t watched a single Gundam anime, you may want to switch to another interests.
  • Are you a novice or experienced modeler? If you have been building model kits (aircraft, ships, tanks, mecha) for a while now, you might want to start with the more complex Gunpla grades (RG, MG, PG) to make it worth your while. Gotten used to plastic cement? Gunplas should be  a cinch because you don’t need it. If you have never built a kit before, it’s not that difficult since everything is snap-fit. You may want to start with HGs (1/144 or 1/100 scale) or, if you’re into cutie figures, SDs.
  • Do not let others decide for you. Down to two kits? Just flip a coin, do an eenie meenie miini moh, or better yet, buy them both. Other people’s opinions practically don’t matter. These are probably your best options, anyway, and any choice you make would be the right one. So, get the kit and start having fun.

I did not include Gunpla price as a consideration. This hobby WILL require some monetary investment. If you are unprepared to dish out a little bit of dough, maybe this is not for you. Try out papercraft or origami, instead.

Build Burning Gundam Model Kit Contest – Photo Gallery

Event: Build Burning Gundam Model Kit Contest
Date: February 6-28, 2016
Venue: ToyTown Glorietta, Makati (Philippines)
Rules: Out-of-the-box build (1/144 HG Build Burning Gundam only), custom colors allowed, after market/custom decals allowed, no stands, action bases, diorama, vignettes.
Photo Credits: Nagiyaka Pepper