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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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

Gunpla Building Tutorials? Here’s the ‘Fun to Build Gunpla’ Campaign

I have been asked a lot of times for Gunpla building tutorials. I always direct them to the Fun to Build Gunpla Campaign which can easily be found on Youtube. All the instructions you need to properly build Gunpla are practically here.

For those who are too lazy to search, here’s the complete playlist of the Fun to Build Gunpla videos.

  1. Introduction to Fun to Build Gunpla
  2. Basic Tools
  3. Cutting Out Parts
  4. Dealing with Gates 1: Cleaning Up Nubs with a File
  5. Dealing with Gates 2: Smoothing Out Nubs with Sandpaper
  6. Touch Up Painting 1: Basic Tools
  7. Touch Up Painting 2: Panel Lining with a Mechanical Pencil
  8. Touch Up Painting 3
  9. Decals for Gunpla
  10. Basic Decal Application 1: Foil Stickers
  11. Basic Decal Application 2: Transparent Stickers
  12. Basic Decal Application 3: Gundam Decals
  13. Basic Decal Application 4: Waterslide Decals
  14. Trimming RG Decals
  15. Smooth and Clean Polycap Insertion
  16. What to do When You Forget a Part
  17. Smoothing Over Edges
  18. Taking the Next Step 1: Sharpening Up Parts
  19. Taking the Next Step 2: Boring Barrels with a Pin Vise
  20. Using Lining Pens 1: Choosing a Color
  21. Using Lining Pens 2: Wipe-away Pens
  22. Using a Marker for the First Time
  23. Before Painting 1: About Different Types of Paint
  24. Before Painting 2: Oil Base Color
  25. Before Painting 3: Acrylic
  26. Before Painting 4: Enamel
  27. Trying Out Airbrushing 1: Good Paints for Airbrushing
  28. Trying Out Airbrushing 2: Thinning Paint
  29. Trying Out Airbrushing 3: What Happens When I Don’t Thin Properly?
  30. Trying Out Airbrushing 4: Basic Painting
  31. Trying Out Airbrushing 5: Keeping Paint Off of Shafts
  32. Airbrushing Techniques 1: Gradations
  33. Airbrushing Techniques 2: Shading 1
  34. Airbrushing Techniques 2: Shading 2
  35. Airbrushing Techniques 3: Metallic Colors 1
  36. Airbrushing Techniques 3: Metallic Colors 2
  37. Airbrush Maintenance

Sources: GUNDAM.INFO, Youtube

What Could Happen if Bootlegs Win Against Bandai

I once saw this post in one of the Philippine Gunpla community groups in Facebook: “Bandai should just close down if they can’t compete with the prices of [enter bootleg company here].” —or something within that context. It seems that he is a bootleg collector as there was a smiley at the end of his statement.

So let’s think about that for a while. What if the bootleg companies actually bring down Bandai and the company just decided to shut its doors for good? What could go wrong? First, let’s view this promotional video from Bandai to get an idea on how Gunpla are produced.

What’s the next release?

Okay, so point number one, Bandai has engineers who create the Gundam designs. But why engineers? Why not artists? Because more than the aesthetic form of the mecha they also have to plot each part of the robot to make the framework mechanically movable. Or else, you end up making a static statue rather than a dynamically posable action figure.

So if we lose Bandai, it takes its entire design team with it. Since bootleggers primarily just copy the design molds Bandai engineers created, the possibility of new releases goes down the drain. We’ll be stuck with what is generally left existing in the Gundam world.

Where’s that mobile suit from?

Let’s say one of these bootleg companies shell out the money (I’m pretty sure that investment will reflect on the price of their kits) to hire their own design team, that would be awesome, right? But wait, Bandai also owns Sunrise, which is basically the soul of Gunpla. Without the Gundam series, animes, manga, OVAs, etc., these mobile suits are just shells that do not have personality because they do not have a profound backstory.

When you build an RX-78-2, you don’t just visualize the Gundam, you also remember Amuro. You see Char in the cockpit of that Sazabi. These pilots, characters, personalities are the ones that bring life to Gundam and, subconsciously, you feel that when building Gunpla. Honestly, would you continue supporting a Gunpla that does not have any essence whatsoever?

New studio, new anime?

Again, hypothetically, that bootleg company creates its own anime studio and revives the Gundam series. That will again, of course, cost money. They will now gamble on the premise that the new series will be a hit with the fans, so as to increase sales of new Gunpla releases. That’s if they legally get the rights. If not, they will be left with the choice of introducing a new mecha series. Which is an even bigger gamble on their part.

What has happened here?

So what do we end up with all these hypothetical scenarios? Well, practically, the bootleg company has replaced Bandai as the legitimate brand. And with all those new investments, you should expect that their model kits will also increase to cope with the extra overhead. Which, opens up the opportunity for another bootleg company to release imitations at a lower price. And the cycle starts again.

But all of these scenarios are accompanied by big IFs. IF a bootleg company would actually invest. IF they decide to continue with their demographic of just bootleg another brand. IF they actually visualize themselves as the primary brand for Gunpla. Because otherwise, Gunpla will no longer move forward and will inevitably end. Sucks for us.