Sunday, May 1, 2011

What do I need to know about painting my Gunpla model kit? (FAQ)

What are my options to paint my model kit?
You can use paint markers, hand painting, spray can paints or airbrushing.

So which method should I use?
It really depends on what you are trying to achieve.
1. If you only want to add missing colour only, you always use paint markers or hand painting.
2. If you want to do a customise paint job, you probably need to use spray can paint or airbrushing.

Paint Markers : Cheapest of all the painting option, all you really need is the paint marker. To paint finer details, you can squeeze the paint out of the marker onto a tray and use a fine brush to apply the paint. You need to clean the brush with industrial thinner after use. The downside of using the paint markers is that you are limited to the colours available, would be difficult for you to mix your own custom colour.

Hand Painting : Next cheapest option is to hand paint. All you need is to invest in some paints,  brushes, paint thinner(with retarder) and industrial thinner. Hand painting requires some level of skill to apply the paint without  leaving behind brushmarks. Leveling thinners contains retarder to slow the drying time of paints to allow it level out and reduce the amount of brushmarks. The upside to using hand brushing is the unlimited amount of colours you can create by mixing paints. The downside is the brushmarks left behind when painting large area. The paint applied may be quite thick. It is quite difficult hand paint metallic paints over large surface area.

Spray Can : If you are only planning to paint a few model kits, spray can would be a better option. Otherwise, you should consider investing in a airbrush/compressor set. Spray can may look cheap (S$3-7 per can) initially, but when you use 6 to 7 different colours per model. After several models the cost really adds up. The upside to using spray can to paint is the evenness in the paint job, especially over large area. The downside of spray can is the cost and limit range of colours available. Furthermore, the is a large amount of wastage due to spraying from a distance the model.

Airbrushing : If you have the money to invest in a decent airbrush/compressor set (probably in the range of S$300-S$400), it would be the best option. You can spray large area evenly, mix your own custom colours, spray finely detailed area without covering up the details, spraying flat coat without fear of it 'frosting', minimum wastage of paint and option to do pre-shading and post-shading. The downside to airbrush is the initial investment required.

To be continued ...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Top Coats related FAQs

What is Top Coat?
It is a transparent coating sprayed on top of the paint.

Why do I need to spray Top coats?
Top Coat is used for the following reasons:
1.  Protect the paint.
2.  Seal the decals.
3.  Give the model kit the desired finishing.
4.  Slows the yellowing of unpainted model kit.

What are the different types top coat finishing available?
1. Matt/ flat : This kind of finishing diffuses light and no reflection can be seen.
2. Semi-gloss: Some what between Gloss and Matt finishing. Slightly Glossier than the original plastic.
3. Gloss : Pretty much like a car finishing, highly reflective or sometimes like mirror finish.

Should I apply Top coat to my models if I only panel-line but not paint them?
It is not necessary, but Top coat will slow/prevent the plastic from yellowing. Flat top coat applied on a unpainted model also makes it look less like a toy.

When should I apply Top coat?
Generally, Top coat is applied as the last / final coat.

Is it necessary to apply a layer of gloss top coat before applying decals?
Unless your paint finish is very rough, you do not have to apply a layer of gloss top coat before applying decals. The gloss top coat is to provide a smooth surface to make it easier to position the water-slide decals. Note of caution, if the coat of gloss is applied is too thick, the decal may appear to be floating.

Is it necessary to apply a layer of gloss top coat before doing panel-lining with enamel paint?
Unless your paint finish is very rough, you do not have to apply a layer of gloss top coat before doing panel-lining. If the surface is too rough, it may be difficult to clean of the excess enamel paint.

Why do my panel line smudge when I apply Gloss top coat?
Panel lines are usually done with markers or enamel paints. The solvent from the lacquer Top coat may dissolve the panel line paint, if too much top coat is applied, Apply a thin layer of top coat first, allow one day for the Top coat to cure before applying a thicker second layer.

Why do certain area of my model kit turn white (frosting) after I applied the Flat Top coat (Spray can)?
You probably applied your Flat Top coat when it was humid , like rainy days or at night. The spray reacts with the moisture in the air to create the 'frosting' effect. Although the effect on the semi-gloss and gloss Top coat is not as drastic as the Flat Top coat. It is strongly advised that you apply you Top coat on a Hot and Sunny day.

I can only work on my models at night. Is there a way to apply my Flat Top coat at night?
You can try warming you the can before use by placing it in warm water (not Hot water), it should reduce the chance of frosting, but this method is not guaranteed. Another alternative is to apply Top coat using airbrush, it does not produce frosting effect. 

Added on 10-May-2011
What can I do if my Flat coat "frosted"?
Several Remedial Actions
1. If you own an Airbrush set, you can try to dissolve the frosted area by spraying lacquer hobby thinner, eg. Mr Color or Gaia paint thinner, not industrial thinner (Thinner you get at the hardware store).

2. If you do not own an Airbrush set, you can spray gloss topcoat over the frosted area to remove the frosting. Apply in moderate amounts, or else the top coat will look unnaturally thick.

Alternatively, you can wait for the Flat topcoat to completely dry and cure before sanding lightly with 1000 grade sandpaper to remove some of it. If you cannot remove all the frosting, spray over the remaining frosted area with Gloss topcoat.

 If the topcoat is sprayed over unpainted plastic with no stickers or dry transfer, you can try applying Mr. Color or Gaia thinner with a brush over the frosted area to dissolve the topcoat and wipe it off with a tissue / unwanted cloth. This method can be fairly messy and not advise unless all other options are not available. (Although Mr. Color and Gaia thinner are not suppose to melt plastic, but it may cause the plastic to become a little more brittle.)
Last Edited on 10-May-2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sanguokuden - Basic Mod 01

It's been some time since I updated this blog. Been busy with work and some Sanguokuden project. While cementing all the parts before sanding and priming. I was hesitating whether to cement the shoulder armor for Lui Bei and Guan Yu, because I may have to mask and spray the parts in different colour. Sam offered me a simple and elegant solution to this problem, which I believe most of you would be able to do.

Cut a some slit at the bottom of each of the shoulder part just big enough for the other part to snap into it. Test fit with the other part before cementing these two parts.

Just make sure that the slits on the two shoulder parts are aligned in the same direction.

Less masking required. Hooray.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WIP - Fine Mold 1/48 X-Wing - Part 3

After sanding the parts, some of the panel lines were a bit shallower than normal, so I decided to deepen the lines.

I used a pen knife to deepen the mark first, then deepen the panel lines using 0.1 mm BMC scriber to deepen the panel lines. The benefit of using the BMC scriber compared to Tamiya Plastic Scriber is that the lines do not widen with each cut, the width of the line is always consistent.

Now the lines looks more even, but it is taking pretty long time to make sure they are neat (especially right-angled lines) Looks like this build will take longer than expected, back to work.

To be continued.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WIP - Fine Mold 1/48 X-Wing - Part 2

Using SSP-HG putty. The package contains a bottle of powder, 2 bottles of glue, 3 pieces of wax paper, a scoop and a applicator as shown in photo below.

Place some powder on the wax paper and add some glue.

Mix the two parts till it turns a little pink. If too much powder is added to glue, it drys really quickly (in the matter of seconds). If you get the right mix, you got about 30 seconds to apply the putty.

I marked out the sink marked that I want to fill with a gundam marker, so I don't have to look for them when the putty is drying.

By the time I started to take photos, the putty seems dry, will try sanding in a while just to be safe.

Back to sanding, at least I don't have to wait a day or 2 for the putty to cure. Back to work.

To be continued

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WIP - Fine Mold 1/48 X-Wing - Part 1

Inspired by DC23 1/72 X-Wing fighter, I dug up my 1/48 X-Wing fighter from my store and started a quick snap fit of the kit. I discovered quite a few sink marks on the kit, so it's probably going to take some time to remove the sink marks and redo the panel lines. Overall fitting for the kit is pretty good.

Trying out a new type of putty for this kit. SSP-HG. This putty is mostly use for sculpting and scratch building. It's not very popular in Singapore because of the cost (abt S$30). I am trying it out, because it will not sink as it dries like the Tamiya basic putty and it is fairly easy to shave and sand (Like sanding resin material).

A snap fit of the kit, plenty of puttying and sanding ahead.

To be continued.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Video from Plamo Tsukurou - Applying Decals

While taking a break, I was searching through Youtube and I found a video on applying decals. The video is in Japanese and I had to guess what the modeller was doing.

In the Part 1 of the video, the modeller already sprayed a layer of gloss coat over the paint before applying decals. At the start of this video, he uses a soft brush to any water trapped (looks like little bubbles on the decal)  between the decal and the surface by brushing it out towards the edge. He then applies a decal softener (the one I use is Mr Mark Softener) to allow the decal to conform to the shape of the surface.Sometimes, Mark Setter needs to be applied to the decal to increase the adhesiveness of the decal.

Next, he uses a 2 part Polyurethane clear (PU Clear) to protect the paint and decal, also to achieve a high level of gloss. The 3 bottles are the PU Clear, hardener and thinner, the mixing ratio for the clear is very important. Note that spraying PU Clear can be hazardous, so a mask is a definite must if you intend to use it. He sprays a fair thick layer of clear ( must be thicker than decal to cover the decals). The video breaks for a short while for the clear to dry. Normally the PU clear takes about 1 day to dry and cure, depending on the amount hardener use. If less than the stipulated harder is used, the clear may take up to 3 days to cure. If too much hardener is used, the clear may appear very wrinkled. When the Clear was cured, he uses a 2000 grit sandpaper to sand the surface until the clear and the decal is levelled. He then finishes by removing the sanding mark by using a polishing compound.

When building gundam, decals are applied in similar way except we normally use gloss top coat (normally Mr Super Clear Gloss) seal the decal and finish with a flat coat after levelling the surface. Hope you learn as much as I did.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WIP - Sanguoken Shin Totaku Zaku - Part 1

Just started on this model kit. Plastic is pretty hard, so I had to be careful during cutting or else I will end up with tons of holes to patch up. This build will be pretty much OOB with maybe some minor detailing. I am try to get a colour scheme to portray this evil character and I was planning on borrowing the colour scheme used by leon ku on his megatron.

Although the colour scheme on Shin Totaku Zaku will not have as many colour, I will be adopting the steel colour with a slight gold tinge and the pale gold combination. Preliminary test of colours are as follows:
1. Steel
2. Pale Gold

- To be continued -

Monday, February 14, 2011

WIP - Sanguoken Kan Pei Gundam

Was trying out metallic finishing using normal paint mixed with gloss clear sprayed over Gaia EX silver. The effect was acceptable, pretty much like use clear colour paints. Almost done with this model, left with masking and spray the chest piece and the backpack. Also need to finish panel-lining all the parts. This model took longer than expected due to the extensive need for masking, will probably use hand painting for the final details next time. I did cut some corners and used the stickers provided for the kit. Hopefully I will be able to finish this few days.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tutorial - Removing Seam Lines

1. Place the 2 parts of plastic to be joined together and leave a small gap between them.

2. Apply cement to the gap. Allow the cement to flow in by capillary action (sucked into the gap).

3. Squeeze the 2 pieces until excess plastic flows out.

4. Wait about a day for the plastic to harden before sanding. You should be able to reduce the visibility of the seam line.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An alternative to basic putty? -Updated

In the process of writing a sanding tutorial, I ran into the problem of trying to explain how to use basic putty to fill any holes, gaps and sink mark on a model kit. If I were to use putty to fill, then I have to paint the model kit, since basic putty only comes in white and grey. How are people who do not intend to paint going to fill the hole? I am now trying out the alternative means to putty and people who do not intend to paint can also use. Here is the jist of the idea.

1. Cut off the runner of the same colour as the plastic part I intend to fill.
2. File it into fine powder.
3. Apply a thin layer of extra thin cement over the hole.
4. Sprinkle the plastic powder over the cement.
5. Compact with a paint stirrer.
6. Apply another thin layer of extra thin cement over the plastic powder to dissolve it.
7. Repeat the process until the hole, gap or sink mark is filled.
8. Wait for 1 to 2 days for the plastic to harden before sanding.

I think the theory is sound, but not sure if the above method will work in practice, but I will give it a try. Will update on this issue. Any other suggestions or comments for this problem are welcome.

I tried the above method and the results are as follows:
1. It works for the softer plastics (probably polystyrene).
2. The results on the harder and more brittle plastics (probably ABS or similar plastics) is not as good, because the cement cannot melt the plastics effectively.
3. Another problem is the mess leave behind if not done properly. (I destroyed my old coffee bean grinder, trying to grind the plastic to powder form. Lol, I got lazy to file)

Unfortunate for those who do not wish to paint their kits, but I am left to conclude that using putty may still be the best option yet.

As many modeller knows basic putty has it's own problem to be discussed at a later time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tutorial - Basic Tools (Part 1)

This being my first attempt in writing a tutorial, I will try to be as clear and concise as possible. I have to apologise for the photo, because I am not much of a photographer.

For this tutorial, I will be using the Sanguo kuden soldier to demonstrate the use of some basic modelling tools.

One of the tools that you will need is a knife (A hobby knife or penknife, will discuss the differences in some other tutorial) to open the plastic bag for the "runners" (The frame where all the parts are attached to, a.k.a. the spruce)

Below picture shows the "runner"

The first step in modelling is always to check if all the parts are on the runner before cutting open the clear plastic bag containing the runner. Next we need to remove the parts from the runner using a side cutter. I normal use a two step method, which I will call the 'Cut and Trim' method.

A plastic side cutter has one cutting surface which is flat (Lets call it the 'flat side'). It looks like any side cutter, which you can buy from any hardware store. A good plastic side cutter is very sharp and it will not rust easily. I was asked many times whats the difference, so I decided to try using a side cutter from the hardware store and the plastic side cutter. The industrial side cutter is not as sharp and sometimes damages the plastic parts by "biting" a hole during triming (more obvious with the bigger parts)

The 'Cut and Trim' method is divided into 2 steps.
Step 1:
Cut the part from the runner with the 'flat side' facing away from the part. (Although the Sanguo kuden parts were designed to be snap off the runner, but it leaves behind a small hole)

Step 2 :
Trim the excess by placing the 'flat side' of the cutter flush with the part as shown in the picture below.

No matter how sharp your cutter is, it would leave behind a small "stub"

The stub can be removed using a sandpaper or a sanding stick.

Sand along the side to remove the stub. Start with 400 grade sandpaper, progress to 600 then 1000 grade. (The larger the number on the sandpaper, the finer the finish)

You will notice after sanding, the surface is flat but the stub still appears to be there. The mark is a slight discolouration of the plastic cause by fracturing of the plastic when we trimmed. If you intend to paint the model, the mark will disappear under the paint. However, if you do not intend to paint, you can make it less noticable by applying a thin layer of Tamiya Extra Thin cement. It will 'melt' the plastic a little and when it hardens again after a day, sand a little and the mark would not be obvious.

Next step is to remove 'mold line'. Mole lines can be found in all plastic manufactured using injection molding. I highlighted the mold line with a pencil. It can be remove by just sanding it. Notice the discolouration of the plastic after I sanded it with 400 grade sandpaper. Don't worry, just sand it with finer grade sandpaper and the plastic will return to near it's original colour.

Lastly, some of the parts need to be cemented together. I use Tamiya cement (There are other brands out there, but do not use super glue). Apply the cement on one side of the part to be bonded. The cement will 'melt' the plastic slightly, which allows the plastic from both parts to fuse together. (For larger parts, do not use Extra Thin cement, it drys too quickly). Press the two pieces of plastic tightly, would be good if there is a little overflow of plastic. Make sure there is no gap between the two pieces of plastic.

This concludes the tutorial introducing basic tools like plastic side cutter, knife, sandpaper and cement. Next time I will show how to remove seam lines formed when 2 parts of plastic are bonded together. Hope this tutorial is help for you.


Hi everyone,
My name is Erik and I started modelling in the 70s doing Matchbox, Airfix and Tamiya models. In those days I only tools I had were nail-clippers and panda glue to build my models. There was a long lapse from 1982 to 2004, where school-work, NS and work commitments kept me away from modelling.

When I visited a Gundam shop back in 2004, the flame inside me started to burn again. I was totally overwhelmed by the tools and equipments now available for modelling. It was a pretty heavy bit of investment getting what I needed. I thought it might be good for me to share some of experience for people who are interested in the same hobby or those who may wish to pick up this hobby but do not know where to start.

In my next post, I will be introducing some of the basic tools and techniques needed to start this hobby.

So stay tune. (No reason for me to procastinate anymore)