On Building Gunpla.

I started building Gunpla because I wanted to make something with my hands, away from the computer screen. Well, that’s kind of moot now because these days I watch podcasts or series while building. Anyway I like Gunpla because, like any art form, they represent potential and commitment. It’s another kind of blank canvas. One of my peeves is seeing  poorly posed or photographed kits because they can look so much better.

Some are content with out of the box builds, they’re not wrong in any way. We’re free to have the toys we like. Some take it to a way different level of skill and dedication. I enjoy seeing how far the medium can be pushed.

(The rest of the photos can be found on this gallery:
High Grade 1/144 Gundam Vidar.)

These are the tools I’ll be using for this build. The set I bought about a year into the hobby, the sandpaper I got almost three years ago while working on my first few Master Grades. You’ll be surprised how long these last. They are great investments initially. The waterslide decals are all new. This is actually the first kit I’ll be using them on.


Random Tip I’ve picked up number 1: Washing the runners in dishwashing liquid. Some mention it’s unnecessary but I do it anyway. Those who do say it washes off the mold release chemicals from the runners to make them easier to paint or apply decals to.

When cutting from the runners, first cut the gates further from the pieces then cut nearer after (but not all the way). Make smaller cuts with a knife then finish with sanding. You need really sharp nippers to avoid stressing out the plastic. The white marks, or flashes, that could appear often results from dull nippers that are actually tearing into the plastic. When using the knife, cutting away from you is said to be more effective in getting smoother results. I actually don’t practice these tips enough that sometimes I get those horrible flashes. My nippers are getting pretty dull too.

The white flashes on damaged plastic are notorious on dark colored pieces. Nothing much to do except painting them over or hope the top coat hides them. Sanding them down could help if they are shallow enough; but you’ll have to do the entire surface to match. Using your nails to lightly reform the plastic is also viable in some cases. A cheap way I found is to use the panel line markers to paint over the flashes then wipe them off immediately. Sometimes it makes them easier to be hidden.

Painting the tiny mechanical details in the frames is one of the things I enjoy most since I learned it. I usually go with gold and silver, but for this kit I went for a red-orange accent. Doing this really brings out the detail in some kits that others overlook. I started liking  the High Grades and Real Grades more because of this. I can just paint sloppily when doing recessed areas because I can clean them up later with sanding or alcohol. I really need to try out actual thinners some day to see if they work better.

You can paint the details while the pieces are still on the runners too when there are no gates nearby those areas. This is especially helpful when doing multiple layers to build up the colors since you’ll have a more stable structure to paint on. When the colors are too thin or the plastic is too dark (without priming) you’ll need to do one layer of thin paint at a time.

High grade kits’ v-fins usually have extra plastic stubs at the end that don’t match the line art. It’s a small detail that I only found out when it was pointed out to me. I read that they are there for kids’ safety. You can trim them off and sand the v-fin down to a point. Front skirts are also usually molded together. They can be cut apart to provide more articulation. The pieces made to fit them are also made to support this so there’s no need to modify those.

Many kits are plagued by loose joints out of the box. In fact, many builders are turned away by this fact when watching reviews. Bad joints may result from defects, huge weapons that aren’t meant to be held, and improper weight distribution in general. There was a very helpful tip I read when I was just starting out so solve this: Super glue. But wait. I am NOT talking about fixing the kit’s joints and turning it into a figure. The secret is about reinforcing the joints to tighten their fit. Problem areas may include, but are not limited to: Toe joints, ankles, knees, hips, the waist joints, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and the neck. I think I just mentioned every joint. Be careful where to apply the glue, don’t use too much and be sure to let them dry completely before testing the fits. I usually go over the peg portions only since they are easier to sand off if they are too tight. Recently, I’ve also tried applying the glue to the pieces all at once while they are on the runners so they can dry at the same time.

Panel line colors mostly lie on personal preferences. They say using only black lines can make the kit look more like anime line art. I prefer a more minimal and realistic look. For white pieces I usually go for no lines, or use very light gray. For colored pieces I test out what grays I have first to see if it looks good. For lighter colored pieces some would use a darker shade of that color; when I don’t have those I prefer not lining them at all. I only used the gray Gundam panel line marker for this build. Outside of the premade  markers or washes you could also make your own cheap panel line washes with paint, water, and a little drop of dishwashing liquid. The detergent will make the paint solution run on the lines better than just with water. When cleaning up lines, I noticed a subtle darkening effect on the plastic on the surrounding areas. This could be caused by using a dirty cotton bud. Sometimes, though, you can mimic the effects of preshading with this method.

I moved away from Master Grades because I didn’t really like the huge chunks of blank plastic they had out of the box. When I saw the compactness of the decals on Real Grades, it was the aesthetic and scale that got me hooked. This is the first HG kit I’ll be using waterslide decals on. There aren’t any specific sheets for the Vidar, or for most kits, so I just picked up a few and I’ll mix and match. Decals serve to break up the monotony of color and also their lines will accentuate the shape of the pieces. As for guidelines on picking out sheets, I had a few. First are the colors: normally the most common are white, gray, and red. The next is orientation and number of copies. Especially for limbs you would want to mirror left and right side markings. Sometimes you would even need up to four matches. Center aligned markings are also important to have for the pieces like the torso. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened these because they came pre-cut so no precision cutting was required to take them off. Be careful when moving around finished pieces as they don’t have that much adhesion without any kind of topcoat to seal them in.

I haven’t had that much success with weathering. I have one MG that I tried dry brushing on before and it came out very dirty looking. I tried out some kits with edge-wear with silver and they looked kind of ok. My best ones would be the chipping I did on Bumblebee and Crossbone. Looking through custom builds online, I gravitated towards look of very slight edging and chipping. It makes the kit look a bit more ‘used’ and realistic, in my eyes anyway. Before I get started I usually pull up a lot of references from other builders. I’m simply using a toothpick here as a hard edge to work with. I just dip it in the paint and go through the pieces. Be sure to look out for the logical places where weathering occurs naturally.

Applying top coat is the final step in the build, but it is easily one of the hardest ones for me. It’s a step that can be easily messed up and mistakes could be irreversible. First, you need to have enough room and ventilation to work with. Don’t do it indoors, the fumes are dangerous. Fortunately, the balcony is just outside my room so I have plenty of space and open air. Rattling the spray cans can be noisy so be mindful of the neighbors. The weather has to be right too. Not too windy to blow away your sprays. I prefer working during the day so that I have more light to be able to see parts that I miss.

Before spraying, I mask off or take off any shiny piece that I don’t want to be flat coated. In this kit, it’s just the eyes but on some there are quite a lot. Also, clean up any dust particles that may get sealed. You can mount the parts on some sticks to spray them individually and be able to reach difficult areas. I really need to buy alligator clips for this step since I’ve just been using make-shift mounts all this time. The second picture shows a part that has been totally coated. Compare that to the third that has wasn’t sprayed on evenly. It is very important to spray in the right distance so the pieces will be coated lightly. Wait in between layers to dry. Too close and frequent spraying will cause liquid buildup that cannot be undone. It will look very gooey and gross. Do not touch or drop the pieces immediately after coating. They will be very susceptible to marking for a short time. They may dry a few minutes later and be ok to be assembled, but it will take a while for them to fully cure. In my experience the chemical smell disappears after a day or so.

Coat preference is highly subjective. There’s flat, semi-gloss, and gloss. I personally prefer a flat coat for my Gunpla. It removes the plastic sheen from the pieces nicely. I feel like it makes it look less of a toy and more of a sculpture. It maybe tricks the brain into making the material look heavy and realistic.

Thanks for reading through all of that! Here’s an album of the finished kit: http://imgur.com/gallery/TYsIf

I’m off to the next one. A detailed build of the HG Barbatos Lupus.

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