Paint — though it’s seldom necessary to complete a gundam model, many of us consider it a necessity to some degree. Even my ten-year-old self knew this ever since I built my first kit. The sheer gap between the that SD Gundam kit I snapped together and the photos printed on the side of the box was disheartening, to say the least.
However, it’s been a long time since the 90’s, and since then Bandai has made a big effort in trying to get its gunpla lines as close to 100% colour separation as reasonably possible. We’ve seen this for a long time in the Master Grade line, and many High Grade models these days are practically completely colour-accurate.
Clearly Bandai wants to open up the hobby to a wider audience who might not have access to the time and resources required to fully paint a model kit. While a there’s no substitute for the look of a well-painted model and the satisfaction of accomplishing it with your own hands, a few simple steps can turn a straight snap build into something that looks a lot more impressive.
Most newcomers to the hobby know about the importance of panel lining to gundam models, but I find that too many are defaulting to the official gundam panel line marker, as did I when I first started to detail my models. I immediately noticed that the tip of these markers is really thick — not only are the lines overly conspicuous on the corner edges, but the tip is too thick to reach into the smaller grooves.
Personally, I find the Copic Modeller 0.02mm panel line markers to be amazing for the job. The super-fine tip is able to reach any crevice it needs to. Furthermore, the ink is really easy to clean up — a simple wipe with an eraser, cloth or even one’s own finger is enough to correct any mistakes. This is a big advantage over Sakura Micron pens, which wasn’t always easy to clean up after a mistake.
Left = GSI Creos Gundam Marker (Fine-tip for panel lines), right = Copic Modeller 0.02mm
For this build I used only the black version of the Copic Modeller, but only because I misplaced warm grey coloured marker. I highly recommend using the grey marker for light coloured parts instead of the black — it’s perfect for giving the lines a subtle and realistic sense of shading.
After panel lining and applying the decals, the last step is applying a layer of top coat. For the Hi-Nu, I separated its body parts (head, torso, arms, lower body, funnels, fuel tank, and weapons), laid them out on a flat surface, and sprayed on some Mr. Hobby flat Top Coat. When dry, I flipped the parts over and sprayed again.
Not only does the flat coating get rid of the plastic sheen that gives the model a toy-like appearance, but it also hides most of the flash marks (the point of separation between part and the sprue) and rough surfaces produced when building the kit, as you can see in these photos.
Aside from Mr. Hobby, other companies such as Tamiya and Krylon also make aerosol top coat sprays and can be found in most hobby stores.
A gundam model is like a vessel — the more the builder pours himself into the building process, the more personal value that finished model will have. However, such an investment shouldn’t be an obstacle that discourages people from partaking in the hobby. Whether you’re a newcomer to the hobby who isn’t quite ready to invest in an airbrush and compressor, or just a busy person who just wants to put a model together, this simple method is a great way to get some good results without breaking your wallet or schedule.
For more information on using top coat without paint on plamo kits, check out the guide over at my own blog. If you’re interested in knowing more about this particular model, there’s a post for that too!