Aug 22, 201610329 views

The Gundam Tips, Tricks and Help Thread!

This is the SECOND attempt at writing this guide, i got 75% done when everything was erased with a glitch, but hopefully this will work by typing everything out on notepad and then editing it here!

So with the new gundam drops happening at Massdrop I felt it would be good to create a one stop shop for all your Gunpla ((Gundam + Plamo (plastic model) =Gunpla)) needs! Feel free to ask any questions and even if i cant answer it then im sure someone else from the community can! I will also be teaching you the common lingo so that if you ever have any issues you will know exactly what terms to google (example: how to remove nub marks from clear plastic) So without further ado, lets get started!

Table of contents:
1. Beginner info (People who just got their first kit should start here, experienced builders can still read, you might learn something new :P)
2. Posing info (How to display your Gundam)
3. Panel Lining info (Examples PLUS Panel wash tutorial)
4. Highlights
5. Brush info AND Basic Paint info (Acrylic VS Enamel)
6. Painting your Gundam!
7. Decals (STICKERS!!) Foil and Dry-rub only, I will need someone else to write up the waterslides part!
8. Clearcoats (glosscote AND matte/dullcote) [COMING SOON]

1. Beginner info

So you just opened up your brand new gundam box only to discover that inside is a bunch of plastic runners, stickers and a manual, dont be discouraged! This is what the hobby is all about! To get started you will need a few tools which I will list in order of use and explain how to use as I mention it, so try to keep up everyone!
1. FLUSH plastic cutter: You can get this online or from your local hobby store, it really doesnt matter but you might as well get acquainted with your local hobby store sooner than later anyways and any cutter that is labeled as a plastic cutter will do just fine, no need to spend an arm and a leg! You use the cutter to break away the plastic support beams (we call them "gates" in the community) from the individual piece that you are trying to use. Most people (including me) start out by cutting as close to the piece as possible, this is WRONG as it stretches the plastic and causes white stress marks to show (called "nub marks") The correct method of cutting the gate is to cut as far away from the piece as possible (within reason of course) this will still leave a substantial nub but we will deal with that in the next step. You will be using these cutters in this way for the majority of the time, they can be useful in other cases but above all make sure to only use them on plastic, cutting anything metal will damage the teeth and cause excessive damage to the plastic next time you use it.
2. Sanding sticks: Until you can recognize what grits you need by feel then i recommend you head to your local hobby store and get the materials from there, I recommend the squadron brand sanding sticks (sticks because they are flat and sturdy rather than paper) get 2 of the medium grit sticks and one each of the fine and buffing sticks. I personally just go to a beauty supply store and feel their files until I find a grit that is comparable and i find it can be cheaper (but not always!) Anyways, once you have your sanding sticks you can get to work on those nubs left over from freeing the piece from the runner. I always start with the roughest grit and then sand it in one direction towards the nearest edge but thats just a method that I landed on after just experimenting and gaining experience. Once the white square is gone from the piece then you go over the area with the fine grit, if you are planning on painting the piece (painting not panel lining) then leave it at this, if you are not going to paint the piece then i recommend buffing it as well, the reason i dont do this when im painting is that i find the fine grit sanding leaves more for the paint to grab on to, when its a super buffed surface I find the paint tends to run more. You can repeat the grits as necessary until you are happy. If there is a little dark dot where the nub mark used to be then try not pushing so hard when you sand, it should be as light as possible so that you dont stress the plastic, and if there is a white dot then next time try cutting even further away with the cutters because this is the type of stress that is caused by that.
3. Hobby Knife: Now admittedly I dont use this often but its nice to have, I use it to get at nub marks that are hard to reach or if im running low on sanding sticks i will use it to shave down a nub to save me some grit! To remove a nub mark with a hobby knife the goal is to keep slicing off thin thin slices until its flat, if you slice too much you will either cause stress marks or pop off the nub mark completely which still leads to stress marks. Pro tip: you can use the back side of the knife as an effective scraper without risking too much damage to your gundam from the sharp end of the blade while also prolonging blade life!
4. Angled Tweezers: I cannot overstate how useful these guys are! I use them mostly for positioning stickers and removing them from the sheet, its great at that and holding and removing small pieces, overall you will regret not having one of these in the tool kit, a standard pair of tweezers got nothing on an angled pair!

Thats all you need to complete your basic out of the box gundam kit! Now that its finished, take a good look at it and see if there is anything you would like to change, because this is where the hobby comes alive! completely change its color scheme, make a custom base or diorama, change the highlights of the armor or mix and match pieces from other gundams to make something completely unique! Just take it slow and have fun, never treat it as a chore (I have to get this leg done) be willing to take your time and enjoy yourself, it is a hobby after all!

2. Posing info

Admittedly I do not know a lot about posing your gundams but I will share what I know here and talk about a few examples!
The main two tips I have are:
1. Try to copy the desired gundam pose with your own body and then examine how everything is arranged, we always just do this without thinking so the challenge in making any pose look "right" is to mimic that natural sense of movement and this has been the best way I found to do that!
2. When all else fails look at the box art! The sides of the gundam box should have the gundam in a few poses, I recommend trying to copy that pose and then use it as a base to make your own unique pose!
Other than that all I can really say is dont be afraid to keep fiddling with it, all you will gain is experience!
Here are some poses that I made on the spot:
MG Pose 1 Far
Side leg
But poses are not limited only to the gundams themselves, the Weaponry can also be displayed aesthetically:

These shots can be combined to start to make a scene develop! I only have the one MG right now so I had to make do lol
Here is a second more dynamic pose, be careful when attempting poses like this!



The last pose I did with the MG was a simple classic pose that I think just works!
I also tried to do a few poses with the HG, its much harder since its lighter and has less articulation then an MG but here is what I came out with:




Once you get the hang of it you can start to combine these techniques to make whole Dioramas!

3. Panel lining
You see all these groves and lines cut into the plastic everywhere? they are there to give each piece more detail, the issue is that on such a small scale the shadows dont fill in these gaps like they regularly would for a tank lets say. Modelers get around this by adding paint to these groves to add the depth needed (example:
) Panel lining is not just limited to black paint and groves, it can also be used (when properly thinned enough) for any outcropping or edge as an outline. Check out what I accomplished by thinning down Chrome paint and using it in this manner:





This method that i use is done with enamel paint, thinner and zippo based lighter fluid (any kind quality doesn't matter) you will also need a brush and some q-tips. If you are going to thin down your own enamel paint then you use the same brand thinner and get it to a really runny consistency, like really runny, so you wont need a lot of paint. You can also buy prethinned paints from your local hobby store, its recommended for beginners to get a feel of the consistency BUT I still recommend buying some thinner to keep the paint runny as it dries while you use it and can leave you with different results! I recommend using gloves for this and maybe eye protection since the lighter fluid will get on your fingers and paint might just fling into your eye, also whenever your using thinners or enamel paints make sure you either have good ventilation OR a respirator, just a friendly warning! Also if you are going to be doing this with painted parts then make sure you have given it a good couple coats of glosscote so that the clean up does not damage the paint on the piece to begin with! Remember to Paint before you Panel Line!
Once you have your thinned paint ready to go, you dip your brush into it and try to wipe a little of the excess paint off the brush, keep a good amount of paint still on the brush though! You then find our grove or indent or panel line and just DAB your brush into it, the paint should be so runny that it will just flow into the cracks or stick to the walls via capillary action! you can tilt your piece and use gravity to your advantage! when the flow stops then you just dab it again until the entire line is filled, you then leave it to dry and move on to another piece, dont worry about the round spots of paint at where you dabbed the brush, we will clean these up in the next step! You do not have to wait long for everything to dry, maybe 10-20 minutes, be warned that this is not how long it take the paint to dry (a good 48 hrs needed to cure) but just how long until you can continue to work with it!
From here on out its all about experience so dont be worried if its not as clean as it could be, you WILL get better! After the pieces are all dry you then take your q-tip and get it DAMP with lighter fluid, not soaked, just damp, and then you run it along the panel line or enamel paint you are trying to clean, dont push too hard because you dont want to cotton fibers to reach into the crease or corner and erase the panel line itself, just keep rubbing and it will disappear, dont be too dissuaded if you cant get totally rid of any smudge marks, we will take care of these right now!
The last step for any panel line ON BARE PLASTIC (if doing panel line on painted and protected parts then skip this step but if your that far advanced then im sure you knew this already :P) You take your fine sanding stick and go over the smudge marks from the previous step, this will get rid of the smudge and bring everything back to its original color, just be very careful not to sand too hard or you might remove the panel line itself and have to redo everything all over again! (PERFECTION!)
You can then apply a top coat but we will get into that later!

4. Highlights

Highlights are that little bit of extra paint to add some color or outline a small piece, they seem insignificant on there own but together they can make that Gundam POP! For example:
I dipped the outer thrusters (which used to be a dark grey/black) in chrome paint and let it dry! (I MESSED UP and forgot to let it dry before I put in the red piece and messed out one of my thrusters, i cleaned it to the best of my ability but you will notice it in the next shot, but other than that the end effect was above my expectations!
What I want you to pay attention to is not the wonky thruster but that little bit of chrome on the underskirt, I painted that and then panel lined the black in between after a glosscote, before it was just a dark grey

Here I want to bring your attention to the dark paint in between the links of red pipe, i find it adds depth and realism to it, but then i couldn't resist giving it a coat of gloss, it might have looked better matte though, next gundam i will try that!
Here Im showing you the side vents of the leg, these were just standard dark grey/black before but they look much better this way!
You can see that I also did the same thing with the red piping here as before but I also added chrome to that red circle part and it really added to the overall effect I thought
Sometimes my highlights are not just painting parts of the gundam but its adding the little details that most people would miss like the panel lining on the inner frame (the whole gundams inner frame is panel lined with grey and it really pops through when it shows through a gap in the armor) Also little things like painting the pilot inside, his seat is all panel lined with chrome, il take it out and show you next time!
Here is the feet of my RG Raiser at the moment, I painted the dark sections to give it more contrast and I also panel lined and glosscoted the thing for added effect
Little things like painting railings or bolts metal add realism to any setting
The gun barrel I managed to use a drying chrome and dab it on to give it a not so shiny look, i think it worked out!
Even the little things like the Clay launcher clip can be enhanced! I panel lined the bullets too!

YES I USE CHROME A LOT, it works a lot of places!
So i hope these examples have motivated you to add that little something extra to your next Gundam!

5. Basic Brush and Paint info

I admit that going forward I am no longer an expert, these are just what I think and what I do, I would really like some input going forward, with that being said here we go!
Brushes come in alot of different sizes and styles but for our uses we are only interested in small pointy brushes, to that end the best brush is a Sable brush but since Sables are waaaaay to cute for me to feel good about painting with their dead hair so i use synthetics and they get the job done folks! I get my brushes from my local hobby store but i have been meaning to have a look at the local art store as well once i get the time and money as brushes dont always come cheap! I recommend getting the smallest brushes you can, brush sizing is kind of a joke, since way back when they figured that brush size 0 was as small as anybody would ever want, but in the modern world we are using brushes for more delicate and intricate miniature painting then any of the canvas painters would have ever dreamed, hence we just add an EXTRA 0 to the brush size to indicate that it is one size SMALLER then its predecessor (000 is smaller than 00 is smaller than 0 is smaller than 1) Get some 0, 000, 00000 brushes, sometimes these are called 0, 1/3, 1/5 I honestly do not know which is MORE confusing but here we are! I would try to get a few brushes of different handles so you can separate their uses, like one set for harsher enamel paint and another for acrylic! When you use your brush be sure not to dip it too deep into the paint, you only want to get the upper half of the bristles covered, any more will damage your brush and could cause a mess!
Protip: After dipping the brush in paint roll the brush into a paper towel to get rid of excess paint AND to bring the bristles gently back into a point! As for brush brands I really have no idea yet as I have haven't had the chance to try enough, when in doubt just ask your local hobby store owner!

The main difference between acrylic and enamel paint is their base, acrylic is water based and enamel is oil (petrol) based but who cares about the physical differences, its all about the practical ones:
-Acrylic paint drys REALLY quickly, so quick its hard to work with and people use a product called a retarder to slow the drying time just so they can work with it, conversely enamel paint takes a long time to dry and this makes it much easier to use in washes and other time consuming methods.
-Dried enamel paint can be "brought back to life" within reason by using the same brand of thinner and stirring/mixing, this cannot be done with acrylic paint and water because of chemical reasons like binders and ect that you really dont care about :P. This feature of enamel paints can be really handy when you are painting using mixed paints that would be impossible to recreate, I have done one coat with a self mixed color and then a few days later "revived" the same paint for the second coat!
-Acrylic paint tends to dry matte and Enamel paint tends to dry glossy so keep that in mind! You can always turn a glossy paint matte or a matte glossy with topcoats though! (both paints still need the same time to CURE though)
-To clean your brushes from acrylic paint you just use water, to clean your brushes from enamel paint I would use lighter fluid! (keep your brushes separate!) You should never let acrylic paint dry on the brush if you can help it, you shouldn't do it with enamel paint either but acrylic will damage the brush much more than enamel paint, so if the phone rings and your painting acylic, make sure to put your brush in water FIRST! if its enamel then its not the end of the world but its still not ideal!
-Enamel paint is dangerous, its made with cancer causing chemicals, acrylic is safer BOTTOM LINE. When using enamel paint please use gloves, eye protection, and a respirator. Dont be discouraged though, these things are not expensive and nothing looks as good as enamel in my opinion, so its worth it AND you will need the same protection for top coating anyways! I still use acrylic but if i really want something to POP it just has to be enamel.

That is all that comes to mind as to the differences between them, as for brands I tend to use Vallejo for acrylic because I really like their color and eyedropper style bottles and Model masters for enamel because its cheaper than Tamiya, I have never tried Tamiya so i cannot say anything about quality. Just remember to look at the color chip on the label under the paint in the store, not the color of the paint in the bottle because the liquid inside needs to be shaken to show its true color or work, the same goes for enamel!
Protip: I store my paints on their sides at home so that when I go to use them its much easier to shake them to an even consistency. All paints need to be shaken before used and they like to settle while not in even for a few minutes sitting on the table so give it a shake each time you go for the bottle!
EXTRA PROTIP: I heard recently on the some forums of a great idea (not my idea): Some people take a glass bead from a local crafts store and put it inside each paint bottle, this makes mixing waaaay easier I hear and I plan to try it soon!
Remember that just because the paint is dry to the touch does not mean it is fully "dry" or CURED, most paints and topcoats need around 48 hours to fully cure but its not a bad idea to give it 72, of course we always like to push it and most times we can get away with it but these are the official stats from the majority of official paint brands

6. Painting your Gundam!

The ideal method to paint models nowadays is an airbrush but I personally am not at that stage so hopefully someone else from community could write a bit about that, I will tell you what I do and know though: IT IS HARD TO PAINT ENAMEL WITH A BRUSH AND NOT LEAVE BRUSHSTROKES SO JUST ACCEPT IT! Acrylic paint tends to dry very matte so you wont notice any brush marks but it doesn't dry glossy or as metallic as enamel paint. I generally pick a few colors to paint and leave the rest bare plastic and glosscote everything but that is because Im trying to stay true to the original color scheme because I like the anime so much but you can paint your gundam green and purple for all I care! Do what YOU want!
Use the safety devices you need according to the paint you are using!! I also wear the UCO A120 Headlamp I picked up from Massdrop as my modeling headlamp, it works perfectly and fits comfortably over the respirator AND googles so I can see everything!
I originally tried painting the pieces while it was still on the runner, while this made things quite easy the whole way through it also caused me to miss a few spots on the side while panel lining and then after glosscoating the whole thing and cutting it out I then had to be SUPER careful with the nub marks. Overall I felt the cons were too much and have since went onto an airbrushing setup (alligator clips on BBQ sticks!) just be careful where you clamp down with the alligator clamp as it can score the plastic! I then like to grab the stick and paint the piece while rotating it and getting a full 360 view of each part before piercing it into some cardboard as a holder. You can get these sticks almost anywhere, or you can just as easily make them yourself if you get yourself some empty alligator clips (empty like with a bare hole in it) and stab a BBQ stick up there and your done!
I personally have never used primer but i hear it works wonders at getting paint to stick to it and hence the plastic, i need to try it, for now I just tend to do two coats of everything, its like one coat is my "primer" and the other coat really takes! I know i need to try some primer and then report back when I have the time! Just remember, its almost never a bad idea to put on another coat!
Once im done with everything I take the cardboard pierced full of gundam on spikes and put in the garage under another BIGGER box to keep out all the dust and particles from landing on the wet paint and i leave it there for a few days to CURE.
I generally then topcoat it, put on decals (stickers) and then topcoat again for an extra layer of protection but I doubt most people are going to do that so I will move directly onto stickers next! Until next time!

7. Decals (AKA: Stickers)

Decals come in four types: Clear, Foil, Dry-rub and Waterslides [COMING SOON] I will be explaining how to apply these as I go along!
Clear decals are the most basic stickers and most likely the most abundant type of sticker in your kit, its just a clear plastic sticker that generally say words like caution and then small text that is unreadable (dont bother trying, I got a magnifier and everything, the printer didn't print words, just blotches that look like text since its so small, neat trick) The decal page is most often found at the back of the manual and it shows you where they recommend you place the decals but you can put them where ever you want and most kits come with a few extra that force you to chose where they go! You can choose to apply these stickers or not, the reason being is that the clear part can still show and create an unsightly square outline, sometimes though deciding not to put the clear stickers on can be the better choice, it really depends on the kit and your personal preferences.
Foil decals are generally used to fake metallic or shiny surfaces (like the eyes, always the eyes!) a lot of these stickers can AND SHOULD be replaced with paint but sometimes they can be just as good, but only sometimes. The majority of the time I only use the Eye stickers that are always part of the Foil set lol! In case you really wanted to know, foil stickers get their name from the foil paper that gives the clear inks used their shiny color.
Dry-rub decals are pretty old technology, you might have even played with a few letter sheets as a kid, and these are pretty much exactly the same! You can recognize its a dry-rub by the paper backing attached to the decal sheet, this is to prevent the decal from being transferred until its ready. You figure out where you want the decal and then you cut it out of its plastic sheet making sure to leave some extra space (I use a hobby knife making sure the paper protection is underneath everything, that way you can also cut out the same size protection for the decal you just cut out!) I then cut up some tape into very thin strips and attack one end of each strip to the decal i just cut out (MAKE SURE THE DECAL DID NOT GET FLIPPED AND THAT IT IS STILL FACING THE RIGHT WAY!) I then attach it to the gundam EXACTLY where i want it and I try to make sure it cannot move, I then grasp it as solidly as i can and rub the tips of the angled tweezers along the decal picture itself, you should see it becoming lighter as it comes away from he plastic and sticks to the gundam, make sure you get it all before you try to remove it! Once you have removed the clear plastic backing and tape you should be left with a beautiful image stuck onto the gundam! Just be very careful around it until it has had a chance to be protected by a topcoat as it can and will still rub right off!
Waterslides are cool? [MORE COMING SOON????]

April Coleman, 유환, and 55 others

Thank you for the guide! I just started building this year with a HGUC RX-78-2 Gundam and Char Custom Zaku. I got finished with those and almost immediately made a wishlist of models I’d like and a shelf for displaying.
Glad to help man!! Really cool kits to start with too! I would recommend checking out ikea for a cheap glass display shelf. Good luck and above all have fun!
Thanks for the advice! I just got into this hobby and was wondering which ones are easy to build and look nice? I just built MS-06F Zaku II and I found that a little hard, if that gives you a good understanding.
Sure! Its all based on the grade mostly, so your NG (no grade) is going to be most easy, (HG) High grade are your standard entry grade (MG) Master grade is where things get bigger, with 1/100 gundams being the norm and with a ton more pieces and detail. The RG line combines the detail of MG with the size of the previous lines (1/144). There are also PG (perfect grade) and they the most difficult. I hope that helps!
BTW 90% of the guide as planned is up and running now! check it out! Now im hoping that the community can add to this guide as we move forward! Currently im specifically hoping someone will stand up to the plate and do the waterslides part! Thank you for your time!
As far as sanding, I recommend getting sandpaper from an auto shop (Autozone, O'Reilly's, etc.) You can buy packs of sandpaper up to like 10000 grit that are meant for auto body finishing, but which work great on models, and are much cheaper than purpose-made hobby papers and films.
Invest in a fineline panel liner -- in GREY, not black. Grey looks much better on white plastic, especially on smaller RGs and HGs.
A thought on posing: get Action Bases. Well worth it, especially for RGs that are a little delicate and lightweight for posing on their own. Here's a few of my amazing potatocam albums that might give a few posing ideas:
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Great tip about the sandpaper! and yeah automotive finishes are really nice, you can even go full blown and use them wet to reduce dust and to give you a much cleaner sand, you can sand and polish topcoats IF YOUR VERY CAREFUL NOT TO GO THROUGH THEM in this way! Another way you can make them flat is to tape them to those little dividers you get in plastic compartment boxes, it makes a nice large surface!
but about the pen vs wash, its just that a wash is so quick and simple that i think it is still beginner friendly (MORE beginner friendly then correctly using a pen i would argue) and I would rather they get into the habit of washing and gaining experience than starting off using select specially tools that probably do have their place but I think are counter intuitive to the experience, (we didn't pay money just to half ass our own gundams did we?) That being said, the hobby is all a journey unique to yourself, have fun doing what you love and like! I would just be amiss in recommending it lol
I see your point about the pen. I guess I'm just so used to using mine that I don't think twice about it, and to me it's just so much easier than thinning paint, etc. :)
I agree with you that one of the best things about auto finishing sandpaper is the wet-sanding ability. Not having to clog up everything with microfine dust is great. I also use an old parts separator (basically a flat wedge of plastic) that I got free with an issue of Hobby Japan or Dengeki Hobby or something years ago as a sandpaper stick.
awesome write-up!! Thanks for sharing :)
What a guide! Makes me want to get back into model building. I haven't done it in years but I'm getting caught up in all the excitement in the office.
Ps. Would you be opposed to me editing the OP to have the images inline? As opposed to external pages and such. Either way; nice write up :)
Im glad that your getting caught up in the excitement! The new RG kits are no joke! and sick! That sounds pretty amazing thanks! I wasn't what type of hotlink would embed it so I just went for the direct route :P
Great write up! It's been years since I made models but this posts brings back some good memories. A few people I work with are getting into the Gundam hype so it seems like I good time to maybe get back into it.
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I love the RX-178 Mk2, which grade are you looking at? I love the giant amount of detail in the small form factor of the RG line.
Lol, came back to this thread after a few months and was just reading without paying attention to user names. Thought, `this guy knows what's up`. It was me.
Currently 1/2 way through my first Gundam build. Wish this guide came a few days ago! ;) Thanks for posting @Darkshade and I'll be sure to incorporate your advide on my next build. Really wonderful to see this type of community content posted.
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Thanks! I've been taking a few photos along the way of the build process and will post once complete. I didn't spend the time to sand down the nubs this time and just used my hobby knife to get rid of them, but definitely wound up with a few stress marks that are more noticeable than I would like. I'll be more careful on the next one and will use this as a learning project. Still looking great and has been really enjoyable to build.
Glad to hear it and looking forward to seeing it! An advantage of your first build is that you will get through it a lot quicker then later on when your more experienced and applying more advanced techniques, the day long build turns into weeks (painting) turns into months (weathering) its all part of the journey so enjoy all of it!