Gaijin Gunpla

I received an email the other week from someone asking for a little bit of help, or clarification, on what to do when building Gunpla and how to get better results on a finished project. I don’t consider myself to be anything special in the world of Gunpla. I’m still relatively new and have much to learn, and have picked up a lot of useful information from some good people. That said, there are some works I’ve done that I am proud of and if there is something I can do to help others achieve a sense of satisfaction in their own work, I should do so. So I’m writing this post.

I can only really write about what I have experience with and being a spray-can guy there is whole side of the hobby that I am missing out on so I’ll write about how I go about building a kit. There are a couple ways of doing it and which route I take when working on a kit is determined by whether I am building out of the box or painting. This post is about Out of the Box building. (The most recent mail I received asked about painting but I feel it is best to write these posts in this order so there is continuity.)

Out of the box

    This is probably the most fun I have when building. I just get to assemble things. However, there are some things I do during the assembly that I think I should bring to the attention of new people wishing to get into the hobby.

    The first is tools, of course. I tend to use only a pair of side-cutters and a design knife.

    Relevant Point#1: Remove the piece from the runner leaving some of the gate remaining, then cut the remaining gate off with the side-cutters or design knife.

    Relevant Point#2: When test building I try to cut down slightly the connector pegs on each piece at an angle, so that I can always disassemble the kit a little more easily later on regardless of whether I am going to be painting it or not.

    An out of the box build can still be fairly detailed. There are things you can do to make just a standard Gundam kit look much better. For instance,

    Panel lining!

    A standard Gundam panel line marker or copic marker is all you need for this. If the color of the plastic on the kit is dark I’ll tend to use a black but if the armor is lighter in color, which happens frequently, I’ll use the gray

    It’s worth noting that the gray runs a little more than the black and is easier to remove.

    Relevant Point#3: It’s pretty easy to remove Gundam marker using only a standard eraser like those heavy white things we all used in school as children. You can also use a cotton swab, which I use often because it leaves the marker in the panel line while removing the excess.

    I also will use different Gundam Marker to add details to the frame and some places on the armor as well as simple weathering. It’s very quick and easy to clean up with that eraser.

    Relevant Point#4: I need to mention that I do the panel lining and details before I move onto…

    There are several ways to add markings to your kit. Everyone knows about the stickers that come with Gundam kits. For an out of the box build the stickers can work providing you are careful when applying them. If you reposition them frequently before putting them in their final place then they will tend to peel later and a top-coat is a necessity. I tend to not bother with the included stickers but I do use the dry transfers and always try to get my hands on some water slide decals, especially the Bandai Gundam Decals. There are also some great after market decals out there.

    Dry Transfers

    When I apply dry transfers I use scotch tape to hold the marking in place and a toothpick to rub it on. If you can find the good kind of scotch tape which has a low adhesiveness you can place and remove the marking numerous times until you get it in the correct position. I like using the clear tape because it is much easier to see if you’ve got the transfer lined up correctly. Masking tape is not transparent so you have to guess a bit with the marking. I use the toothpick because I can apply pressure to a small part of the transfer at a time. Yes, I do have to go over the transfer several times but if I’m careful I get the transfer on first try rather than having that horrible experience of pulling the tape and backing away and realizing some of the marking has not gone on.

    Tip: When placing the marking on do it lightly as you line it up in case the alignment is off and you have to reposition it. If you press strongly some may go onto the piece before you are ready.

    Water-slide Decals

    This step is more involved but the extra effort is made worth it by the better result in most cases. I have in the past used Mark Setter but I don’t feel it is necessary. I tend to apply decals with the kit divided into sections, i.e. torso, feet, legs, arms, shoulders, skirt, head, backpack, etc.

    Relevant Point#5: Put a gloss coat on before you apply the decals. This will prevent silvering and make the decal move along the part easier while you search for the proper position. However, I have in the past skipped the gloss-coat part on Out of Box builds and just used Mark Softer on the decal afterwards with good results. I’ve even used Mark Softer over decals I applied to a kit that was flat-coated!

    If you’ve used water-slide decals then the best advice is to…

    If you’ve applied markings of any kind, or even if you haven’t. then you should consider a top-coat. You want those decals to stay on and not be abused as you play with the kit. Also, top-coat is a good way to lose that plastic look that a model has. There are two ways I go about top coating.

    Method #1
    Have the kit divided into sections (torso, skirt, legs, feet, etc) much like how I described it when applying water-slide decals and top coat each section.

    Relevant Point#6: This method is the fastest but it can mean there are certain parts that won’t get hit with that first top-coat such as the areas around the knees and elbows that are exposed as the limb bends. For that, I will spray a coat of top-coat with the limb straight and then, once the coat is dry, bend the limb and spray it again.

    Method #2
    Spray each armor piece separately. If I’ve applied the markings to the armor pieces individually, usually done this way when I’m working on something complex such as the Yellowbird. I will still spray top-coat on the frame with it divided into sections as there’s really not reason to topcoat individual frame pieces. Once the top coat is dry I assemble the kit for the final time.

    Relevant Point #7: If you choose to go this last route (individual piece top-coating) you need to be very careful as you do the final assemble. You’ll have your hands all over the pieces so there is a risk you can damage some of the markings you just sprayed with the intent to protect.

    That’s all I can think of. I’m sure I missed something here or there. Next up will be how I go about painting.

Categories: Tutorials

28 Responses so far.

  1. Mike says:

    Panel Lining : May I suggest the brown fine tip gundam marker for red, gold or yellow parts.

  2. fury-s12 says:

    nice intro for beginners, could i get some clarification on point 2, the cutting of the connector pegs?…how much do you cut off them, is it a case of cutting about half way down the peg or is it just cutting right at the top at say a 45degree angle?

    also for all beginners out there i really suggest gunplaTV, helped me alot

    • syd says:

      Good question. I cut right at the top at 45 degrees. If you cut too much of the peg off, then the pieces will come apart when you don’t want them too.

  3. Doesn’t Mark Setter act as a top coat?
    I’ve applied it over foil decals in hopes they’ll last much longer and over a water decal with good results (I can’t rub it off).

    I’d like to add that for more subtle panel lining, you should go with the sumiire markers (brush tip) and the Real Touch markers, though the later are harder to remove the excess and you’ll definitely need to clean up smudges, which doesn’t happen that often with the sumiire markers.

  4. David says:

    Very nice post. I just recently picked back up the Gunpla hobby again but never really touched on painting/detailing and was thinking of trying it out seriously this time. This will probably be really helpful. Looking forward to your nest post about painting! P.S: SNSD FTW!

  5. Mike says:

    Has anyone found a good color to panel line on black ?

    • Joe says:

      Silver looks pretty cool when panel-lining on black! It sounds kind of wierd at first, but it looks very mechanical when it’s done with a wash technique.

    • Since panel lines are shadows, there’s no need to panel line dark parts, but you can experiment with a color you feel will look right on the part, as if the underneath is exposed due to that gap.
      When I do get them, I’m considering panel lining my MG Strike Freedom and Destiny with gold and silver, respectively.

  6. Mike says:

    Well I have a nice 1/144 Psycho gundam to experiment it on. Thanks for the tips, I’ll try the silver and gap aspect that you two gave me. Thanks !

  7. Sunny says:

    Also if you find that the Gundam Marker for panel lining is too think, or u can get into the smaller lines you can try to get a Copic Multiliner, specifically the 0.01 and 0.02 MM heads, they come in black. Any good graphics supply store should have them.

  8. Mike says:

    Here’s a question. Some of the first kits I built a fiew years ago I may have oversprayed topcoats to the point it may have filled the panel lines. The coats are lacquer based sprays.

    What are my options to remove the top coat in the panel lines or on the actual armour.

  9. r4inb0w says:

    heres a tip to topcoating. depending on the brand of the spray( i use krylon flat) you dont want to spray to the point where the part starts to look “wet”, because after it drys it will tend to look very dusty and bleached. To fix that, if you do get a faded and dusty look, use a nice eraser(like mono or staedtler, no pink pearl or cheap ones as those leave residue as is) and gently rub it in. the part will gain more color.

    however, if you want a dusty and faded look without trying to damage your kit, dab a cotton swap soaked with 90% isopropyl alcohol on the part and clean up with the eraser.

  10. Mark says:

    can you explain more on how to use topcoat? I have never used it before and thinking of trying it, thanks!

  11. Arcee says:

    Can I spray clear flat lacquer over acrylic paint?
    Cam I spray clear flat lacquer over enamel paint?

  12. Kevin says:

    Hi, I was wondering if i should panel line first before putting on the decals or put on decals first and then panel line. Thanks for your help!

  13. Bob says:

    What is the hobby knife that you use?

  14. Tony says:

    What’s your opinion on Testors paint markers? I use them for large parts, using flat black to do an all black D-Hell Custom (not ALL black, but most of the body is going to be black, I’ll use some colors for smaller parts – just deciding as I build). I just use whatever supplies are at the hobby stores, so mostly Testors and mostly meant for non-Gunpla. I don’t have anywhere I could really upgrade to airbrushing or anything like that, but is it worth it to order a set of Gundam Markers? And which sets are most versatile?

    PS – Just some info – getting back into Gunpla after 3-4+ years not building anything, best I’ve done is a HG 1/100 Burning Gundam that I maybe tried a bit too much on and looks a bit sloppy. Next kit is a HG 1/144 RX-79 vs. Zaku II (couldn’t resist a twofer!)

  15. Kevin says:

    Hi Syd, I am a beginner in building gunpla models. Do you have any video tutorials on how you build your models? Also, is the blog tutorial here still how you make your models or do you have a new one out? Do you paint all of your kits?


    • Adam says:

      Hi Kevin,

      I would suggest you check out This is a video show that Syd and Ryan from HLJ do. They are up to episode 95 now, but the first episodes are Syd solo and he goes through the grades, how to build etc in the first 15 or so episodes. It helped me a lot when I started a year ago. 🙂

      • Kevin says:

        Hi Adam, thanks for replying.
        Can you tell me the difference between gloss coat and top coat? I knew about the gunpla tv episodes, but i was wondering if they made another one since a long time has passed and Syd probably knows more techniques than he did before.

  16. Kikomachi says:

    Thanks Syd,

    Cutting the connector pegs for test build really helps me to disassemble my kits so easily without worrying breaking it.

  17. Scubasage says:

    Love the site, love the reviews, and these tips are great. But I have a question. If just doing panel lining and decals, no painting, is top coating really necessary? I know you like to play with your kits and the top coat helps protect the panel lines and decals, but I like to pose my kits once then leave them on the shelf…maybe changing the poses once in a blue moon (I plan to get a glass cabinet to house my kits as soon as I can instead of just having them on the shelf), so playing with the kit isn’t an issue.

    I know top coating is definitely better, but as I have no good location to spray in the first place, and it’s too cold to spray outside for the next month or two anyways, I won’t be able to top coat. Your thoughts?

    • syd says:

      You don’t need to topcoat if you don’t want to, or cannot do it as in your case. It is mostly to protect the work you’ve done on a kit specifically paint and decals. It does help protect Dry Transfers and help keep stickers in place, but it isn’t a necessity.

  18. LohitPV says:

    I have a Delta Kai-MSN-001X, a ReZel-RGZ Type C both High Grade kits and a Astray Real Grade. I wanted to paint and decal my kits, but the paints and the materials required are really costly as I stay in India. The only thing I could get is Top Coat, so I decided to simply panel and decal the kits. If I want to decal the kit, is the process Gloss TopCoat+Panel Line?

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