My Tools/Tutorial


This page is about the tools I use and the methods I use to build all of my Gundam models. This isn’t exactly a tutorial but you can somewhat use it as such I guess ^_^; This is mostly an outline of how I generally do things after spending quite some time messing around and experimenting.

I collect Gundam models solely for the “Gundam” part and not so much for the “model” so that part is not really a dedicated hobby. I am also extremely lazy. I only do just enough to make myself happy with the end result of my models… most of the time, I don’t feel the need to paint. While I generally don’t paint, there are times where I need to bust out the paint bottles to make myself satisfied with the model.

With the exception of Danny Choo’s tutorial (read it longgggggggggg time ago), I don’t ever read DIY or any modeling guide simply because… I suck at following directions and find others techniques overwhelming ^^;. The style I build my Gundam models now are an accumulation of experience, trial and error, failures, and plenty of experimenting. Up to this day, I’m still playing around with pieces to get the best results I can.

My first few Gundam models were built with MY BARE HANDS! no tools… just twist and pull with my fingers. It was painful and time consuming ahah xD. Now I have an arsenal of tools to assist myself in building that perfect model. If you are using your tools correctly and effectively, they can be your best friends in Gunpla building… but they can also be very counterproductive if you’re using it wrong.

“One should learn the limits and restrictions of their weapons.” -Lelouch Lamperouge

Okay, now that the intro is over with… Let me introduce my tools!

My main weapon tool. This is my sharp side-cutter. I’m sure all of you have one or two. I only use this on pieces that requires a very clean cut or pieces that have a very thin connector/sprue/whatever to the runner frame. Basically, I only use this for outer armor pieces on MG models because it does a great job of leaving nub marks minimum.

This used to be my primary cutter but its now my secondary. I used this one mainly for the inner frames of MG or on pieces that isn’t shown on the outside. This one is also used for heavier duty cutting such as thicker connectors and cutting the runner frame itself. Switching between two cutters is beneficial in that they’ll stay sharper longer from less work.

Two-way “non-stratch” needle nose pliers. Great for fixing mistakes, holding onto thin pieces for painting, clamping two stubborn pieces shut, and pulling parts out. Though it is labeled “non scratch”, it actually can leave teeth marks if you apply enough force on the plastic but I can say this is definitely a lot safer than using a metal plier.

My nub removal buddies. These are very thin and fine files and I use them instead of sandpaper for removing nub marks. They do a great job… unless I screw up and accidentally filed at an angle then it’ll leave a mess. I prefer files over sandpaper because a file is more solid and I can actually “aim” whereas sandpaper wears off and scratches more than I intended.

For the panel lines, I have four Gundam panel line markers and a .3 Zebra Drafix pencil (wish there was a .1 though). I have multiple panel line markers for a few reasons.

– one for “easy” and surface panel lines. Light work.

– one to jab into the deeper lines

– one where I intentionally mess up the tip so it can make thicker lines for the wider slots.

– grey for white. Black for other/darker colors.

– the pencil is to look cool XD

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I use the tweezers for applying the clear and foil stickers on my MG models. They also work for slipping in PC parts to tight areas in a certain direction. Tweezers are a lot easier to use for tiny applications than knives ^^.

The X-Acto and Design Knife comes in very handy at times. They’re also my riskier alternative to removing nubs.

Toothpicks, skewers… cheap yet useful commodities. The toothpicks help me apply paint and clean tiny tight areas on pieces. The skewers can be used to hold painted pieces for drying.

Sandpaper- The ones I have are P1200 and doesn’t really help in removing nub marks but it can somewhat clean rough surfaces

Scissors- Cutting decals. It works so much better than cutting with a knife!

Cutting Mat- I don’t really get to cut much on it. This board is more for me to lay out and organize my parts and do measurements.

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Masking Tape has two functions for me. 1. Isolate an area to be detailed 2. Keep decals in place so I can rub them in. Noticed how thin one of the rolls is. Great for Gunpla pieces ^^

I have a few set of Gundam markers for detailing. The current sets I have are the SD Gundam color set, Fine point set, and Gundam SEED set. Some of the colors come handy at random times but it’s nice to have some sort of versatility with so many colors.

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When Gundam markers fail to deliver, the Tamiya paint comes in. My paint set is ever growing and I have more now than what’s shown above. I basically have all the “popular” Gundam colors handy in case I ever need to hide blemishes, paint in details accurately… or just need to paint in general ^^.

Not shown are q-tips and rubbing alcohol- they are great for cleaning up panel lines and tight spots!

If you have carpet floor, then you should definitely have some paper towels handy. I use it to lay my tools and this is where I do my cleaning, filing, and nub removing so all the plastic bits fall onto the towel and not on the carpet :) I promptly vacuum after I build a model.

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The finishing touch and a work of miracle. Depending on how addicted you are to this and the size of the model, one can can last between 2-3 models. Matte top coat puts a clear layer onto the shiny plastic and gives it a non-reflective look. It also gives a better feel to the plastic… sorta like clay yet still very solid. It just looks better… that’s all you need to know :). Sinanju can attest to that.

and Haruhi to give you good luck and motivation :)

Okay, that’s all the tools I use. Now on to the next part…

The Works

I think nothing special of the way I build my kits. I just do what makes sense to get the best result. Just do what makes sense. My style all comes from experience, experimenting, and trial and error… and following the instructions.

Before starting on the actual construction of a Gundam model, one should look over the manual and frames from time to time to develop a sense of the kit. This helps me find some of the spots that need more attention than others and where there might be lack of details. The more you know the Gundam, the less surprise there is and the more ready you will be.

I don’t actually follow the manual from the start… after skimping through it, I find the most troublesome parts and put those together first to get it out of the way xD.

Now here’s the outline on how I cut, clean, detail, and build my kits.

Cutting and Nub Removal

Before I begin cutting, I ask myself the following questions:

– how does this piece go into the whole assembly?

– Will it be shown?

– Where are the nub marks?

– Will this piece be covered by something else?

– What am I doing with my life?

– What are my future goals going to be?

– Is dinner ready?

I know this is a lot and a bit redundant since the manual shows it but it helps me confirm my certainty that I’m paying attention instead of blindly following the book. This helps me determine how much effort I should put into cutting and detailing it. Honestly, it takes me only a mere instant to answer all of the above.

This is how I do a straightforward cut for outer pieces. I leave about like 1 mm of the connector on the piece and I clean it off later. This is to prevent risk of damage to the piece itself. If I were to cut flat right on the piece, then the connector would “twist” and chew into the piece, leaving a rough nub mark like in the example below.

^^^^ I don’t want this and probably neither do you. It’s a lot harder to clean than leaving some nips and cleaning it off. After cutting it off the piece, I’ll just snip off as much of the remains as I can then file it down, and wipe off the residue to clean it up.

^This is the outcome. It looks pretty clean right? Nitpick on it if you like. I do this for every piece that shows on the outside of the model. Cleaning and removing nub marks are one of the major factors on why I take so long to complete an unpainted model ^^;

Alternative: if you do happen to cut flat against the piece first then you should scratch the nub mark with your fingernails to remove some impurities and the nub will smooth out a bit, looking a little more cleaner.

Here are a few more examples of my nub removals:

Unless you’re specifically trying to look for them under a fluorescent lamp, chances are… you won’t be able to see them ^_^. I know I don’t…

Now there will be times where even my small cutter can’t fit in to cut the piece so what I do is cut off the entire connector with my secondary cutter and work from there. See below.

Cleaning nub marks on colored pieces takes a bit more than white pieces because they are more apparent than on white pieces unfortunately. This is what I do…

– Work on the nub with a file like with the white pieces

– Take out (closest) matching Gundam marker for the piece and test it on its runner if it’ll blend well.

– If so, I just lightly touch the nub mark with the marker

– Clean off the paint with q-tip and rubbing alcohol – I’m just wiping the paint on the surface off. What’s left after this will be the paint stuck in the micro gaps on the nub and that’ll blend right in with the plastic.

This isn’t what I would call “hiding” the nub mark but rather I think of this as filling in those little holes and gaps on the nub mark (which are white) with the same color as the piece so the nub somewhat disappears. Check below:

If the tip of the marker is too thick then I’ll just use a toothpick, dip it in the paint and detail it on the nub from there. This actually works a lot better for smaller nubs.

More examples:

See the difference between the painted and unpainted ones in the middle photos?

Panel Lines

To me, panel lines should be fine and subtle. They are there to make details on the parts more pronounced so your eyes can see that the details are there. Panel lines itself should not be attracting the attention of your eyes. This is why I make my panel lines as fine and light as possible. I also like “smudged” lines on some parts of the model than solid lines because it gives a more animated look and a sense of motion and realism to it (I hope what i just said makes sense because I can’t find any better words). I just think it looks better than simple solid lines all around, that’s all xD. Saying that, I would just take my finger and wipe off the panel line ink until I get the desired effect.

I use the Gundam panel line markers for closed space and the pencil for open space since the lead is still too thick to fit in regular panel lines. The pencil lead blends in so well with the marker that you can’t tell I use both :D

Pencil + Marker:

I prefer to cut and panel line every piece before I put them together because it’s a lot easier to work with and easier to clean if I screw up.

Detailing with Panel markers

Let’s take a look at some of these closed space parts…

The black detailing (RX-78-2’s vents, Ex-S’ incom, and Avalanche thrusters) above are done with just the panel line marker and using toothpicks with rubbing alcohol to clean it up. Depending on the situation, I might also use q-tips or a paper towel. Either way, I’m always happy with the results. The best part is that I don’t have to resort to paint!

Detailing with Decals

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As you all know, there are dry transfer decals (clear sheet, white backing) and water transfer decals (blue sheet). Dry transfers come with your MG model and they are one-shot only so if you screw it up, then it’s gone forever. Water decals you will have to buy and you get to play around with them until you get it right. The Mark Setter is used to make sure the water decal actually adheres to the plastic. I now prefer water decals more than dry transfer due to the ease of use.

Water Transfer Decals

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-Cut out the decal you need

– Dip in water for 10-20 seconds (longer if decal is bigger).

– Take a cotton bud and just slide the piece onto the plastic.

– Position. Press with cotton bud to dry.

– Apply mark setter. Done!

Dry Transfer Decals

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The decals that come with your model tends to be more drama-filled than water transfers because you only have one chance. Think of the eyesore that is a crooked decal! Medium to big decals aren’t a problem as they are easier to handle. However, for the smaller bits…

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Since there’s no way I can cut out perfect squares, I have to use the decal design itself to align it on the piece. The first thing I do is find a reference point. It could be anything- a corner, a panel line, the edge. Anything! As long as it is easy to work with and remember, I can use it as a reference point to know where to place my decal and allows me to place the same decal on the other side as well (the decal map in the manual is poor in scaling and inaccurate of size sometimes). The example from the top uses the edge and corner as a reference point for me to position the decal and I’ll do the same for the other side where I have to apply the same one. Hold it still and rub it out like there’s no tomorrow!

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There’s a well-respected yet sadistic man by the name of Hajime Katoki who is probably laughing at the average Gunpla modeler for trying to apply decals in situations similar to the photo above. Every now and then (and guaranteed if your model is a “Ver. Ka”), you will have to apply decals on unfavorable surfaces such as between panel lines, bumps, curves, tight spots and even around corners. The first problem is that the decal sheet is not very flexible and the decal will tend to loosen from the sheet or wrinkle up. The second problem is trying to position it. The third is applying it without it breaking prematurely. This is where masking tape can minimize the damage. After positioning carefully, I’d wrap the decal TIGHTLY with the masking tape before I begin to rub the hell out of it. At this point, it is a lot better to just buy the water transfers… >_>

Detailing with Clear Stickers

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Nobody likes these stickers… But I think that’s because the majority doesn’t know how/want to apply it. The main hate comes from the borderline it gives off. Simple simple solution- Just cut out the actual marking with a knife.

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Sure it is time consuming to cut them ALL out but this little step makes the stickers look similar to decals, and results in a better looking model. I’ve at least come to accept the looks of clear stickers after much practicing of the cutting-out method (I get faster at it) and use it whenever I see fit. Wing Ver. Ka and Unicorn had this treatment:

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All the little markings are clear stickers. You don’t really see any borderlines, right? :)

Top Coating


Ah yes… top coating. The best thing ever for those who doesn’t paint their models. This is the VERY LAST step in completing the model. Top coating comes after doing panel lines and decals. For a thorough job, I’d take the model apart (or just get to top coating right after assembling the part and applying the decals)…

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– First top coat the elbows and knees first without outer armor. Let dry.

– Put on outer armor. Top coat. Let dry. Spray anywhere I miss. Let dry.

– Spray all over the final assembled model for good measure.

Typically, one layer is plenty enough. Any more layers will only be visible in person and gets harder to show up on photo.

And there you have it! Z’s Gundam model building process :)

Some last words on the tools- If you are starting out, don’t just buy all the tools you “think” you’ll need all at once. This can be a potential waste of money. Start out with one tool, work with it, know its limits and become efficient and effective with it before you adding a new tool. This way you can actually become more accustomed to and familiar with your arsenal faster. I started out with my hands and slowly worked my way towards each tool one at a time.

Although this might help some of you, I say the best way to improve is to keep practicing, make errors, find solutions and see what works best for you. We have different hands. My methods might not suit your style. There are probably some things I left out because I do it subconsciously and didn’t think much of it. Methods should also be adjusted on a model-by-model basis so some of my ideas might not work for another model (can’t think of an example yet xD). Just stating the obvious.

Lastly… BE PATIENT! Take your time! You all know very well that I do xD. Nothing sucks more than a haste model job. This is not a race but rather, a test of patience. If you can take your time to carefully plan and build your model, the finished model is that much more rewarding to yourself.

Feel free to ask any questions or if there are other things I should add. I want to be able to contually update this page ^_^

DISPLAY BASES

Click here for the display stand page.

566 thoughts on “My Tools/Tutorial

  1. hi there ,
    i’m just new for play gundam … i want try painting but scare will destroy my gundam >.< so i want ask what is the first thing i ned to do …..!!!! if use marker painting should ok???

    1. um… be careful? and don’t paint with marker. you will regret it. Marker is okay for detailing little things but not for painting whole parts. Use spraypaint.

  2. Hi Z, I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now(it might actually be a year already), and i really like the way you do things and all the tips you give out, so thanks..XD

    Anyway, I’ve been planning to go to the next step of gunpla-ing via panel lining, detailing(covering nub marks like you do) and painting some (very minor, like missing colors, etc.)stuff and top coating. So..can I ask for the list of tamiya paint you use?..since i really have no idea what colors are supposed to be used. What i only remember is you use Tamiya clear red for beam saber parts..XD”

    Thanks a lot!

    1. you should go with the colors you think look best. I prefer darker, matte colors (as opposed to metallic, gloss and such). The clear paints are nice like clear red, clear green, clear blue, etc.

      1. Yesyes, i like matte too,i dont like shiny colors… So..i just go in the shop and tell them..”Can i have a bottle of Tamiya Clear red?”..no codes etc? XD

        Or should i just ask them for the “usual” gundam colors? :o

        1. Codes are not needed if you give them the exact colors. Hobby shops are usually good with the paint color and should know what you’re talking about.

                1. No, it’s just slightly weaker for cleaning purposes. Hard to tell how well it thins though since i never used the same amount nor do i ever measure how much I add. 100% just works better.

    2. Safety is key, fumes are toxic, buy a gas mask, or disposable ones, make sure to apply in a fully ventilated place. The paint name is on the bottle so dern worry about numbers. Like you can easily find by looking for “Flat Black” instead of XF-13.
      On the side note, I am on my whim about how I want my kits done. If I feel lazy with a straight build I’ll go with matte, if I don’t I’d bling it up or make it into a big candied apple. If you are looking for metallic colours(I know you will eventually >:D) read on to my comment below…
      To conclude on you wanting a list of paints, it is not advisable for you to do that, in fact, you shouldn’t buy all your paints at once, you buy the paints you want for a kit that you’re working on right now, or you can tell us and we’ll help you with colours. Buy those colours at the hobby store, and then when you move on to the next kit, see if you can reuse the paints you have already, if you need to buy new colours than go buy it. Don’t be too greedy, because you might end up not liking some colours. Also keep this up and you’ll be looking at an impressive stash of bottles in time :) BTW did you get your Astrea yet?

      1. Yep! got it for about $35..but i’m not working on it since i got a NG dynames from long ago and im just starting on him. He is becoming my learning model for panel lining and painting of clear parts as well as some eventual gray..Which now comes to my next question..What gray do you guys recommend? The gray foil stickers for dynames’ cloak is ugly >_> i want to paint it but i dont know if i should paint it silver, dark gray, or some kind of shade of gray.

        1. Tamiya Gunship Gray, or Tamiya “Royal Ship Making Factory”(?) Gray, sorry it’s a really long name in Jap, both are matte colours, and I really likes both of them. Here’s an example, the main gray on the limbs and collar plate is Gunship Gray, the gray bits all over the body is the other gray. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=7346720&l=76f11533a8&id=506964139
          I’ll have to look through my other pictures see if I can give you a better look.

          1. This is a better pic of the two grays I usually use, top is gunship, mid is other colour, lower is silver is you can see it

              1. I use that gray as a “generic” color. Great for cover-ups and matches pretty well with a lot of Bandai’s gray tones. I wish Gunship gray comes in bottles…

                1. Yeah, i tried it out on the gray runner and it blends real well. And thanks for the tip about gundam red. I also just tried using topcoat on my dynames’ head and looks great!

                  1. You don’t need a colour to be specifically flat. Just bright red is fine or so. They had released Gundam paints before. But like even if the paint colour is not “Flat” all you have to do is spray topcoat

  3. Thanks you for making this page- I honestly can’t tell you how much it has helped me with making gunpla. could you please tell me where I could get some thin files for getting rid of nubs like you have? I was also wondering how if I needed to use paint thinner if I plan to use some colors like clear green. and how to use the thinner with it if so. Anytime I see that you have used clear paints it always looks so professional. How do you do it!?

    1. i bought my files at the local hobby shop. You should use thinner according to your liking. Obviously you’re not going to dilute your paint completely with it but make it drip almost like water would be the best consistency. After that, just brush away as fast as you can in the least amount of strokes without using too much paint.

    2. Files can be the ones purchased from hardware stores, there is no really a specific breed of “modelling files”. I picked up some small ones off a electrical supplies store and the big ones from Lowe’s (for larger areas such as resin flashes). You can get the Tamiya ones, but they are hella expensive and really doesn’t make a lot of difference from my experience.
      As for thinner, it depends on type of paint effect you want to go for. Clear paints are covered already by Z, but if you were to measure up, thinner to paint ratio should be 1:1 or 4:6, also make sure that you stir up the paint really well before taking it out, since the pigment likes to precipitate into the bottom of the bottle. Using the info plates on Gunpla runners is a great “stirrer”.
      For metallic paint, IMO Acrylic(Tamiya) is not as great as Lacquer(Testor). Reasons being: 1. Lacquer gives a shinier finish; 2. Testor is a ton cheaper and more common to buy than Tamiya; 3. Testor has a whole collection of metallic colours. However you will need to buy its own brand of thinner and use it according to the instructions on the bottle. One plus is that Testors is mostly dedicated for model vehicles and gives some really really realistic results. But you need to sand the pieces well before you paint, excluding clear pieces.

  4. Just touched on this on MAC fb page. If you want to make your straight build inner frame look better, use 800~1000 grit lightly to remove the gloss, that also helps eliminate nub marks after filing.

  5. Hello

    Yes, i would like to know that do you suffer any friction or “glued”(tight) around moving parts after applying Top Coat ?

    Any solutions ? Thanks

    1. topcoat doesn’t glue stuff together, if it feels stuck just apply more force to move it, for friction, that cannot be eliminated, just reapply when too much topcoat rub off

  6. Z I just wanted to let you know about the PG2-AD. It is a 0.2mm mechanical pencil that was introduced by Pentel. I believe that that is currently the thinnest diameter you can get. It is a little on the pricey side but I thought that you might be interested in using something like that for panel line marking.

    1. That is awesome! not only would that be great for panel lining but writing as well! I swear by .3 mm right now because it makes the lines very fine which looks really good. I can only imagine how fragile the lead would be though… *shudders*

      Thanks for the heads up!

  7. Hey Z, would you know what im doing wrong and what i should do if small spots keep forming when i spray the topcoat?..Ive been doing it under the sun, with a nice little breeze and it still keeps forming >_<. Seems the topcoat is not forming fine enough particles. Thanks.

  8. Hi there. I love your tools introduction. I am a beginner so, sorry if my questions are stupid. Should I get the nonstick pliers or risk using metal pliers? Also, Since I am going to use paint, should I or should I not use topcoat on painted models? I haven’t done it so I need someone to advise me on it first.

    1. you should use topcoat because it helps protect the paint. what’s the risk with using metal pliers? If you are careful then you should be fine. Nonstick? we’re not cooking here x)

  9. Hi there,

    I am wondering if you have a video of how to topcoat? I saw several videos on youtube, but when i tried them, the ink kinda “bleeds”. Any tips?

  10. After reading your reviews on your MGs, I stumble on this part of the site. I see that you don’t use much sandpapers with the extra nubs. I think I will try using those kind of files and it’s already a big help for me just reading this.

    And I still would skip on the paint part since I really suck at it.

  11. Ok, I have to ask… How DO you topcoat your models? I have a couple of cans in my possession but every time I try to topcoat them, the results always appear almost unnoticeable and rather spotty… What methods would you recommend and how closely/thickly do you spray?

    My last straw was when I tried topcoating my PG Titans Mk-II’s head and it came out… pretty awful. I’m now officially terrified of the stuff, even though I have like 5 unopened cans sitting my in my closet.

    Can you help a fan out? :[

  12. I am new to Gunpla and I was wondering what do in need (such as paint, tools and etc) for 1/144 HG throne zwei, HG 1/144 00 seven swords, 1/144 HG Harute. Also, does HG Archer and HG Arios combine with eachother?

    1. The same basic tools you need for any Gunpla: a plastic cutter. Anything else is up to you. Sorry don’t know the answer to your last question.

  13. od you use mechanical pencil in sinanju? caus there are some line i dnt know if im gonna panel line or not, especially the arms ehere you hide the saber the booster (the red big cover) and some curve at the legs

      1. Wow, they’re expensive, could a normal designer or hobby knife be good for gunpla building?

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