Ask Gunpla 101: Do I top coat first, last, or both?

Ask Gunpla 101 is our advice column in which we take questions and share them with our readers. Do you have any questions for Gunpla 101? Be sure to contact us by email at [email protected].


I just built the 1/144 HG Geara Zulu (Angelo Sauper Custom), and it’s one of my favourite builds. However, I neglected to panel line it, and I was actually thinking of taking the stickers off and painting all the white filigree and black markings on. However, I’m not sure what sort of paint I should use! Since I’m going to be spraying it with top coat matte in the end, what kind of paint should I use? — Jemcy

Jemcy, I forwarded this question to our painting expert, Milky. She says:

If you already put in decals before panel lining DON’T FRET! You can still panel-line without removing the stickers, just by using a different kind of paint than you would usually.

The easiest way is to use Tamiya Panel Line Accent Colors. I linked to the set of all the colors they have, or you can just buy the one you want by itself.

First, shake the bottle up so the ink is well dispersed. Then when you pull out the pen, rub the tip of it a few times against the side of the jar. This will remove any excess ink from the tip. After that, touch the tip of the pen to the part you want to panel-line. Instead of drawing a line there, tilt the piece back and forth so the ink can flow into the recessed groove.

If any ink gets outside of the panel line from where you touched the pen tip, don’t panic. Let the ink dry fully—for about 30 minutes—then rub a damp Q-tip dipped in enamel paint thinner or rubbing alcohol to the spot. The excess paint will come right off.

If you’d like to panel-line in your own custom colors (the Geara Zulu Angelo Sauper Custom might look nice with panel lines in a dark violet), you can use this same technique with a fountain nib pen. Follow the same steps and you’ll be there in no time!

P.S. Don’t forget to top coat!

When you’re doing panel lining, battle damage, decals/stickers, and weathering what order do you do them in? Do you do any sealing coats between any of these steps? — Michael

You might be relieved (or just confused) to know there’s no one order to do these in! Each modeler has their own process. I tend to do it like this:

  1. Panel Lining
  2. Stickers
  3. Battle Damage (optional)
  4. Top Coat

This works for me, but it’s different than how Milky does it. Her process is below. Notice that she top coats twice!

“First, it all does depend if I’m painting the kit and if you’re doing shadowing (sometimes called the black and white technique). If I’m airbrushing, I top coat first, using a gloss top coat. This makes panel lining easier whether I’m using a marker or my inking technique (listed in the above Q&A). I tend to do decals next, since a gloss coat gives the best adhesion for the parts. Afterward, I top coat again, this time with a matte coat. I do battle damage or weathering, then a final matte top coat to seal everything in.”

It’s different for everyone, so experiment with doing the steps in different orders until you land on a process that feels right for you. Happy building!

So I just got back into Gunpla a few days ago. I got the RG Unicorn Gundam. I was wondering, is there a way to change the the color of the clear red parts? I would love to make them a clear purple. Would painting clear blue paint over it make it purple? — Dean

Welcome back to the awesome world of Gunpla! Milky says:

The only way to get a perfectly clear purple is to recast the parts in clear resin and then paint them a clear purple. If you add just a clear blue to the current clear red, it will no longer be as see-through as it was before—though it may still be semi-transparent. You can look on YouTube for how to cast in clear resin. Additionally, with clear resin, you need to wait about a week before you start messing with it and to make sure that you start with good quality sandpaper—you need to polish it because this will be a clear part and imperfections will stand out more. Also, make sure that you wear a breathing mask as resin is not something you should be breathing in at all!

However, if you just want to make it super bright purple but not clear, you can prime it with a black or metallic base coat and then spray metallic purple paint on top. The result will be super bright and shiny, but definitely not clear. Hope that helps!

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