Panel Lining for Gunpla 101

Maybe you’ve noticed that your first Gunpla doesn’t look as good as the photo on the box. One of the easiest ways to make your Gunpla look nicer—with relatively little effort—is panel lining.

Panel lining is the process of drawing fine lines around the detailing of model parts. It is one of the simplest things you can do to really make your Gunpla pop.

At first, we didn’t understand what panel lining was all about. You’re not just drawing lines onto a Gunpla—you’re giving realistic contrast to all the little pieces that aren’t defined individually, making your Gunpla look like it’s made up of more (and more detailed) parts than it actually is. Notice how the subtle lining on the piece below makes you notice the existing details on the piece that were nearly invisible before.


However, if you’ve never done it before, it might seem a little intimidating to draw on the Gunpla you’ve spent so much time on. What if your hand shakes? What it ends up looking terrible?

Don’t worry, we’ve done all that trial-and-error for you. After a few funny looking Gunpla, we’ve figured out an effortless, two-step process that makes our Gunpla look surprisingly pro without painting.

First, we line the part, drawing directly into the groove on the piece. You’ll want to line inside or next to protrusions on the piece that could benefit from extra definition.

For providing realistic looking contrast, color choice is important, too. The color of the pen you use for detailing is dependent on the color of your model. The idea is to make it look like light is casting a shadow on the Gunpla, so the color you use for panel lining should be a darker version of the color of the piece.

  • Use a gray marker (GM02) to draw detail lines on white or light gray Gundam pieces.
  • Use a black marker (GM01) for detailing on blue or dark gray Gundam pieces.
  • Use a brown marker (GM03) for detailing warm colors like red or yellow.

These are not hard and fast rules. For example, you might want to always use black on SD Gunpla for high contrast on their cartoonish bodies. Or pick colors that look good to you—Gunpla is an art, not a science!

This is a white piece, so I used the gray marker (GM02) to line it.


Second, we soften the line. You’ll notice that when you straight-up line a piece, the result can be a bit harsh. So to make it look more natural, you’ll want to rub it with something you probably already have around the house—a cotton swab. Some people use rubber erasers, too.


The final effect: a lined piece with just enough contrast to draw your eye.

Below is an example of what not to do. This HG Gundam X is one of the first John ever built. He didn’t use an official lining pen, but instead a Micron marker. He used black everywhere. And though he lined it, he didn’t then wipe the harsh lines with a cotton swab to soften them. The result is pretty jarring.


And here is a model John built recently, the HG Gundam RX-78-2. Here the panel lining is barely noticeable—it simply serves to enhance the model’s contrast. John used a brown marker on the red and yellow pieces, a gray marker on white, and a black marker on blue. The result is a high definition finish.


Try it for yourself and let us know how it goes!

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  • Hello Lauren and John! Your blog has helped me immensely with my first gunpla!
    I actually got a gunpla starter kit that came with a gray panel lining marker/pen. But now that I’m on my second gunpla, I’m stuck… the parts are black and I don’t know what color I should panel line it with as there are no white panel lining markers/pens available… any idea how I should go about panel lining the black parts?

    • @Shoo, thanks for reading! We usually don’t panel line black pieces since it doesn’t show up. We think white might look a little unrealistic, and perhaps be good for SD gunpla, but not the ones you want to look real. We’ve seen some people use gray or silver paint to panel line black pieces that looks really neat, but it’s not something we’ve done yet ourselves.

  • cool stuff!. have been building gundams for a decade plus now but am always learning new things too. Like yourselves, im the type who builds leisurely.

    A few tips/tricks i’ve learned that you could pass on:.

    get fine tip sharpies. they come in a variety of colors and can help to provide little touch-ups and enhance the model.

    For Shoo’s question above, line it with black liner but don’t need to soften it. The idea is that the panel lining it with black adds a shine to the part. so although it’s black, the shine will give definition to the model.

    other tips and tricks:
    i tend to now super glue joints ( elbows, knees etc) basically any two parts that has a movable piece in the middle is super glued. Try and look for a brush type so you can get into little corners easily. ( if you glue parts wrongly, immerse it in warm water for a few minutes. The glue will soften and you can dis-assemble the part)

    • Also Brush tip Sharpies are good to use since they give you more panel lining options without having to get another marker out.

  • Thanks for the tips, guys! Am thinking of trying out a medium shade gray on the bigger pieces!

  • […]  I do file the nubs off though.  They look a lot better when you do.  Eventually I will panel line all my Gundams, but I’ve only done three so […]

  • try using real touch markers from bandai i love them

  • Here’s my ongoing work with the 1/100 MG Wing Gundam Zero Proto. I use a thinner-enamel mixture to paint wash the model’s panel lines. Although tedious and time consuming, I always like the outcome after cleaning the excess splots of thinned paint. I have been using this method since I started working with my first Master Grade kit, the RX-78GP01 Zephyranthes way back in the late 1990s. My Proto Zero is 80% complete. Just need to work on detailing the wing assembly as well as applying the marking decals on the model’s surfaces.

  • Here’s another Gunpla project I recently completed. This is the HGUC 1/144 scale RGM-79N GM Custom mobile suit that was featured in the Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 – Stardust Memory in a support role. This Gunpla was built straight out of the box, applied similar paint wash techniques on the panel lines and used the EFSF/Albion decals on the model. Although the GM Custom was equipped with a 90mm GM rifle in the anime, I equipped the GM Custom with a long-range beam sniper rifle from System Weapon 004 kit. It really looks cool..

  • SuperPizzaGundamMan
    March 21, 2015 5:02 am

    I still suck at panel lining… -,-

  • SuperPizzaGundamMan
    March 21, 2015 5:03 am

    Since I don’t really build Gunplas my brother just asks me to panel line it for him. =P

  • PsycheTrance65
    June 2, 2015 5:58 am

    Gonna start my first kit soon (HG G-Lucifer) and I’m just wondering if it would still be okay to panel line without topcoating the finished product later on?

    Or should i get a bottle of topcoat first before i do the panel lines?

  • I also tried applying my detailing and paint washing skills on Gashapon trading figures especially the Gundam Converge figures by Fusion Works. Here’s one–the MSZ-006 Zeta Plus from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. The one on the right is the one I worked on..

  • Hello, new to your site. Really good collection of articles. I just recently got back into gunpla. Built an old HG Wing Zero Custom kit from ’98, used a sharpie to do panel lines. I’m so/so on how it came out. Currently I am working on a HG Astray Red Frame w/ Flight Unit. I read a comment on here about using Citadel black wash. Being as I have a buttload of warhammer 40k models, I had some on hand and am using it on the Astray. So far I am really digging the results.

    • @shawn_fee:disqus wow, I like the gritty, graphic look that Citadel gives to your kit. It especially works with Astray because that’s such a showy kit to begin with! This is going to be an eyecatcher.

      • Thank you ^_^ I’ll post some pics of the finished product…perhaps in-progress pics also.

  • […] there are other methods of panel lining gunpla, but nothing beats the old pen method for […]

  • […] than anything I’ve written on Gunpla 101. For example, this one doesn’t even get into panel lining! I plan to write many more Anime News Network features in the future! Anything you’d like to […]

  • Humberto Aguilar
    October 31, 2015 4:54 pm

    I used a plastic eraser still works great ☺

  • Panel lines is tedious work. I tend to avoid it since my hands shake. It is a technique that I need to work on, as well as painting. Wanting professional results is something I’m dealing with. Into Gunpla for two months and I want to be a professional modeler.
    my place does not lend itself to painting. I do not yet have all the supplies I need for great results. Just built my first MG. The decals took longer than the build. I will top coat it. I don’t have the tools to do that well. Just spraying the component parts outside. It’s not like I have a paint stand or alligator clips.
    Having an air-brush and paint booth would be great.
    Well I could still do some panel lining. I feel guilty that I din’t do any.
    I’m still a newbie to Gunpla…putting pressure on myself is spurious at this juncture.

  • can we use sign pens in panel-lining as replacement for black marker (GM01)??

  • I actually used pigment pen/sign pen here in my HGCE Freddom Gundam. Do yo think it turned out well? Pls. I need your opinion in this one

    • Gabriel Court
      April 27, 2016 5:14 pm

      I think it looks great. I would look at softening the edges a bit all around. Maybe with some rubbing alcohol of mineral spirits.

  • What color pen would you recommend for panel lining green parts?

    • ooh, tricky. Usually I opt for black and gray for cool colors (and brown for warm colors) so it depends on how deep the green is. A dark green, I’d say black, a light green, I’d say gray.

  • Hi, I just bought 2 MG sets and wanted to start building my first gunpla. i bought black and grey marker liner however couldn’t find a brown one hence bought the real touch one. Do i need to top coat my gundam before i do the panel lining with the real touch? I am rather confused on the use of markers as it seems that real touch i need to top coat it first prior to using? Please help :S

  • Dominic John Chan Maca
    February 18, 2016 3:31 am

    I recently tried to do panel lining on my Build Burning and got the same result on John’s RX-78-2(But only on white parts.)
    Bad, lol.

  • Damien Whisenant
    April 3, 2016 4:54 pm

    Hey I am really new to gunpla I have only built two so far, my first one is a first grade gundam dynamis my girlfriend got me for my birthday, and I have yet to panel line it because I am a little weary of messing it up what color should I panel line the green parts of that suit?

  • Do you normally panel line before or after assembly? I find if I do it before i smudge it up really bad

  • I’ve been collecting Gundam Converge gashapon figures since last year starting with the Gundam Converge#90, the MSZ-006A1 Zeta Plus (Gundam Unicorn version). My collection of these SD-looking versions of the mobile suits featured in the various Gundam series has grown to 26 figures. Because these figures are gashapons which were intended for trading, the figures already came pre-painted. Sometimes, the color schemes of these figures are way off compared to their Gunpla brothers. The Zeta Plus was the first Converge figure I applied detailing on. Although the Zeta Plus’ overall paint scheme was gray, paint washing it made it looked better. Almost a week ago, I started detailing another Converge figure, the RX-78GP02A Gundam Physalis from the Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory anime which was part of the Gundam Converge SP-05 2-figure set along with the RX-78GP01Fb Gundam Fullburnern. Not only I applied the similar paint washing techniques I used on my Gunplas, I even painted some of the figure sections with Tamiya Metallic Acrylic paints just to make the Converge figure version look more the same as a Gunpla model. I should be done detailing it within 3 days.

    • Looks great! I recently started collecting gundam converge figures myself, and am looking into touching up the paint jobs. Couldn’t find any good information online about what type of paints/protective coats were used on the stock figures though. Can I find out what type of enamel based wash you used (e.g. something comparable to tamiya panel line accent color?), if the enamel wash damaged the underlying paint coat, and how well your acrylic paints took to the undercoat of existing paint?

      • I used a thinned Flat Black enamel based wash on the panel lining, the very same one I normally applied on my past Gunpla projects. Tamiya’s Acrylic paints are perfect for the Converge figures especially the metallic ones. This is the second Converge figure I worked on. The Zeta Plus was the first. I experimented on that figure last year. The results were good with no problems affecting the original coat and was the reason why I implemented the same technique on the Converge Physalis.

        • Thanks for the info. Did you also try applying any top coats to protect your panel lining/extra paint work? Looking at the base figures’ paint I’m guessing a flat/matte coat would match the best…

          • No top coats applied on my Converge figures. I just leave it the way it is after panel lining or applying Acrylics on some of the parts. I only apply top coats on my Gunpla models only.

            Nope, I haven’t tried enamels on Converge. But my past experience with Enamels on earlier Gunpla kits, it was just a pain in the butt to clean up compared to water-based acrylics.

        • Another question: what did you use to clean up the enamel based wash – an enamel suitable thinner? Did that affect the underlying paint?

          • Testors 1156 Enamel Thinner & Airbrush Cleaner. Works perfectly with Converge figures with no effects on the original underlying paint.

  • This is the SD Gundam Barbatos from Bandai’s Mobile Suit Gundam Frame Operation 01 series of gashapon figures which includes the Sazabi, Nu Gundam and the Graze. I started applying the panel lining using a thinned enamel wash just this past Saturday, April 16th. It’s almost done. The left arm is the only section left untouched. It should be completed by tomorrow, April 22nd.

    • How does the wash hold up to handling? I’ve got some of the smaller 2″ gashapons that I keep at my work desk. I fiddle with them when I need to occupy my hands…
      Side note, I picked them up while visiting japan. I got a 300 yen version of the Barbatos…didn’t see the 400 yen ones…

  • Gabriel Court
    April 27, 2016 5:29 pm

    Does anyone have experience using acrylic washes? What were the results?

  • Jeremy Dias
    June 29, 2016 6:43 am

    what colour panel line markers should i use on the master grade buster gundam. im confused by the colours on that kit.

    • @jeremydias:disqus is it the off-white that is confusing? I would still use a gray marker on that. And black on the green and dark gray, and brown on the red.

  • Brian Illsley
    August 31, 2016 6:31 pm

    My question is if i painted with undercoated with acrylics, then preshaded with acrylics and base coated with acrylics, and lastly top coated with future, will the markers still come off with an eraser/ cotton swab?

  • I know this isn’t super on topic but I’m curious, What part for what kit was that in the first 3 photos?

    • Hello express. I can not state what specific model kit it is, but something from the HG line. The part however appears to be the wrist/hand of the kit that was used.

  • […] this work? I've never done it, but I've seen some amazing results at model shows. Panel Lining for Gunpla 101 BTW, IPMS Vancouver is having their annual show in October. It's held at Bonsai next to […]

  • Bryan Julias
    May 21, 2017 2:55 pm

    This is my first attempt at panel lining. I used a fine tip black sharpie on my 1/144 HG MS-06S Char’s mobile suite. The tip works for most of it but not the spaces on the cables. I don’t know why but they keep being displayed sideways.

  • One-punch Troll
    June 4, 2017 9:20 am

    so can i use another tools instead official line marker from gundam and tamiya? like sharpies or marker?

    • You certainly can so long as your careful enough and do clean up. I sometimes use cropic markers for doing the lining of my kits.

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